Oshkosh First Day

(This was originally part of a journal that I’m keeping on my computer, so it might repeat stuff that I’ve already put on the blog.)

Actually, the story starts Friday, when even though I only needed to work
until 2:30 to get my required 40 hours in, I ended up staying to 7:00 in
order to finish up these two bugs that I had been getting hassles about.
I came out to the car in a bit of a haze, and put my key in the lock. Or
at least where the lock should have been – somebody punched it out and
stole most of the contents of my car. That included my GPS, and my flight
bag. That lead to a big of an adventure as I tried to round up
replacements for some of my charts and borrowing a headset and handheld
transceiver for the trip. Luckily I was flying the club’s Dakota, which
has a built in GPS so I wasn’t going to be horribly inconvenienced by the
lack of a hand-held. Still, it would have been nice to have some ground
detail to follow along as I travelled.

Sunday morning dawned early. I was relieved to find that while there had
been a slight chance of thunderstorms in the previous evening’s forecast,
they were long past by the time I got up. Vicki prepared my breakfast
while I finished my weather briefing and did last minute packing. She
even came with me to the airport to help me transfer the stuff from the
car to the plane, and take the car (which is now unlockable) back home.

I had originally planned to refuel in Saginaw Michigan. No particular
reason except that’s where we’d refueled when I went with the big group in
2003, and I suspect they picked Saginaw because the FBO prepared free
hotdogs on Oshkosh weekend. But I’d had a person ask if I could give them
a ride from Muskegon, and since that was well within my range and gave me
a lot more fuel at Oshkosh in case there were holds or other messing
around. The person asking for the ride pulled out at the last minute, but
it still made sense to me to refuel at Muskegon, so I kept with that
plan. I filed an IFR flight plan to Muskegon, and then another IFR flight
plan to Sheboygan, because that was just outside the 30 mile “veil” around
Oshkosh where you needed an IFR reservation. My plan was that if the
expected VFR conditions prevailed in Wisconsin, I’d cancel IFR as soon as
I got “feet dry” over the coast of Wisconsin, and then make my way to
Oshkosh via the Ripon/Fisk visual procedure.

In spite of being “slant G” (equipped with an IFR approved GPS), I filed
via airways because I figured I’d be unlikely to get any “direct”
clearances while flying from the US to Canada to the US. I figured that
once I got back into the US, I could ask for direct to Muskegon, which
would cut off a little bit of a diversion up to Saginaw. So I was
pleasantly surprised that when I called for my clearance, and they gave me
an full route clearance that included the direct bit that I was planning
to ask for. That meant I could reprogram the GPS on the ground, which I
thought would be easier. If I’d known how boring flying over south
western Ontario can be early on a Sunday morning, I probably wouldn’t have
saved that task for that part of the flight to have something to do. In
spite of Toronto Center switching my frequency 5 times, I think I heard a
grand total of two other aircraft over the whole hour and a half. I was
also in a soupy haze layer, so I could see a cone of ground below me and
brilliant blue sky above, but nothing around me and no horizons.

This was a long flight, and I had a cooler with drinks in it, so I
discovered what it means to have a 2 hour bladder with 5 hour fuel tanks.
That’s the first time I’ve peed in a coke bottle in an airplane. And
guess what – my 2 hour bladder is bigger than 20 ounces. I hope the pee
evaporated in its 8000 foot fall to the ground.

I’d also evidently used the “no wind” option when I’d calculated my
estimated time en-route, so with about a 20 knot headwind I ended up
taking 35 minutes longer to Muskegon than I’d flight planned for.
Fortunately I’d given myself a bit of time on the ground there, so I did a
very quick turn and picked up my IFR clearance. On the way over, I
debated whether I should tell the controllers that I really didn’t want to
land in Sheboygan, but I figured I’d keep up the charade at least until I
was clear of the restricted area that the airway I was on, V510, goes
right through. But keeping up that charade meant interrupting listening
to the Oshkosh ATIS and calling up the Sheboygan ASOS when the controller
asked me to report when I had it. When I did announce that I was
cancelling IFR and proceeding VFR to Oshkosh, the controller didn’t sound

I’d picked out a couple of airway intersection waypoints to program into
the GPS to lead me around Fond du Lac airport so I’d approach Ripon from
the south. That worked out pretty well, and I saw a plane flying well
below me on approach to Fond du Lac. I started listening to the Fisk
approach controller long before I got there, and up until a few minutes
before I got there, things were quiet enough that he was asking people
where they were parking, and assigning them different runways depending on
which was more convenient. But within 2 minutes of Ripon, it suddenly got
very busy, and he went back to the standard procedure where aircraft don’t
talk and he keeps up a full bore chatter asking aircraft to acknowledge by
rocking their wings or just by doing what he said.

