Taylor Made: KOSH II - Experiences
On Wednesday, July 26, I was up at 4:30 am to start watching the weather. We’d been hoping to leave the house at 5:00 am but had to wait out thunderstorms and didn’t leave ‘til 8:00. We took off at 9:25 and headed north to follow the shoreline through the Upper Peninsula and around to Wisconsin. Since the Sierra is a single engine, we would not risk crossing Lake Michigan despite it being a much faster route.
Our first attempt at flying over the UP was unsuccessful. We flew VFR along the shore beneath the low ceiling, performing a type of flying called scud running. As clouds thickened overhead, we dropped from 1,000 ft. down to 900, then 800. Storms were building to the west and we planned to land in Escanaba to wait them out. When a cell popped up between us and the runway we turned tail instead.
The tailwind pushed us along at 140 kn and we ran just ahead of the storm all the way back to the Mackinac Bridge. We then headed southwest and landed in Traverse City, a short jump away from our take off point in Bellaire, after two and a half hours in the air.
For our second attempt flying through the north, we filed IFR and ascended to 10,000 ft., cruising gently over brightly lit clouds. We fueled in Clintonville, WI after three hours of flight and then proceeded to Ripon to join the arrival pattern for Wittman Regional Airport.
Pilots were encouraged to read the 2017 NOTAM (Notice to Airmen) prior to flying to Oshkosh. The NOTAM has useful information such as airport notes, arrival and departure procedures, and relevant frequencies. Per the NOTAM, we joined a line of planes over the railroad tracks and waited for the spotters on the ground to address us. Each plane in the line was asked over the arrival frequency to rock their wings to signify acknowledgement, and then given further instructions.
That evening, planes were landing on runway 27. Each runway had colored dots so that planes could be given a specific spot to touch down. We landed on the green dot and taxied off the runway into the grass to park in the camp.
In addition to two night airshows, there were daily afternoon shows. Several aerobatic pilots, including Sean D. Tucker, Michael Goulian, Bill Stein, and Patty Wagstaff, performed routines. Among the aerobatic planes was a special Beech Bonanza, a funny sight considering its deceiving, plain-clothes appearance.
“He’s pushing his limits! He’s pushing his flying machine!” the announcer shouted of one of the aerobatic pilots.
Thursday evening, the Navy demo team of six F-18 Blue Angels began practicing for their Friday and Saturday shows. As the grey and orange sunset turned into a soft pink dusk, solos flew low over the plane camps, disappearing over distant tree lines and then shooting out of a different direction. In their shows they flew all six together as well as the diamond formation separate from the two solos.
There were Warbird demos during the airshows: several B-25s, a pair of B-29s, one B-17, a Bearcat, a Corsair, and several P-51s. More modern military aircraft such as a pair of A-10s, an F-35, and a B-1 flew as well. There were various mixed-plane formation flights, including an iconic set of passes in which the B-1 flew alongside a B-2 and a B-52. There were also a few Heritage Flights, honor flights juxtaposing vintage and modern military aircraft.
During the Saturday night airshow, aerobatic planes flew with sparklers and fireworks shooting off their wingtips. A wing walker wearing a suit covered in white LEDs stood on the wing of her husband’s biplane as he flew in gentle loops and rolls. The Aeroshell T-6 Texan team performed as well, filling the air with thick clouds of smoke that they lit with their landing lights as they flew through.
Sunday morning we were directed to depart by launching off the 18 taxiway. On the frequency we could hear a P-51 passenger flight requesting a fly by over 27. Per the NOTAM, we followed a designate heading until we were far enough away from the airport. We were on constant watch for plane traffic and saw several other single engines branching out in different directions above and below us, all saying goodbye to Oshkosh. And so concluded another great AirVenture.