“When you go from Ripon all the way up the railroad tracks, it just looks like Wisconsin countryside,” Capitol City Flyers President Colin Maitland said. “But when that airport first comes into view, and you know, ‘Holy Jeez, I’m flying into AirVenture!’ that to me is the best part.”
This will be the third year the Capitol City Flyers organize a club fly-out to “The world’s greatest aviation celebration.” The club, based at Dane County Regional Airport (MSN) in Madison, Wisconsin, has 28 members and three aircraft – a Diamond DA-40, a Piper Archer, and a Cessna 182, which the club is in the process of replacing after it was totaled in a recent windstorm.
Members could very easily drive the 82 miles to Oshkosh but the fly-out serves a few purposes—it’s a good social event, it’s good training, and most importantly, it’s fun, Colin said.
The first thing Colin does is book all three planes on its online scheduler, AircraftClubs, for the two days they plan to fly out—generally Thursday and Friday. Parking in the North 40 is usually better on those days because many of the planes that flew in at the beginning of the week have left.
An email goes out to the membership and then a member organizes who is flying in what aircraft. One pilot will fly into Oshkosh with a second pilot helping out, and they’ll switch for the return flight. Less experienced members are encouraged to ride along in the back to get a sense of what the Ripon approach is like and to provide another set of eyes to watch for aircraft.
“We want them looking for planes, they’re not here to just enjoy the view,” Colin said. “They get the sense of how urgent it is to pay attention to aircraft, especially the approach in to Ripon. Everybody is coming from everywhere and it’s going to be congested.”
Pilots that will be flying in will get together for dinner and go over the NOTAM and plan the flight in, as well as the departure. They go through the procedures and who’s going to be responsible for what aspect of the flight, like working the radios or GPS.
“We try to prepare them for what they’re going to see. EAA did a pretty good series of videos about arriving into Oshkosh, so pilots can get a good feel for what it’s like by watching the videos,” Colin said.
On the day of the fly-out they’ll launch at 7:30 a.m. and head for Ripon to get in line. A controller on the ground calls out the color and type of aircraft they see – if it’s you, you rock your wings and the controller will give you clearance to proceed to the airport following the railroad tracks to Fisk and then a road to the airport. The key is to stay alert and once you’re in line, you have to maintain your speed and altitude to keep the spacing correct. As you approach the airport the tower will direct you in.
Once at the show, members will check out the displays, aircraft, and seminars on their own, but they all get together for lunch. Some members do drive in or camp for the week, so it’s possible to have more than a dozen of the 28 club members together.
On the way out, it can also be hectic as many pilots leave as soon as the air show ends. “That’s when the departures start lining up, it takes quite a while to get out of there,” Colin said. “There’s a mad dash for planes.” The trick is to leave 30 or 40 minutes before the show ends, get to the plane, and start your pre-flight. “The Civil Air Patrol does a fantastic job of directing traffic. They’ll direct you to get in line with all the other aircraft taxiing toward the departure end of whatever runway happens to be active at the time,” Colin said. “It’s organized chaos. It looks like there are planes going all over the place, but they really know what they’re doing.”
Visit a flying club on your way to Oshkosh
Colin mentioned that the Capitol City Flyers have done several events with other clubs and suggests that if you’re flying for several hours before arriving at the Ripon approach, you may want to stop in Madison for a bite to eat (there’s a restaurant on the field), review the NOTAM and meet some fellow flying club members before the final leg into Oshkosh.
“We’re thoroughly enjoying the camaraderie of getting other clubs together and helping each other out. If other clubs want to come and rest at Madison, they can certainly come on over, sit in the clubhouse and take it easy,” Colin said. “Have them contact us and we’ll arrange to get somebody out there to greet them and make sure they are taken care of.”
In addition to stopping off in Madison, consider visiting fellow flying clubs along your route to Oshkosh. When you plan those fuel stops and lunch breaks, you might want to use AOPA’s Flying Club Finder and see if you connect with other flying clubs on the way.
Colin’s last piece of advice is don’t be afraid that it might be too much to handle. “I fly once a month, I’m not by any means an expert aviator, and I manage just fine,” he said. “The procedures work. They’ve been built up over time and adjusted accordingly. The NOTAM is very well written and it works. It’s just about being attentive and proper planning as usual. If you plan well, the flight itself is usually uneventful.”
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