Wild Mama departed on schedule for the greatest air show on Earth going wheels up at 0730
on Sunday July 26th! It was a beautiful departure from X14 with the customary headwinds, of course. We decided to stay low to stay outr of the worst of the winds. The trip through Florida and Georgia has become quite routinge by now - 2 hours out of Florida and another nearly 2
through Georgia but our destination for the fuel stop today was Winchester, TN - advertising cheap gas and a new terminal.
As we slogged northward we watched the front moving through from the northwest, past Nashville
and approaching the TN/AL border. We wondered if we would make it through the front or have to put down early. As we neared
the border, the front broke apart and left us with a relatively low ceiling but ample altitude for VFR flight. We crested
the ridge to the south of Winchester, still looking for the airport which turned out to be nestled snugly against the foothills. That must be an interesting IFR departure to the south!
A quick fuel stop later
and we were back in the air enroute to Iowa City and the Alexis Park Inn and Suites. The scenery was familiar. I had just
crossed this way a few weeks ago on the Air Race. We cross the flight path of the race a couple of times through Illinois
then slipped over the Mississippi River to Iowa. We were tired when we arrived but heard the voice of fellow racer, Minnetta
Gardinier as she returned from the 99s convention in Chicago. We followed her in to the airport and met her for dinner to
chat about air racing and Iowa City. The downtown area has a wonderful pedestrian mall filled with restaurants, shops and
plenty of gathering spaces. We enjoyed fish tacos and ice cream before heading to the hotel. We had to check in and get
some rest for an earlier departure in the morning for our assault on Oshkosh.
The hotel is
an aviators dream - all aviation and airplane themed rooms right on the runway - it does not get better than that. We settled
in and checked the Oshkosh advisory. As of 1800 hrs, the camping was only 60% full. This is good - we do not have to make
a push in the morning and we can relax and enjoy some of the fresh pastries offered for breakfast. We will check the 2100 advisory before getting some
rest. I was already tired.We did not expect much different from the 2100 Oshkosh advisory until got a text from
another friend already here. The place is packed - there might be some space left but not much. The advisory confirmed out
fears - camping is 98% full!! So much for breakfast. It's 0'dark thirty again. Sleep fast - tomorrow will come early.
Will We Make it?: For
the first time in a long time, I set an alarm clock. As usual, I was awake and moving before it sounded but not by much this
morning. I was still tired from 8 hours of flying yesterday. We make a quick departure from the hotel, stopped for coffee at a local convenience store and headed
for Wild Mama. This is my first time at Oshkosh and I really want to be camping on site. We were wheels up at 0500
for the 1-1/2 hour flight to Oshkosh. The airport was closed until 0700; but there is an arrival procedure that must be followed
to get in, starting at the town of Ripon. Follow the rail road tracks out of Ripon to Fiske the head northeast along the track
to the right downwind for runway 27. If the traffic was too bad and stacked up - as it is known to do - there are 2 lakes
over which to hold. We hoped the airspace was not jammed and that we could get a space.
As the sun rose over southern Wisconsin we caught the drone of the ATIS off in the distance. Airport
closed. We heard no other radio traffic; but there should not have been a lot of chatter according to the procedure. We arrived
at FISKE at 0630 with no one in sight. We entered the hold over Rush Lake, set the speed to 90 kts and turned on the pulse
lights. Approach control ver FISKE spied us and radioed. We were instructed to complete the hold pattern and head back to
FISKE, anticipating the airspace opening in 5 minutes. As we crossed, FISKE, we were told to do a left 360 and come back around
- we were number one to do the arrival procedure. The airport had opened for departures at 0600 but no landings. Other show
planes and performers were coming in or their own procedure and 2 slipped in ahead of us; but we were number one for the General
Aviation Camping. "Remain airborne to the green dot; rock you wings to acknowledge ... cleared to land on 27". We
rocked with gusto as instructed, flew low and slow and planted Wild Mama on the dot. We taxied off and were ushered to our camping space. We make it - a successful mission.
is amazing how much camping gear fits in a 182. We emptied and emptied and emptied, finally getting to the floor of the plane.
After several hours camp was set up, the plane pantry was stocked and we were ready for the show. We took the "North
40" bus to the entrance, registered and headed inside. This is Sun-n-Fun on steroids. The place was packed with airplanes, upon airplanes - campers, daily fly ins
then RV's, cars and thousands of people. We started going through the exhibit halls - 4 in all, like Sun-n-Fun. Nearing 1500,
we headed to Shell Square for the arrival of the Air Crane and the White Knight. I had a front rowing viewing for the arrival - how cool was that!
Looking back to the
south, the sky was black and the rains were coming. I had promised Lynda Meeks to help at her Girls With Wings booth as a
tattoo artist. The rains came just in time to cancel the air-show for the day and drive everyone inside - the place was packed.
I had never installed so many tattoos in all my life. Two hours later, I think there were at least a hundred girls of all
ages sporting the Girls With Wings logo. The rains remained steady through our tram and bus trip back to the North 40 camping.
