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:
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:
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!
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:
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:
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:
As always, fly lots and fly safely!