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Question of the Month: What’s OSH Got to Do with It?

It is rapidly approaching – AirVenture, that is.  The aviation enthusiast’s equivalent of “The Happiest Place on Earth” (EAA call it The World’s Greatest Aviation Celebration®) will take place July 24th to July 30th at KOSH, Wittman Regional Airport. 

I’m going to assume that readers of Club Connector know all about AirVenture, known colloquially as “Oshkosh”, but I’ll try to cover some thoughts on how clubs could react to the member who states, “I’d like to fly a club plane to AirVenture, this year”.  This is not going to be one of the many articles at this time of year that tell you how to get there.  I am not going to dissect line-by-line the arrival/departure NOTAM, and I’m not even going to talk about colored dots.  What on earth is left for a club to talk about you may wonder…ah…grasshopper…read on!

Why Go to One of the Busiest Aviation Events in the World?

Well, for a start, because you can, and every aviator should strive to attend at least once.   AirVenture really is the best aviation show this side of Fairford.  The sheer scale of the grounds, a glance through the list of exhibitors, and a long peruse of the events, seminars, workshops will confirm that OSH is the one-stop-shop for your aviation habit. 

All well and good, but when you get there, you may well be totally overwhelmed and dart hither and dither like a deranged squirrel—and therein lies the opportunity.  To get the best out of your time at AirVenture, plan the trip as an extension of your flight plan and according to FAR 91.103. 

Perhaps FAR 91.104 should read: “Each pilot in command shall, before flying to AirVenture, become familiar with all available information concerning the event.  This information must include:

  • How to get in
  • How to get out
  • Where to stay
  • IMSAFE: Water, sunscreen, lightweight rain jacket, etc. Dress in layers—business suits not recommended
  • Use the App to get regular updates. With 1,500 workshops, forums, and events, as well as 1,200-plus exhibitors, you’ll be glad you downloaded it
  • Create a customized schedule of events—airshow, movies, parties, flying clubs social event…
  • An ordered list (with locations) of vendors to visit and a clear statement of what you intend to purchase or what information you are seeking
  • A day-by-day calendar of vendor visits, seminars and workshops
  • Other objectives: Renew your AOPA membership, donate to the AOPA You Can Fly Foundation to support our amazing initiatives, meet with friends, hang out with Steve and Drew, meet with other AOPA staff for specific questions (for example, with the legal team or medical staff), and much, much more…

Okay– you get the drift…”a failure to plan is planning to fail” and just like with other theme parks, you must plan to squeeze every cent of value and every second of use from your “investment”.  Actually, AirVenture is amazing value if you know what you want to do and plan ahead—a weekly pass for the price of lunch with a Disney Princess!   Not to say that you can’t have a fab time just wandering around, so definitely plan-in some time for random ambling, as this is where you will discover things you didn’t know existed.  Also, don’t forget the outer boundary areas, such as the ultralight area, warbird lineup, seaplane base and so on, and aim to use the free shuttles around the airport—but even so, good shoes are a must!

If you are a budding or serial homebuilder, the workshops at OSH are simply amazing.  So much expertise in one place is mind boggling.  What to learn how to TIG weld?  No problem.  Want to help build a plane in one week?  No problem.  You get the idea…but many of the practical courses have hard limits on attendees, with no walk-ins, so register ahead to avoid disappointment.

Another thing to plan ahead for is topping-up club supplies.  Many of the vendors offer “show-specials” with significant discounts, and often, free shipping.  So, need a couple of cases of oil, a few oil filters, a new flight suit and helmet (with cool vizor) for the club C150…?  Great! shop-till-you-drop and have it all delivered the following week.  If you shop wisely, you’ll quickly recoup the cost of admission.

Take full advantage of all seminars, new product releases, and especially educational/safety presentations.  Favorites of mine are the FAA and NAFI forums:

FAA:  Here is the FAA announcement, but even better, log into your faasafety.gov account, go to the Activities tab and search for “AirVenture 2023 Forum”—I counted 27 seminars at last look!

NAFI:  The National Association of Flight Instructors is offering 33 CFI professional development seminars this year. Take a look here at the wonderful mix of topics—and join me on Thursday July 27th at 10:00 am when I have a crack at: “Beyond the ACS—A Meaningful Flight Review".

One other quick point.  Every person and their dog will be at AirVenture and will often times want to be exactly where you are and exactly where you are going.  Wear a smile, be courteous and go with the flow…but be aware that there is no flow control.  It is the pedestrian version of a roundabout in New Delhi.

