Kids, let’s be real – we all know that Aviation Week actually pays me to cover my hobby, my lifelong passion. This past week, I was smack in the center of the aviation geek universe, covering the annual Experimental Aircraft Association’s AirVenture Air Show in Oshkosh, Wis. For the uninitiated, more than 500,000 people and more than 10,000 aircraft converge on the headquarters of EAA, based at Wittman Regional Airport and go into an aviation bacchanal. Folks fly and drive in from across the globe to meet, learn and have fun with like-minded people. You can check out AvWeek’s Oshkosh coverage here.
Thanks to my friend and Airplane Geeks host Rob Mark (@Jetwhine), I stayed in the Fairfield Inn Oshkosh, a stone’s throw away from the show. But the VAST majority of folks actually camp, on the airport grounds and surrounding areas. You see everything from a tarp slung over an aircraft wing to tents, to RVs to tricked-out, rock-star-looking tour buses.
But I digress. I’m giving myself the nearly impossible task of ranking my top 10 events from Oshkosh, God help my soul. Airplane Geek David Vanderhoof (@dmvanderhoof) said I’d have to expand to 20, but I love a good challenge. So here goes.
10. The Wittman Regional Airport Tower. For one week, this average-looking air traffic control tower becomes the busiest in the world – busier that Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta, busier than London Heathrow and busier than Singapore’s Changi — handling the in-and-out flights and daily air show demonstrations.
9. Fifi, the only B-29 bomber still flying AND The Beechcraft Starship. The Commemorative Air Force has lovingly restored this titan of World War II, and Oshkosh attendees, for a donation, could take a tour of this piece of history. The Starship, a 6- to 8-seat business aviation turboprop, was designed to be the successor to the popular King Air. According to Wikipedia, FAA has nine active registrations on the Starship.
8. MyTransponder.com. The aviation podcasting/video/blogging universe is lovingly overseen by Rod Rakic and Mike Miley. And they were out in full force at Oshkosh, in a tricked-out RV that doubled as a mobile studio, coffee/food dispensary and hangout for those documenting the events at Oshkosh. I was honored to hang out with a great group of folks the night before I departed.
7. Embraer Executive Jets. Wednesday it rained cats and dogs at the show, and it was a touch chilly. We were all scheduled to attend a breakfast press conference being held at their tent. Not only did they have hot coffee and hot chocolate, we got rain ponchos that protected us for the rest of the day.
6. Fly-In Theater. Across the street from Camp Scholler (probably the most popular campground), was this outdoor movie theater, sponsored by Ford. You bring a blanket or chair and sit out among the stars to see a different movie every night. And did I mention the popcorn is free? Monday night’s feature was “Top Gun,” a film, amazingly enough, I had never seen. And the bonus was we had an actual Top Gun instructor introduce the film. My fellow Airplane Geek Dan Webb (@danwebbage) is now the only person on earth not to see this movie.
5. JetBlue Airways. The New York-based carrier flew in its “I Heart NY” Airbus A320 into the show on Wednesday and did free tours all day, complete with a bag of Blue Chips. I was thrilled to see some friends that work there who came on the flight, including COO Rob Maruster, who I worked with at Delta Air Lines. And a BIG bonus for me? I got a Twitter shout-out from CEO David Barger for all my #OSH11 JetBlue Tweets and photos!
4. What Just Flew By?I felt like I was actually living Airplane Geeks Historian David Vanderhoof’s blog. There were planes on the ground and planes in the air, making it really hard to decide where to focus!
3. The photos/videos of Jo Hunter (@futureshox). A group of us went to have dinner at Red Robin Oshkosh (if you go, get Robin to be your waitress), and I met Jo, who happens to be one of my Twitter followers. She showed me her ubercool time-lapse video of Oshkosh preparations. And check out all her aviation films, on YouTube, here.
2. The Australians. Regular listeners of the Airplane Geeks podcast know that Steve Visscher and Grant McHerron (who literally sees the world through rose-colored glasses) offer up an informative, but funny take on all things Australian aviation with their Plane Crazy Down Under podcast. They also do the Australia desk for the Airplane Geeks podcast. I’m a BIG fan and we’ve corresponded by Twitter and Skype, but we had never met – until Oshkosh. If you think they’re funny on the air, they’re even better live. And check out the July 25 edition of Airplane Geeks, which has them all together.
1. And speaking of Steve and Grant, the number one entry is the people attending Oshkosh. I met literally hundreds of folks, many who shouted “Aunt Benet” when we met. I met so many of my Twitter fans that I’ve admired for years, and it was very humbling to me when people came up and said they were fans of my work. I want to list every one of them, but I’m afraid I’d miss someone and offend them. But I WILL give a big shout out to the 2 guys who pushed my Chevy Aveo out of the mud at Camp Scholler around midnight Wednesday.