After days of clouds and weather in the northwest, just 12 hours since we dodged our way to Portland and back, the morning dawned calm with a large clearing over the Auburn / Kent area. With the plane loaded to the max, 2 daring aviators were ready for a 6 am liftoff. The forecast was for tailwinds the entire route east so things were looking good, just how good we were yet to find out! Climbing over the cascades at 11.5K we picked up 40kts on the tail as the big push eastward began. First stop was over 600 miles away in Lewistown MT. Neat; we still had over an hour of fuel left at the first stop. On we go to the next stop of Watertown SD, where we hit our first real heat. 95 deg on the ground sure got your attention. Next our course is north of Minneapolis with a final stop just outside of Oshkosh to ensure full fuel on landing. The day is running long at this point as we approach Ripon at 7:15pm. A quick check of approach control revels that the field is closed due to a mass Mooney arrival. 50+ planes are already in the holding patterns around every small lake south of Oshkosh, so we slow down our speed to give them time to clear out.
Arriving at Ripon, Oshkosh is now open with 30 min left of tower operation for the day, a quick merge into a line of airplanes as far back as you can see has us over the famous railroad tracks heading inbound to Fisk. White RV, rock your wings… Nicely done… Turn right and enter the crosswind for 18L… switch to tower on 126.6, ok here goes nothing. On crosswind now, then downwind, now the 2 planes in front of us extend downwind beyond the tower. Oh no, that’s not good… As I pause, not wanting to cut in front of them on base, now we are in the bad zone of runway 9, BLUE TOP RV, RIGHT 180 NOW, rejoin downwind! Yikes, that’s us; around we go, this time to make a text book approach to 18L. Welcome to Oshkosh, I hope you all are having as much fun as we are! Now that’s a controller that loves his job.
All tied down in the homebuilt camping area with our campsite setup, we are at Oshkosh! Sunday, the day before official opening day, was a cooker with a heat index of 105. By mid day we headed for the AC units of Kevin & Angela and Dave & Kathy. Back to the tent finished our 2nd day. Now Monday saw the arrival of Spaceship One carried to the show by White Knight. What a neat part of flying history to see. Monday night brought a monster storm into the Oshkosh area. 3 inches of rain, small hail, tornado warnings, 60 mph winds, lighting & thunder. After trying to wait it out, 5 hours into the storm Drew and I bailed to Dave’s motor home for the night. Our tent stayed dry and plane stayed tied down, but it was nice to have some walls around us for the night.
Tuesday was cool after the storm passed through, but weather held up the next attraction. Wednesday brought Steve Fosset’s Global Flyer in to Oshkosh. It is another amazing airplane to be parked beside Spaceship One. Tuesday night’s theater in the woods program was amazing. Paul Allen, Sir Richard Branson, Burt Rutan, Mike Melville, Brian Binne, all talked about what had been accomplished with the Spaceship one program and then talked about the future of space tourism! Watch for Virgin Galactic the first space tourism operator in the coming years! Thursday the HondaJet flew in to Oshkosh while Drew and I took a trek out to the seaplane base to see how the web footed aviators flew to Oshkosh. Attendance numbers were large this year with a reported 700,000 people, 10,000 airplanes, including 2900 show planes! Nimble in the air, but ground bound our travels were limited until Darrin met up with us to spring us offsite for dinner. Wed & Thurs evenings and we had great fun wandering the streets of Oshkosh trying to follow his cell phone directions!
All too soon it seemed it was Friday and time to leave. Packed up and ready to leave by 9 am, we got an escort to taxi us out of the camping area. Fired up and rolling down the main taxiway to 36L we took one last long look at all the airplane and people. 3 planes in front of us was a B25. B25 to Tower, I need to do a quick run up before departing, Tower, go ahead after turning at that taxiway. B25, I’ll blow over those tents and some of those airplanes, Tower, OK, hold on the runway for your run up. The 2 other planes departed, then the B25. The nice lady in the pink shirt cleared a small blue and white RV9A to depart behind that nice polished B25, so we climbed steeply and stayed above his wake as we both climbed above Lake Winnebago. So long Oshkosh…
With headwinds all the way home we stayed low and flew the entire route at 1500-2000 AGL. Bouncing all the way across the heat soaked country we made it back to Lewistown for the night. Being 5:30 pm on Friday everyone had already headed home so we hitchhiked into town, tried a couple of motels, before finding what must have been the last room in the town. Saturday morning saw us leaving for the final 2 legs home. We flew about 20 hrs over the 7 days, took almost 900 pictures, saw some history making aircraft, and just had a blast getting There and back again. Till next time!