Who Goes and Who Stays (The “B” side of Should I Go or Should I Stay)?

It is one thing to think about going to OSH in the club plane, but can you actually do it? 

Firstly, consult the club’s bylaws.  Do club rules allow planes to be taken, solo, to such high-traffic-density events?  If so, do they require particular checkouts or recent experience of long cross-country flights?  (I’m assuming, here, that you don’t live in Oshkosh or Appleton!).  What about the need for an instrument rating (and being instrument current), minimum flight crew, flight plan reviews, and so on?  Is it possible to just reserve the plane on the scheduling system for a whole week in late July, or is a conversation required with the Board of Directors, or the safety officer or…?

The point here is that although you are a member in good standing and all that, the club may well have (actually, would be advised to have) specific guidance for someone wanting to fly such an adventurous mission…and for OSH, navigating to within 30-miles is probably the easy bit!  Now, as we have written about many times before, a club should never impose rules (such as currency requirements) that second-guess the FARs, or that somehow relieves full responsibility from a member when acting as PIC.  Nevertheless, it is a good idea for a club to recommend and encourage members to consult with others when planning long, difficult or “busy” flights—and depending on where you live, flying to OSH may well be all three. 

I recently flew my Aerobat from Frederick, Maryland (KFDK) to her new home at Prineville, Oregon (S39)—a 2,008NM across-country trip.  Plot the direct flight on your favorite flight planner to get an idea of the incredible diversity of terrain, elevation, wide open spaces, etc., that such a flight involves.  Having made the first flight plan, I asked several good, respected, and trusted friends to review it with me.  Each had comments, suggestions and outright concerns that resulted in me changing the plan several times—and even then, the eventual flight involved a number of diversions due to actual conditions—all of which were fairly easy as by that time I knew the general route very well.  I’ll write more about this trip—the planning, surprises and lessons learnt—another time, but the point is that a club should provide much more than just access to nice aircraft.  Members being available to other members for questions, advice, sideways expertise and, when necessary, brutally honest concerns, can go a long way to making all flights safe and successful.

I’m lucky enough to go to AirVenture pretty much every year as part of my work.  (Is it really work?…I absolutely love what I do at AOPA!), and every year when I get home I’m exhausted but fully ready for the following year.  I get to meet with flying clubs as collectives and with many individual club members, and I’m always intrigued to hear about members who have flown the same club plane to OSH every year for the past “n” years.  On one hand, it is fantastic and inspiring that these club members get to enjoy the quintessence of GA gatherings by attending AirVenture year after year, but on the other hand, I can’t help thinking…gosh…what about all the other club members…don’t they deserve a turn?  I’m all for tradition and so on, but perchance clubs, especially mature clubs with “elders”, should have some sort of lottery system whereby people interested in flying to AirVenture can have the chance of doing so—perhaps alongside the regulars—so that they can, in turn, can pass-on the experience to other club members.

In a nutshell, don’t hog the club planes just because you’ve been doing it for years—give other members a chance.  Just a thought!

Reservations:

This nicely gets to a sideways discussion on reservations and bookings.  Putting a limit on the number of simultaneous reservations that a club member can hold (my club has a limit of four) and requiring that reservations of more than three (or whatever) consecutive days requires approval, will maintain flexibility but prevent the same people from making block reservations for next 10 years on weekends, holidays and, yes, monopolizing the big aviation events. 

Take a look at your bylaws and/or operational rules to see what they say about reservations.  In part, this is what my club’s bylaws state:

  • Reservations are limited to a rolling 12-month period.
  • No more than four reservations may be held at one time, per member.
  • Overnight flights may be scheduled.
  • Weekend and/or extended-time flights may be scheduled. For flights of one, two or three (consecutive) days, aircraft shall be booked using the club scheduling tool.For flights of four or more consecutive days, the member shall first contact a Board Member for approval, prior to booking the aircraft in the club scheduling tool.
  • A member who utilizes club aircraft to an extent that impedes another member's ability to utilize the aircraft may have flight time limits imposed and may have scheduling limitations applied, at the discretion of the Board of Directors.

AOPA at AirVenture:

Connect with your membership organization at AirVenture!  As always, AOPA will have the corner-lot opposite the Brown Arch—booth 463—you can’t miss us!  Come and see the sweepstakes Cessna 170, chat with member services, get answers from our Pilot Information Center experts, renew your membership, become an AOPA Foundation supporter, join us at the Pilot’s Town Hall meeting to hear about our latest efforts on hot topics such as availability of hangars, aviation insurance, the unleaded fuel saga…and more. 

