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Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Oshkosh - B'Gosh Part II

To follow up - this is what happened.

I flew from Dallas to Dubuque (KBDQ) with a fuel stop in Kansas City Downtown (KMKC) on Thursday 7/31, an easy 2.5 hrs plus 1.5 hrs, and stayed in a decent Holiday Inn downtown with a free shuttle ride to and from the airport.

On Friday morning, I took off from Dubuque at about 8am, and an hour later flew the RIPON/FISK VFR arrival at 2300 ft and 135 kts. The other choice was 1,800 ft and 90 kts.  I debated about which speed and altitude to use, but just ahead of me a cub on the low arrival reported he couldn't maintain 90 kts, and I decided to stay high.

Approaching FISK along the railroad tracks, the controller asked the "low wing 1/2 mile from Fisk please rock your wings", which I did, and he asked to make an immediate right turn East to follow the road. I was surprised not to be called a Bonanza with the distinctive V-tail, and I wasn't sure he was talking to me until I rocked the wings and he acknowledged.

I landed on 36R, really a taxiway, and as instructed kept my speed up to the end. With the big VAC sign printed from the online NOTAM PDF in the window, I got clear taxi guidance from the marshals, and ended up in row 68 (near the center of the field). I talked to others (including a couple from Ohio who won an award for their spotless 1958 (M35?) V-tail), and those who arrived mid week had problems getting parked, and ended up on the far south end. I was very close to the Machine Shop concessions, parked in a triangular shaped area filled with Staggerwings and Cessna taildraggers.

It took about an hour to get the tents set up and the airplane staked down (using flyties - an easy and secure product), and then I started wandering. I got back to my tie down in time for a late lunch, and watched the Friday airshow under intermittent rain and an occasional distant flash of lightening. The best parts - the V-22 Osprey and the USAF Thunderbirds.

Saturday had brilliant blue skies and hotter temps, but nothing compared to Texas. I bought a vented EAA hat with a round brim to protect against the sun, waited in line for an hour to get a ride around the grounds in a Bell 47D helicopter, and enjoyed another Thunderbirds show, this time the high show (with climbs up to 15,000 ft). The fireworks capped the day off nicely.

My plan was to stay until Monday morning, but work pressures and 50-60% likelihood of stormy weather on Monday made me decide to leave on Sunday morning. It took less than 30 minutes to get packed up ready to go, and at 10am I started the engine and joined a long line of taildraggers taxiing alongside 18R. After taking off on the left side of the wide runway, I overtook the gaggle easily, despite keeping the power down to 19" and the altitude less than 1300 ft until clear of the class D airspace.  Once clear I advanced the throttle to 100% and climbed to 8,500 ft.

My take-aways - Despite the intimating super long NOTAM, and all the war stories I hear, as long as you are on the ball Oshkosh isn't that hard to safely navigate. Thousands do each year (I kept telling myself). Study the NOTAM and make crib notes (I laminated the VFR arrival NOTAM on the backside of my "VAC" parking card for the window, and highlighted the frequencies and routes). Arrive if you can late morning - many people leave starting at 6am and by 10am departures are in full swing, and favorable parking spots will have opened up. Food choices are ample but monotonous - burgers, chicken tenders, hot dogs and fries, fries, fries. Vintage parking is close to the show, but N40 parking is closer to shops and has better bathroom and shower facilities. Taking off is easy, but once again read the NOTAM and know the routes.

You don't have to be some kind of aviation savant to safely fly into and out of Oshkosh, but you do need to be prepared and know and follow the procedures.

The flight back was interesting - bad weather over Kansas City led to a diversion to KVIH (Rolla National) in Missouri for a fuel and potty break, followed by skirting a developing line of storms on the climb out.  I was able to stay VFR (although I debated about asking for IFR), but climbed to 12,500 to stay above the developing cumulus.  After almost an hour up there I noticed a marginal deterioration in mental faculties, although not too much, despite the density altitude being almost 14,500ft.  The pulse-oxometer was showing 84%, and that seems to be about my limit, as well as being the FAA limit for extended flight..  

I'll be back at Oshkosh next year!