FrostKosh – Airventure 2013

As the date for annual AirVenture adventure approached, I kept an eagle eye on the weather websites, in order to decide when to depart. We wanted to arrive at KOSH (Oshkosh Airport) by Friday, July 25th at the latest, in order to get a good camping spot, close to the show and the showers. By late Tuesday, it was looking like Thursday was going to be the best day to fly, so we scrambled to make that happen. On Wednesday evening, we took the back seat out of the airplane and loaded all our camping gear. A careful weight and balance calculation confirmed that we were below our maximum weight (by less than 50 pounds!) and well within C of G (centre of gravity).

On Thursday morning, we departed from Oshawa under clear skies and with a tailwind! The enroute forecast was for clear skies, so we planned to fly over Lake Michigan at 8,500 feet. That would save us more than an hour of flying time (and therefore, fuel)

It was Jeff’s turn to fly, so he took the first leg (Oshawa to Saginaw, MI). As we approached Lake Huron, I suggested that we save more time (and fuel) by flying over the Lake, instead of flying the shoreline. Since we were at 8,500 feet by then, Jeff agreed, but we were not wearing our aviation lifejackets. I was unable to reach them from the right seat, so Jeff had me take control while he dug them out. He had to move his seat back in order to reach them and when he moved his seat back the C of G was affected enough that I had to compensate with pitch control.

Once he had his lifejacket on, he moved forward and took control of the airplane and when I moved back to don my lifejacket, he experienced the same C of G effect. We reflected that it must have been the first time in 8 years of flying that we had moved our seats back while flying.

We arrived in Saginaw and cleared customs quickly, fueled up the airplane and downed a free hotdog. Then we put our lifejackets back on and hopped back in for the final leg – my turn to fly! There were some clouds over Michigan, but none over Lake Michigan, so I flew over the lake at 8,500 feet and then descended to get under a cloud layer that was over Wisconsin.

In “Hi, Welcome to Oshkosh”, I explained about the special procedures that are in effect for flying in to AirVenture, due to the number of airplanes. This year, though,we were flying to AirVenture early, so the special procedures were not yet in effect (they would start the following day). I contacted Oshkosh tower, just like I do for any other towered airport that I fly in to, and announced my attentions. I was cleared straight in to runway 27.

After I landed, I taxied on the grass and followed the flagmen to our camping spot, in the 5th row – the closest that we have ever been to the show and also quite close to the showers! I jumped out and did my little Oshkosh dance and the flagman laughed and asked if it was my first time. Through tears of excitement, I choked out a “No” and Jeff told him “You should have seen her 8 years ago when it was her first time!”

We then proceeded to set up camp. After a minor disagreement about where to position the tent (Jeff won and it turned out he was right), we put up our brand new Eureka tent and made up our beds (to find out what happened to our old tent, read “Sloshkosh“).

We called Dave, the fellow who rents us bikes every year, but he was not going to be able to meet us that evening. The buses were not running yet, so we put on our walking shoes and headed towards Durango’s, our favourite Mexican restaurant just outside the airport fence. It had just started raining, so we put on our rain ponchos. About halfway into the 20 minute walk, the skies opened and the thunder and lightning started and it got quite dark. When we arrived at the pedestrian gate, it was locked! We continued on to the next gate, the one by Friar Tuck’s, but it was locked, too! By then, we were soaked and our feet were starting to hurt. And we were starving! We kept walking, getting farther from our camp site and, fortunately, the gate beside the Hilton Hotel was open and we had dinner in their bar. Whew! The waitress tried to get us a ride back to the campsite, but was unsuccessful, so we walked slowly back and collapsed into bed and slept solidly.

The weekend

We awoke to a cold, cloudy day on Friday. We had packed very lightly, including very light clothing and so we were freezing. Our sleeping bags purport to be good in 10 degrees, but that turned out to be a lie. It was 12 degrees and we froze! We hopped on the bus and went to Subway for breakfast and then over to Target and Pick’n’Save for supplies, including warmer clothes (duplicates of items that we have in our closets at home)!

