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Saturday, August 6, 2016

Oshkosh Airventure 2016

N929X washed, fueled, packed and ready to go

So we are back from Oshkosh 2016, my 26th time into the show and the 8th flight there in my Velocity. I am still pondering how to categorize this one. There were more ups and downs this year.

I look forward to the show all year. The plane was prepped and ready to go for a week, all fixed up with new upgrades, repairs and improvements. The plan was to take my wife Nancy, son Sean and copilot friend Garret, then stay at the show from Saturday to Friday with a stopover at Andy Millin's.

The weather was more of a factor this year. We had to dodge weather on the way to Andy's, on the way over the lake into the show and all the way home. While at the show it was hot, hot, HOT. We stayed in the unairconditioned dorms again this year. I had sworn it off after a hot time years ago, but the last two years were fine. This year it was hot, still and very humid. We bailed out on Thursday morning due to forecast storms over the weekend and also due to heat fatigue among my crew. I am again thinking I won't go again without an air conditioned room.

The up side was that I still love being in Oshkosh, seeing my friends and their planes, hanging out with airplane nuts and just taking in the spectacle that is Airventure.

I am putting together a movie of the adventure for posting. In the meantime, here are some shots of our trip to the show.


When we head to the airport Friday morning, it is already in the 90's, humid and hazy. We have four people, full fuel and a week's worth of stuff. This will be a max performance takeoff for sure.

Taxi to the runup area - here we go.

View of the clouds to the west as we run up

Lined up and full power
Looking back as we climb out on departure from home.

We were loaded to the limit. Our takeoff roll was very long. Here's a video .



There is a line of powerful storms along our direct route of flight between Philadelphia and Andy's place in Kalamazoo, Michigan, so we divert north to Elmira, New York, then fly northwest along the northern edge of the line of storms. This adds about 40 minutes to our flight, but is safer and faster than flying toward the storm, landing while it passes over us, then continuing.


A quick view of conditions as we cruise through upstate New York.



Northbound in the haze

We skirt the storms. Storms are visible on the left side of the right map screen.

Clearing skies and flying above the clouds at 8,500.

That's more like it.

Skirting the edge of Lake Erie

We stopped for lunch at the Tin Goose Diner on the airport in Port Clinton, Ohio. It is a nice place we found last year. At 2 1/2 hours, it is a good time to get out and stretch.
The Velocity sign

Back above more clouds

Skirting airspace as we fly down Lake Erie into Port Clinton, Ohio for lunch.

Nancy and Sean in the Tin Goose diner


Here is our landing at Andy's airport in Allegan, Michigan. We hadn't hooked up the GoPros yet, so later videos are much better.


Andy greets us at the hangar and we head  back to the Millin B&B for dinner. 

We taxi up to a waiting hangar Andy lined up for us.
Nancy gives Andy a welcome hug.

Sean is happy to be here again.

We tuck the plane in the hangar

Helping Andy put his cowl on for the show.

Wine with Andy and Theresa

First leg complete. Time to celebrate.

Nancy holds a Millin Mini Mutt. Like a dog, but smaller.

Sadly, our great friends Brett and Elizabeth have decided to sell their Velocity. Even so, they can't miss out on Oshkosh. They drove their Prius to Millin's and into the show and stayed with us in the oven/dorm.

Brett deplanes from Victor Fox

Catching up with our buddies

Once again, Millins stuffed us with an awesome rib dinner.
Breakfast was even better.


Saturday morning, the plan was to have Andy, Bob Trent, me, Himanshu and Bill Batten do breakfast at Andy's airport, then fly over the lake to Oshkosh together. It almost worked. Himanshu forgot that it was his anniversary and had to postpone his arrival. Bob wasn't going to the show until the next day, but joined us for breakfast. Andy decided not to launch due to some bad weather on the far side of the lake. In the end, Bill and I flew over that morning just ahead of the storm.

Andy, Bob and I park together at Andy's place

We load up N929X for departure and start up.


Brett and Elizabeth depart for the show in the other Victor Fox. Nancy captures their takeoff. They will meet us at the show. Slightly over a one hour flight over Lake Michigan for us, all day drive around the lake through Chicago for them. We are really glad they are joining us again. They have become our annual partners in shenanigans at the show.

Here is a video of our takeoff from Allegan and the flight over the lake.


