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Oshkosh '98

Day One
Tuesday, July 28, 1998

This is day one at Oshkosh for me - home of the 1998 EAA (Experimental Aircraft Association) AirVenture Fly-In. This is the first time I have ever been to an air show so I feel I need some background help. Therefore my first stop was the EAA Museum which chronicles the evolution of flight as well as the history of the EAA. The Museum houses many historic planes both experimental and military. Some of the historic highlights are reproductions of the Spirit of St. Louis and the first Wright Brothers plane. A whole wing of the museum is dedicated to WWII-era aircraft and memorabilia including such planes as the P-38 Lightening and an F8F. Tucked away in the back of the museum there is an exhibit -- "secrets of the war" - this includes an actual test casing for "The Fat Man" bomb from the Manhattan Project.

This being the home of the EAA, much of the museum is dedicated to experimental aircraft. A few outstanding highlights are the Thorp T-18 Victoria 76 which was the first homebulit to fly around the world and the world's smallest plane -- the STITS "Skybaby."

After touring the museum I had a good working knowledge of the EAA and so I thought I was ready for the Fly-In. Not yet, fate stepped in the way. A museum guide asked me if I have ever been up in a helicopter? Perking up, I said "No, but I always wanted to." He opened a door and directed me to the airfield in the back of the museum wherein for $20 I could fly in a helicopter. I paid my $20, jumped in this tiny helicopter with no doors, buckled up and took off for a fantastic aerial view of the entire Oshkosh show. I took my trusty digital camera and clicked away furiously. The trip was worth every penny -- I got to fulfill a childhood dream and take some great photos at the same time.

Childhood dream accomplished it was now time for the Fly-In. Tuesday is the day before the show officially begins but there were a fair number of people on hand. I walked around the show for most of the day and I was able to take unobstructed shots of some great planes like huge C-141, the "Purple Passion", and Meyers "Little Toot."

The Fly-In has a daily newspaper that details all of the days events as well as special features. One of the articles was about seaplanes and how there is a separate exhibit a few miles from the main airshow. I have always had a fascination with seaplanes, probably dates back to my favorite movie-Raiders of the Lost Ark - where Indie escapes South American tribesman by jumping into a seaplane.

The Vette Seaplane Base is only a 10 minute bus ride away from the main show and it was a relaxing oasis from the burgeoning crowds and the scorching sun at the Fly-In. I took a few shots of the seaplanes calmly floating in the water - occasionally disturbed by a gentle breeze. It was a great way to end a tiring day of walking.

Through the course of the day I snapped a ton of photos. If you would like to see them and have a copy for yourself go to the Flying File Library.

Thanks for reading and see you tomorrow.

Day Two
Wednesday, July 29, 1998

Day Two at Oshkosh '98 and I begin the day by meeting with John Stricker who will take 360-degree photos for us. He has this crazy camera that looks like half a UFO and throughout the day it draws a lot of attention. In two weeks you can see the 360 photos of such planes as a 1945 Fairchild C-82A, a B-26, and the interior of a Gulfstream V jet.

Our first stop was the air tower, where the tower crew graciously allowed us to take photos of the chaotic first day action of Oshkosh '98. Our next stop was the unique Explorer plane - it's like a clubhouse with wings, complete with a bed, chairs, and a keyboard. Following that we couldn't resist checking out this huge U.S. Custom's UH60 Blackhawk Helicopter nicknamed the "Coke Buster."

There is no way you can see all the planes at Oshkosh in a day but we tired. Some of the highlights for the rest of the day were a B25J, the Pneuwing, and the last flying B-26 in the world, and a beautiful 1941 Stearman.

We ended the day watching a flyby of WWII-era aircraft - over 60 vintage planes lifted off and flew in formation over the convention.

As always you can download photos of the planes mentioned here as well as others in the Flying Library.

Thanks for reading and log in tomorrow for more on Oshkosh '98.

Day Three
Thursday, July 30, 1998

This is my final day here at Oshkosh. Over the past two days I have walked the entire convention except for the Fly Market. I thought I would save that for last, just in case I wanted to buy a souvenir. I ended up only buying a little metal plane for $2.

The Fly Market is jam packed with vendors selling everything from spare parts to the sounds of flying. Yes, that is right you can buy a CD with the sounds of a P-38, a Corsair, and a B-25. There was quite a mixed bag of vendors -- some seemed a little out of place until I realized over 800,000 people are expected to attend this event. That is a lot of people to sell waterless cookware to.

Following my tour of the Fly Market I decided to check out the pavilions. The pavilions are enclosed in hangars throughout the convention and they have workshops, demonstrations, and speeches by veteran pilots. One pilot, Mark Berent, was speaking to a packed house about his over 1,000 hours of combat flying during his three tours of duty in Vietnam.

A few of the organizations that had booths in the pavilion were the National Weather Service, the National Institute for Aviation Research, and the most fascinating (to me at least) was the U.S. Customs Service. They demonstrated how drug dealers smuggle dope into America anyway they can. One of the Customs officers was kind enough to demonstrate an airport drug bust for me.

I ended the day by plopping myself down beneath the wings of Cessna 140A with two elderly gentlemen from Louisiana. We sat in the shade of the wing and watched an assortment of planes fly by. They regaled me with their flying stories -- it seems everyone has one here. I just didn't have the time to hear them all but part of me wishes I could. I never really thought about flying before I started here at Flying Online. I was interested in the space program but not flying in general. I think this convention has changed that. My dad got his pilot's license when he was a kid -- he flew with the Civil Air Patrol in the 1940's. He really loved it but gave it up because it was too expensive for a poor kid from the Bronx. I told this too my two new friends from Louisiana and they told me that I should try it. They said it is like a "good addiction."

I guess that is why so many people show up here every year - they need to share their addiction with someone.

Thanks for reading these past few days -- I had a blast. See you next year at Oshkosh '99.

Sean Doorly
Flying Online