Need a new AOPA hat?  Of course you do…hats, tee-shirts and other quality gear will be available from the onsite AOPA store…put your member discounts to good use!  Learn from the experts at many safety and other topical aviation seminars. Stop by the 39 Lounge courtyard for a chance to meet with some of your favorite aviation influencers and celebs, like Steve and Drew, the Flying Clubs Crew!  Watch and listen as several popular podcasts are filmed live in our 39 Lounge. 

More here: https://www.aopa.org/community/airventure

Join Steve and Drew at OSH:

  • Thursday 27th July at the NAFI booth (#354). I’ll present: “Beyond the ACS—A Meaningful Flight Review”.
    • Steve will introduce several unintended consequences of using the ACS as a training manual and will discuss how we can use gift #1 from the FAA, the Flight Review, to take pilots beyond the ACS and to help them learn better stick-and-rudder skills for real life situations.  Full disclosure—such a flight review will take more than “one hour of ground and one hour of flight”!
  • Friday 28th July, at 4:00 pm in the AOPA Pavilion. “Maximum Fun, Minimum Cost: The Wonderful World of Flying Clubs”.
    • Joins us as we provide guidance to new flying clubs and review best practices for existing flying clubs, at this fast-paced flying clubs seminar.
  • Friday 28th July, at 6:00 pm in the AOPA Pavilion. “Flying Clubs Social Event”.
    • The ever-popular flying clubs social event is back again this year. Good food, cold drinks, and a lot of mingling with members from other clubs—hosted by Steve and Drew!
    • This is a private event for members of AOPA-recognized flying clubs.

Summary:

This QoM asked “What’s OSH Got to Do with It?”.  Well, as you’ll have read, it has everything to do with club life.  It is an amazing week of total immersion in aviation…but:

  • Be fair when determining who will go this year
  • Listen to the OSH veterans and involve all club members in the preparations, as it may be their turn next year
  • Whatever the distance, treat it like a long cross country, especially regarding fuel options and planning for alternates. Just one incident at OSH can result in a lot of aeroplanes milling around in the same sky…with more arriving every minute. It can get bloated, really quickly!
  • Plan, plan, and plan again. Then expect the plan to change:
    • The old adage “plan the flight and fly the plan” may not end well
  • Internalize the arrival/departure  NOTAM. This is a wonderful topic for a club safety meeting as it offers serious “what-if” scenario discussions, even for those not flying to OSH this year
  • Fill the plane according to its limitations and capabilities. Let others learn and enjoy:
    • Remember though— W&B still applies, even during OSH week and especially on the flight home, loaded with shopping
  • Take full advantage of  CRM opportunities—pilot flying, pilot navigating, back-seaters scanning for traffic (of which there will be lots…)
  • Think about camping…but bear in mind, it has been known to rain at Oshkosh during AirVenture week
  • Conform to “FAR 91.104” detailed above
  • Take full advantage of seminars, workshops and vendor specials, many of which may extend into the following week, if you ask nicely
  • Don’t try to conduct business during the airshows…too many loud noises and shiny distractions!
  • It gets crazy busy—650,000 people will do that—but here is a simple code:
    • Treat everyone with kindness
    • Be respectful around all aircraft
    • Pick up trash if you see any
    • Thank the volunteers
  • Have fun, be exhausted every night, repeat

As always, fly lots and fly safely!

 

Additional Resources:

AOPA:

OSHKOSH HERE WE COME: ARE YOU READY TO LAND AT THE WORLD’S BIGGEST AIRSHOW?

FOOD, FUEL, FRIENDSHIP EN ROUTE TO EAA AIRVENTURE (2022)

OTHER AIRVENTURE ARTICLES

EAA:

AirVenture Schedule of Events

EAA 70th Anniversary Commemorative Beer – Coming to AirVenture 2023!

EAA AirVenture 2023 Features and Attractions Webinar – June 21st

Cracking the Code: An Insider's Guide for AirVenture Rookies

AirVenture webpage

Fly Your Airplane to AirVenture

FAA Notice – AirVenture Flight Procedures

The AirVenture APP

eHotline Newsletter (Sign up here)

Stephen Bateman

Flying Clubs Initiative
Steve leads the You Can Fly Flying Clubs Initiative, which helps start and grow flying clubs, nationwide. Steve is a CFI, an AOPA staff instructor, LSRM-A and FAASTeam lead representative. Contact Steve at [email protected]

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