We were a bit concerned about the camp set up as it was a new design; but all was fine upon our arrival. We had a nice dry
shelter and could make dinner without even getting damp.
Brother are in concert on the plaza tonight but I am beat. Too much sun and too much fun ..... oops - wrong venue. Anyway,
a good nights sleep and another big day tomorrow.
ANOTHER DAY IN PARADISE:
What could be better than waking up in the morning to the sights and sounds of airplanes. I was up early, as usual, but did
not crawl out of the tent until 0600 for coffee and departures. As the airspace opened for departures, there slowly became the steady stream of planes
taking off on 27 - across our viewing area - now that's better than watching the morning news with your coffee. We slept fairly
well last night until the air mattress became flat, necessitating a 0300 air fill. Needless to say, Vern's first project this
morning was a new mattress at Target. It was not so much the comfort factor for me as it was the cold. That layer of warm
insulating air suddenly was gone and the dampness and cold from the ground crept in to my bones awakening all those forty-something
aches and pains. I voted to get the new mattress as well.
Theresa (the other #1) and her crew came by this morning for a visit on the way to breakfast. They had such a load to carry
for 6 people that ther was no room for food stuff or cooking supplies. In our list of "oops, forgot that", I realized
that we had no extra coffee cups. I have one, but if you want some coffee - bring your own cup!
We ventured off this morning with no plans in mind except to see something. I jumped off at the forums
stop to try to catch a Cessna forum but the one I was looking for was not scheduled until later on so I wandered about the
fly mart for the entire morning scoping out all sorts of airplane odds and ends, and other stuff - camping accessories, decorations,
books, you name it - until I met up with Anne Marie for lunch at the Vintage Cafe. We chatted for a while until the airshow demonstration started - first the White Knight 2 demonstration then then star of the show - the Airbus
A380. The Airbus came lumbering in around 1500 hrs and did a slow flight demonstration and performed all sorts of maneuvers
right over the air field. It was truly amazing how such a behemoth can be so agile. The Airbus landed on 36 and made the turn
off with ease at Aeroshell Square - 1/2 way down the runway!
We finished our day a bit early with Anne Marie watching the air show from the camp site while chomping on brats and veggies.
. . or so we thought ... After dinner, Anne Marie got a call and we wandered over to the EAA maintenance facility and got
a peek at the hangared show planes and performers' planes chatting with the maintenance guys who are working on everything.
By then it was past dark and time to get back to the camp to put the sleeping quarters back together. Hopefully, the new air
mattress will not leak!
OLD AND NEW: We
awaken yet another day to the sounds of departing aircraft overhead ... and a glorious sound it is. The air is very dry now
and we are very happy that we found ourselves on top of the fully inflated air mattress instead of on the tent floor this morning. This was good as the night turned quite cool and the morning
did not see much of a warm up. I was glad we would be inside of the museum for the morning.
This is the
kind of museum for everyone. The EAA Museum and Kidventure areas are a playground full of toys - new technologies and explanations
of older technologies - plus the history of some very interesting and rare planes, featuring home built experimental aircraft.
Some of the more notable things at the museum were: the Voyager cabin replica; Spaceship One; Pushy Galore; the Spirit of
St. Louis Replica' PitCarn Auto Gyro; Carnuba Wax Sea Plane and more. But the real treat was the stuff for the kids
of all ages. There was a mock tower, physiology tests; wind tunnel; remote control airplane simulator and other toys they
we could get to because the small children were hogging them all!
Our Museum trip was in conjunction with a visit to the
hangars at Pioneer Airport where there was even more displays of old, early experimental home built planes. There were several different version of Pietenpole Air Campers, early engines and other parts and an odd assortment of flyable antique
airplanes. We left the airport just as the shuttle bus back to AirVenture was arriving. We hopped on the shuttle and eventually
made our way to the Seaplane base. By the time we got there, the winds were picking up and there were not too many planes
heading out - just a lone Seabee; but we got a chance to wander around, check out the beautiful scenery around Lake Winnebago
and visit the "control tower".
The afternoon found us back
at AirVenture checking out the flight line and hooking up with Steve and Jo Alcorn. We all headed back to the camp for brats
and barbecue and chatted the night away. We are still exhausted from the walking, gawking and talking so off to an early evening
with the promise of a fun day tomorrow.
SPLASH!!!!: The morning awakening was to the pitter-patter of rain drops on the roof of the tent followed
by the steady downpour that lasted well into the morning. This was not going to be a great outdoor day to wander around the
airport. We donned our rain gear and departed on the North 40 bus, heading to bus depot.
Gawking at airplanes is fun, but I have to say that flying airplanes is more fun; so it would have
been really neglectful of me to come all the way to Oshkosh (flying, of course) then not partake of some mini-flight while
I was here. While at the seaplane base yesterday, we discovered an outfit, Adventure Seaplanes, that is based in MN but winters
in FL - a form of snowbird waterfowl, I suppose. They, like Twitchell's, will rent you float planes if you have sufficient
hours. We decided to work on that project and off we went for a little sea plane time.
