Flight Report: OSHKOSH 2016 (Part 1)

(Click here to skip right to the Flight Report Video)

With the amount of stuff that we do at Oshkosh, we’re going to break this into two posts. This one is going to focus on actually getting to Oshkosh, and some of the events of the first few days.

First a little background…

Oshkosh is a large town / small city in eastern Wisconsin. What makes it special is that it is also the home of the BIGGEST fly-in and airshow IN THE WORLD! Oshkosh Airventure is put on by the Experimental Aircraft Association, and is the Mecca for homebuilt aircraft, like our RV10. During the week of the show, the numbers are staggering…

  • 563,000 attendees
  • OVER 10,000 airplanes fly in
  • 1,124 homebuilt aircraft
  • 371 warbirds
  • For the week of the show, OSH is the BUSIEST ATC Control Tower IN THE WORLD
    • That means more aircraft operations than places like Atlanta, Hong Kong, O’Hare, LAX!

It’s quite an event!

OSH Overhead
All those white dots along the runway at the top of the pic are MORE AIRPLANES!

In past years, I’ve rented a motor home from a friend and stayed in the campground living in luxury for the week, but this year was different. I had an airplane I needed to fly in!

The Thursday before the show, I got the plane all pretty and our friend Sean Strasburg (along with his dad Nyle and nephew Gio) flew in from Salt Lake City. Then Friday morning, Sean and I flew over to Menomonie to meet up with other fellow RV10 builders Tim Olson (and his family) and Lenny Iszak. I made this flight solo for two reasons. First, I was making a cargo run to bring a Honda generator to KLUM for Lenny to fly into the show. I actually had TWO generators in the plane, and flew the other into the show myself! The second reason for flying solo is that we wanted to do some formation flying with Tim’s new RV14, and since it was a very hot and humid day, I didn’t want to subject Colleen and EJ to the heat for any longer than I needed to.

After the successful (and sweaty) photo mission, I flew back to Red Wing to pick up Colleen and EJ. With the family loaded up and ready to depart, I shot off a text to Tim right before I took off. The timing worked out perfect, as by the time I was about 5 minutes out of KLUM, they were just launching. We couldn’t have timed the in-flight meetup any better!

Once we caught up to the rest of the planes, it was a fun flight over to Ripon in loose formation.

Nearing Ripon, WI, it was time to begin the famous Oshkosh FISK arrival. There are SO many planes flying into Oshkosh for the show, the FAA publishes a NOTAM (NOtice To AirMen) that outlines a very specific set of rules and procedures for flying in safely. For general aviation aircraft that can fly at 90 knots, that procedure is (roughly)

  • Get the OSH ATIS information
  • Turn off your transponder within 30 miles of KOSH (if you don’t have ADSB out. That many transponders in a small area just don’t work!)
  • All planes fly to RIPON, crossing over the town at 1800′. Keep every eyeball in the plane looking for traffic, because people are coming at Ripon from EVERY direction!
  • Monitor FISK approach frequency
  • Follow the conga line of airplanes directly over the railroad tracks that lead out of town to the north east. Stay directly over the tracks at 1800′
  • Follow the plane in front of you, 1/2 mile in trail (unless you’re a flight, then ATC likes you as close as you feel comfortable with)
  • As you approach Fisk, WI, ATC will assign call you out by aircraft type and color, and assign you a runway (they called me “WigWag!” Love by Baja Design lights!)
  • Follow the published procedures for the runway they assign you, and switch to monitor the appropriate tower frequency
  • Tower will again call you out by aircraft type and assign you a “dot” to land on. (They have special permission to land aircraft MUCH closer than normally allowed, and will land multiple aircraft at the same time on different dots painted on the runway!)
  • Once you land, GET OFF THE RUNWAY! Into the grass if needed, cause there are MORE PLANES COMING! We had a T28 right behind us…
  • Put a sign in your window indicating the area you’d like to park at, and the flagmen will direct you where you need to go!

It sounds very complicated, but it’s really not bad if you’ve read the NOTAM and understand it. This was my FIRST TIME flying into Oshkosh without another pilot in the plane, but I’ve been lucky enough to fly this procedure both right seat and left seat in other RV10 in previous years. Thanks Tim and Scott! That previous experience really made me a lot more confident! Over the course of the week, I ended up flying the FISK arrival 4 times in total. I didn’t have to hold or come in during especially busy times, but each time I felt more and more comfortable.

I’m going to end it here for now. What we actually did in Oshkosh will come in a future post!

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