Saturday, July 23
I woke up at 4:45am and reported to work for my "Friday" shift around 5:45am. I was angst-y. I hadn't had a day off in a while. Summer traffic was in full force. Recall a few posts I made earlier.....
1:45pm arrived as soon eight hours would allow itself, and I gave work nary a rearview glance. I packed my bags, made sure I had all of my necessary camera/iPod/cell phone accessories, and gave my cats a sorrowed expression that told them it would be a while; feel free to take a nap or two, kitties.
I left around 5pm.
Rule number one when roadtripping: Don't be in a rush. What's the point of stressing out on vacation? Just chill. So I took Route 9 through Keene, NH and Bennington, VT. There is nothing like a nice, mostly quiet, curvy road through New England to get a road trip started right. The first night was spent near the Albany, NY Airport. Time to get some sleep....
Sunday, July 24
I slept well and left around 9am. I am a big fan of the Mohawk River valley on a nice sunny summer morning. The water is calm, the trees are green, the old, rusty Erie Canal infrastructure is interesting, and there tends to be enough trains along the CSX mainline to keep me excited. A solid 8 hours of driving rewarded me with a dinner date, so to speak, with everyone's favorite Cleveland Center controller, SK!!! The Feve, in Oberlin, is highly recommended for lunch or dinner, although the company may make everything better than reality. On second thought, any place that makes tater tots about 10 different ways is always a winner.
After some hearty interfacility ATC banter, I was on my westward way again, sun visors in the down position. I gained an hour just before pulling into my hotel near Gary, IN around 11pm.
Monday, July 25
I love it when a plan comes together. And Monday's plan was ambitious.
One of my best friends from high school, Erik, was flying into Midway airport from Denver on Southwest at 10:35am. So I left my hotel at 9:30am, hopped on the Chicago Skyway, and cut through the south side of town on 59th St. I parked in short term parking, met Erik in the baggage claim, and we were northbound on Cicero Ave by 10:50am....
We stopped for a quick bite to eat and then met another high school friend, NJ (controllers are initials only), for a tour of ORD tower at noon. A friend from college (JR) was working north local and pushing tin quite impressively. JR was departing and arriving 9R, departing 4L. Another controller was departing 32L from T10 in between the 9R arrivals, and another controller was arriving and departing 10, arriving 4R. Truly a sight to behold. One of many to come....
After a few hours of that, NJ, Erik, and I got a late lunch/early dinner at a local Chicagoland joint. We beat the traffic north into Wisconsin, arriving in Oshkosh around 6pm.
We rented a house from a very hospitable family who lived near the lake on the northeast side of town. The bus ran right down the street. We bought our tickets for the airshow online. Everything was all set.
Tuesday, July 26th
Tuesday was the second day EAA was open, but our first. It was 85 degrees, severe clear, light winds. Perfect.
We caught the bus at 7:15am. We were under the impression that ALL the buses ran until 11pm the week of EAA. Wrong. Only the EAA bus to and from downtown runs that late. The rest of the town stops at 6:30pm. Oh well, we'll worry about that later and figure out alternate plans for the next few days. We transferred downtown to the EAA bus and it spit us out next to the main entrance. I was surrounded. I was overwhelmed. I had a grin on my face that was starting to hurt :)
At first there are campers and trailers as far as the eye can see. Then there are people as far as the eye can see. And then there are airplanes as far as the eye can see.
We exchanged our online tickets for wrist bands and entered the sprawling airport/fairground. At ground level, there are immediately vendors everywhere. Cessna, Pilatus, Beechcraft, Cirrus, etc have acres of grass carpeted static displays of their latest and greatest offerings.
In the sky, there are constantly airplanes flying around in various attitudes, speeds, and formations.
Next time I go...I'm riding the Tri-Motor. I'd regret not going up this time, but there was plenty else to see....
The three of us became a group of 5 when we met up with my good friend Sam and his father. You may have read a little about it here. After watching a Q&A with Bob Hoover (it was Bob Hoover Day, after all) we strolled around the Warbirds area for the rest of the morning. Some DC-3s were parked there, too.
We got some lunch and then split up for the afternoon. The rows and rows of airplanes seemingly went on forever and I never got sick of the variety. NJ and I would tease Erik with "look, another green slash this big (two fingers an inch apart) on the scope, hahaha." Erik fixes and installs avionics on actual airplanes for a living, so he wasn't as impressed with seeing the planes in real life as certain radar controllers were.
We set up just north of midfield for the afternoon airshow. It started a little late due to an incident involving an F18 overshooting the runway. Once the firetrucks and personnel were back in their appropriate places, the craziness began...
The Navy is celebrating their 100th year of flight this year and so the EAA attempted to fly every plane the Navy ever flew over OSH airport simultaneously without crashing into anything. They mostly succeeded.
There were at least 100 airplanes flying various patterns over the field. The choreography was excellent, as it really conveyed the sense of chaos that a Vietnam-era skirmish would emit.
I couldn't capture it with the wide angle, but there were planes EVERYWHERE low level, and what seemed like hundreds of planes in formation flying overhead in four directions.
At the end of said demonstration, one of the rare early Vietnam jets also ran off the end of the runway, narrowly avoiding the F18 which was tail up in the grass from earlier in the day. Everyone was OK, and a sigh of relief was heard throughout Oshkosh. This was followed by an aerobatic helicopter. I was a little disturbed by the sounds being made by the short, twirling blades cutting through the air at unnatural angles.
This was quickly followed by some stunning airmanship by Sean Tucker and the Shell Aerobatic Team. I am still speechless about this. (Sam has some really good pics on his blog of the airshow from his vantage point).
The grand finale was when a bunch of pilots who aren't as skilled as Bob Hoover tried to recreate the same maneuvers that made Bob Hoover famous. The lackluster performance proved the greatness of Bob Hoover. Success!
Afterwards, we meandered our way south to the Vintage rows where Sam had his C170 parked. The sun was slowly setting, and we took up a comfortable seat under its wing. At this point, the airport was "open" again, and we had a front and center view near the departure end of Runway 36L/R (the right side is actually a taxiway most of the year). Reduced separation is used for departures. Instead of 3000-6000 feet between departures, most aircraft at EAA are only required 1500 feet. This results in a departure being launched off each of the three runways about every 15 seconds. Departures off of 36L/R would immediately turn out to the southeast (remaining south of runway 9) over the lake and would slowly diverge on course, often with faster climbing planes right on top of lower slower planes. Everything was visual. Planes were also departing runway 9 and turning northeast and west. The math is staggering: Each runway would depart one airplane every 15 seconds on average. That's 4 departures per minute. Times 3 runways. 12 planes per minute would depart OSH. Times 60 minutes = over 700 departures an hour. Ok, so lets say its a little less than once every 15 seconds. 500 ops per hour? It kept up steady and ridiculous for over two hours.
As the sun set, Sam went off to get a weather briefing for his proposed early morning departure the next day. NJ, Erik and I ended up at the Vintage Restaurant for a fancy sit down meal in the open tent watching dusk colors fade into airplane strobe flashes lighting up the night sky.
We took the EAA shuttle back to the downtown bus stop and called a taxi. Also waiting for a taxi was our newest friend: A hilarious and partially intoxicated Australian first officer for Qantas Airlines. He flew from Sidney to LAX and then connected a few times en-route to Wisconsin. The four of us shared the cab, which eventually arrived, since this Aussie was trying to get half way between downtown and our rental house. We picked up as much of his cab fare as he'd allow and found ourselves back at the house, not really all that tired, by 11:15pm.
An amazing day I'll never forget. I'm still smiling!
Till next time....