I was almost over Ripon when a Bonanza appeared about 20 feet off my
wingtip and 10 or 20 feet below me. I didn’t see the pilot look in my
direction, but I can tell you that he was wearing Dave Clark headphones.
I jokingly tell other people “and I’m pretty sure he was wearing Scheyden
sunglasses”, that’s how close he was. He crossed in front of me climbing
through my altitude, and I felt his wake turbulence. At that point I was
over Ripon and the railway tracks, so I turned up the track, but he
continued about a quarter mile before he turned, so he ended up coming
right up on my tail. I’m not sure where he went after that, because I’ve
got pretty bad visibility to the back, but I was exactly at the required
1800 feet and 90 knots, so I figured I’d let him worry about it.
Continuing up to Fisk, the controller called me out and told me to follow
a Mooney ahead of me and catch him up a bit. I did, and when we got to
the airport I thought the downwind leg was supposed to be along the road
just north of the airport, which is how it looks on the NOTAM, but he
didn’t turn. Oh well, I thought, maybe he’s going somewhere else. But
then a RV appeared between us, and that confused me even more because I
didn’t understand where he could have come from, and he wasn’t turning
downwind either. Then it hit me that maybe the RV had done a go-around,
and I should probably follow him.

The downwind leg got extended way longer than I expected too, and the
Mooney, the RV and I were out over the water and it looked like other
planes were coming from other directions, including straight in from over
the water. Finally the tower started turning us in, and the Mooney got
given a go-around, the RV got landed, and then I thought I got given a
go-around too, but the tower expressed surprise when I did, so I guess I

I was still concentrating on the Mooney ahead of me, and neither of us
climbed all the way up to pattern altitude, so we did a low and tight in
pattern under the other planes and got in. I heard the tower call my
base, and I heard him clear the Mooney to land, but I never heard him
clear me to land. But I landed anyway, and nobody seemed perturbed that I

The marshallers taxied me all down the length of Runway 27 and to the
far north west corner of the field. Not very convenient to the showers,
but very convenient to some portapotties, the restaurants and shops
outside the airport fence (the Chinese buffet is sadly out of business),
and very convenient to Jay Hoenek’s annual Oshkosh party, which ends up
being about 200 metres from my tie down.

After tying down, and setting up my tent, and introducing myself to my
neighbours, I went up to register, and for a wander around the show
grounds, but most of the stuff was just getting set up, and there wasn’t a
hell of a lot to see. I did buy an EAA hat to protect my poor bald
fair-skinned head. And the food concession stands were open, so I had
some food to fill in for the fact that I’d only had a Lara Bar for lunch.
I also tried to find the elusive EAA Wifi. They had advertised that they
had covered the whole grounds with it, but I managed to pick it up at one
of the tramway stops, not at all in the food court area, and not at all in
the EAA “membership village” Internet Cafe. Since there is no way in hell
I’m going to give any login credientials on an Internet Cafe computer
which probably has more keyloggers and data sniffers than your
grandmother’s Windows 98 machine, that wasn’t very useful to me.

Some booths just had a table with hand-outs on it. I talked to a guy on
Monday morning who said that they’d run out of brochures, because the
parent company in Austria had only provided 200 copies. I said I thought
20,000 would be a more appropriate number of Oshkosh, and he agreed.

In spite of there not being all that much to do, I did manage to blow 3 or
4 hours.

And after that I went in search of the China Buffet, only to spot the
“Retail/Restaurant Space For Lease” sign in the window when I was still a
few hundred metres away. So I diverted to the local supermarket for some
ice for my cooler. The cashier asked me for my frequent shopper’s card.
I said “I’m not from around here”, as if the EAA hat, AirVenture wrist
band, and camera around my neck weren’t enough of a clue that I didn’t
normally shop there. On the way out, I saw a machine selling cans of
store-brand cola for 25 cents. Not a bad deal, I thought. Turns out I
was wrong – it was awful. Wegman’s W-Pop is the Elixir of Life compared
to this stuff. I actually ended up pouring some of it down a storm drain.
Then I went to a restaurant and got a fast food dinner that didn’t totally

After dinner, I joined my two next door neighbours who were watching the
late arrivals on runway 27 and bullshitting^Wtalking about flying. They
are two brothers, and the older one seems to have done everything and
knows everybody in flying. Eventually we broke it off when we realized it
was after 11:30pm EDT (10:30pm local).

3 thoughts on “Oshkosh First Day”

  1. Thanks for the post– we are planning to fly in on Thursday and have been anxious to hear first hand accounts of the approach. We’re hoping to aviation camping area will open by then as we hear it’s full right now!

  2. Wish I could have joined you and helped out on the approach. Looking forward to reading the posts and experiencing OSH vicariously. Not ideal, but it’ll have to do!

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