Our friend, Newel, flew in on Friday and parked two rows away from us. His wife, Kay, and daughter, Jenny would be joining him on Monday. Newel, Kay and Jenny are the family that we camped beside on our first trip to AirVenture in 2005. We have somehow managed to bump into them every year!

By the end of the day on Friday, we had our bikes, groceries and warm clothes and we were completely organized.

On Friday evening we went to a great Italian restaurant with Mike Martin, a friend from the Buttonville Flying Club.

Saturday is the day of the ‘mass arrivals’, so we had fun watching them land and taxi. The Bonanzas were the most fun to watch – there were so many of them!

On Saturday evening, we finally made it to Durango’s for dinner, joined by Mike. On Sunday afternoon, Mike hosted a Happy Hour for the Buttonville Flying Club.

Monday was the first day of the show, so now the real fun could begin.

Of course, there is a spectacular airshow every day. The aerobatic displays and flights by warbirds are the most fun (my favourite this year was watching the Harrier). Airventure is also where new things are shown to the public for the first time. This year’s ‘firsts’ were Jetman, the man who flies with a jet pack on his back, and the Terrafugia, the roadable airplane. But it’s not just about the airshow and the airplanes. There is so much to do! Every day, in addition to looking at airplanes and exhibits and attending educational and entertaining forums, there is socializing.

Daily Highlights:

Marguerita Monday. After touring the exhibits in the hangars, picking up lots of free goodies, I met up with Jeff and we went to Mike Martin’s campsite for another Happy Hour. Then we biked over to Dick and Nikki Acker’s campsite for their annual Marguerita Monday. We feasted on tacos and Margueritas and met lots of great people.

Space Tuesday.

In the afternoon, I was wandering around the main square when I saw Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield, who was slated to appear later that evening at the Theatre in the Woods program. He was talking with some EAA officials and he noticed me ‘hanging around’, holding my camera and asked if I wanted a photo. I introduced myself and had my photo taken with him. This was very exciting for me, as I’m a huge fan of his. Of course we attended his program that evening!

Young Eagles Wednesday. In the morning, I attended the Young Eagles leadership conference, where EAA officials and leaders from around the world shared ideas. In the evening was the Young Eagles volunteer appreciation dinner, where we sat with friends from Michigan and Oshawa. After the dinner, we went back to the flight line to watch the night air show. The night air show features acts by airplanes that either have bright lights attached or they shoot fireworks off the tips of their wings. The finale of the show is a wall of fire followed by fireworks.


Tram Thursday. This year, Jeff volunteered at Airventure by driving a tram. He did 2 six hour shifts – one on Thursday and one on Friday.

Fun Friday. In the morning was the group photo of female pilots. Our shirts this year were ‘raspberry’.

On Friday evening I went to the International Visitors Party where I met some very interesting people from Australia. After the dinner, I went to the Fly-in Theatre to watch the world premier of the movie Disney Planes. The crowd was huge – an estimated 10,000 people with their lawn chairs and blankets. The movie was fun!

On Saturday morning, I presented a forum called “Love at First Flight”. It’s the story of my journey from burned out corporate executive to award winning private pilot and describes how I overcame the challenges and conquered my fear to achieve my dream.

The forum took place in the museum, so I wasn’t expecting a good turnout. I was pleasantly surprised that about 20 people came and I got some very positive feedback afterward. I’ll definitely offer to do it again next year.

On Sunday morning, we packed up our fantastic new tent and flew home, over both lakes (Michigan and Huron) at 9,500′, with a tailwind, stopping at Jack Barstow in Michigan for fuel. We arrived at Oshawa well before dark.

I hope you have enjoyed this rather long description of our ninth trip to Airventure, which was the best one yet!


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