Vern and his instructor departed in a 180 ... and that was the last I saw of him - nothing but tail. I took
the 172 with my instructor, Randy. He asked me a few preliminary questions - what I flew, experience, hours, etc. - then asked
what I wanted to get out of the session today. My goals were skills refresher, as it was last year at Twitchell's in ME after
the race that I last flew the float plane, and whatever. I did not know enough to really know what I needed to learn yet. With that, we departed over Lake Winnebago. As I climbed out through 200' AWL (above water level) he suggested
that something a bit more challenging was in order. "Go down and see if you can fly 2' off the water all the way across
the Lake so we can get to the glassy water on the other side. OK. I make a shallow descent and level out in the fastest 80
kts I have ever felt. "OK, you are about 8", I would not go any lower so you do not hit the waves." We
zipped on to the other side.
The wind had been coming on shore when
we departed so the other side of the Lake was quite still and we could do some glassy water training. Before that, I had to
do a "normal" landing. With rusty skills, Randy talked me through the checklist and set up. A little plop and oops,
yes, pull the nose up fast - I forgot that part - as the plane pitched forward. The next hour plus we did glassy water,
rough water, all sorts of taxiing maneuvers, sailing and just plain old had fun. We noticed a significant wind shift and a
large black cloud started to develop and come our way so it was time to head back to base. We skimmed the water again - about 1' AWL this time as the waves were growing steadily. We got in the pattern
after talking to the tower and taxied into the dock where I dock surprisingly well. .... and the rains came again.
The remainder of the saw rain and drizzle off an on so photography was dangerous for
he camera at best. There was one good opportunity, however, to catch a photo of the smallest twin engine plane, Cri-Cri. It
came along with the A380 in its belly! With the rain still persisting, we wandered off with friends, Stand and Cheryl Lynn Dratler, from Fort Myers, back to their camper for some cheese curds, fresh
corn and Alaskan King Crab legs ... camping can be rough ... then finished the evening with Theresa and crew back at our site.
It has been a full week so far - one more day to go.
WOMAN VENTURE AT OSHKOSH: Friday
has been billed as Woman Venture Day at Oshkosh and to celebrate women in aviation, all of the lady pilots got lavender shirts and gathered on Aeroshell Square for a mass photo. Although it started out looking like
someone trying to herd wild cats, the photo went well, with all of the attending WASP's and air show performers in front,
and the rest of us behind - somewhere in the masses. The real highlight of this opportunity for me was the gathering
of all of my friends: Tamra, Becky, Jo, Kaye, Gretchen, Denise, Sandy and more.
After the gathering we walked about the war birds, as this was the last part of AirVenture that we has not
really seen. We saw Don's BT - his 24 year restoration project - and was he ever the proud papa, as he should be. The BT was
beautiful and we hope that the judges recognize the effort that he put forth. Therewere tons of other planes, B-25, P-51's, A-26, and one of just about everything you would want to see. We camped out under
the wind of the B-25 for the beginning of the airshow and the departue of the A380 Airbus before heading back to camp.
Since we were planning for a crack of dawn departure, we decided to stop at flight services
for a quick briefing to see how the weather was looking. Friday had been an outstanding day - warm, light breeze and sunny
- and we were hoping for a repeat performance for our flight home on Saturday. Not so. A front would be moving across Wisconsin and
hitting Oshkosh area in the wee hours of the morning. If we left as planned, it would be in the rain and we would have to
cross the front at some point. While this would not normally be a problem, we were not particularly enthused about putting
the wet tent and camping gear in the plane and flying with the musty smell for the next 9 hours or so. We did not have an
IFR slot for departure either, as the longer range forecasts initially called for VFR weather for our departure.
We decided to break camp - while it was dry - say out goodbyes and
make a run for it this evening after the air show. We pack and packed then stuffed and stuffed for 2 hours until Wild
Mamacould hold no more. My seat was pushed full forward in flying position as we did not have the space to push it back
after everything was inside; but we could close the doors so we knew she would fly. We said our last goodbye to our Fort Myers
friend, Herb, then fired up after the show at 1830 hrs. Although we were Johnny-on-the-spot getting going, we sat for over
an hour waiting our turn to depart and they finally closed the runway for arrivals so everyone could get off the ground. Tower
switched us from runway 27 to 18L for immediate departure. We blasted off to the south, turned to 150 and headed for the lake.
Once we cleared the Class D airspace we turned back to the south on course and followed the trail of bogie's on the TCAD until
we hit the edge of the Chicago Class B space. We skirted under the Class B then made a beeline for Sparta where we would spend
The sunset was beautiful - a smattering of haze to enhance the flaming reds and oranges that reflected off of nearby buildings.
We stayed at 2,000' to avoid the headwinds - oh, what a surprise - and try to made some good time to Sparta. Drained
and tired, we finally touched down at SRB just after 2300 hrs. We grabbed the car, joking that it was so nice to have an FBO
leave a car for us at the airport with the keys conveniently in our airplane. We were too tired to drive to the cabin so we
made the 5 minute drive to Cookeville and got a room at the Beaumont hotel. I do not even remember my head hitting the pillow.