We got some really nice air to air shots as we crossed the lake with Bill.
Bill pulls up alongside at 6,500 over Lake Michigan

Bill Batten's N36LV

Bill took a nice shot of us too.


Here is a quick video of Bill flying with us over the lake.


As we reach the far side of the lake, the fog is making a beautiful pattern as it appears to wash up on the shore of Milwaukee. Like a wave, it breaks over buildings and flows down streets in slow motion. It was gorgeous.

Slow motion waves of fog on the western shore.

Tendrils of fog from the lake.

We are excited as we near Ripon because the very easy to execute approach for runway 36 is being used. Just as we get to Ripon there is an accident on 36 that closes it. The Fisk controllers advise that the only runway in use is now 27, which involves a right close in pattern and a sharp 180 degree turn to land. Oh well.

We are also forced into the slow pattern at 90 knots and 1,200 feet. Bill is ahead of me when a Cessna cuts in between us. I am barely flying at 90 knots. The tower calls me on downwind and says "Velocity, go ahead and pass that Cessna!". I pass him and am then told to turn base on the numbers and land on the green dot behind Bill.

Runway 27 in sight

Midfield downwind for 27

Turning base for 27 at about 500 feet


Here is a video of the approach and landing at Oshkosh this year. It takes us from Fisk all the way to the parking spot. It gives a good idea what it feels like to fly your Velocity into Airventure.


Here's an interesting view. I had mounted a GoPro on the left lower winglet. It gave me the great shots of the takeoff from Andy's. When we hit about 170 knots over the lake, it folded back from the wind and pointed straight down. This made most of the footage of flight into Oshkosh useless, which was very disappointing. However, it gave a cool view of the base to final turn and the dots as we landed. Here's a quick snippet of that part.


Made it again. On the field at Oshkosh.


We push the plane into the same space we had last year, then help Bill pull his plane down Velocity Lane and into his space. After that we get the Welcome Wagon to give us a ride over to Friar Tuck's restaurant.

N929X in her usual spot

Bringing in Batten's N36LV

Bill's plane safely tucked in next to us.

N929X crew- Garret, Sean, Nancy and Mark

Free ride on the welcome wagon.
 Friar Tuck's is cool and dark as usual - perfect! Garret's girlfriend, Kathryn, has flown in to join him for her first trip to the show.

A weekly pass wristband? You do care!

Wisconsin sized sandwich should hold Garret till dinner
What is this "Vegetable" of which you speak?  Meat centric meals this week.


After checking into the dorms we walk down to Mahoney's for dinner. 

That loud table

Brett and Elizabeth

Nancy and me


Cheese with some pasta on it.

That'll do.

Looks good!

Brett's 'no vegetables face".


Monday and the show finally begins. We hit the cafeteria at the dorms for breakfast and then an early arrival at the show. 

Ready to head in for my 26th show.

Garret takes Kathryn in for her first Airventure

Velocity row

Himanshu Pushkarna arrives and we help push him in.

Himanshu and friend with his SRG Lily Lou.

Nancy and Sean relax in the shade under the wing.
Out at the green dot after watching landings on 27.

Getting ready to close up late in the day. Love my plane.


After dinner, we get a large group together for dinner at the Fox River Brewery, including our crew, Brett and Elizabeth, Bill Batten and Rene Dugas. It is just perfect outside so we sit by the river. The food is great, there is live music and great company. We had a fun dinner capped off by an unbelievable sunset.

Fox River Brewery

The Velocity Table
Brett and Elizabeth

Sean and Garret toast

Garret and Kathryn


Sunset over the river

We start the next day with Cinnamon rolls at the show.  It is super hot.

Sacred Heart stand and their rolls. Gooood.

Twin Star - on a stick.

Velocity Lane. Time to uncover and get the dew off.

Our new Lazy Sac. Planeside couch.

Bill and I represent in our Velocity gear.

Tim Dave Nelson arrives.

Tim Dave at home.

Nancy and Sean in their hang out.

Here are some random shots throughout the day. 

As usual, lots of interest and questions in the plane.

The Subsonex jet.

Right Stuff Photo op

Craig Catto - Propeller genius.

Brett and Elizabeth under our wing

Builders Matt and Lisa Avila try out the plane

The new state of the art in air show chairs.

Builder Paul Folkes from Australia in N929X

Sean loves the GT at the Ford tent

Couch potato with winglets

Martin Mars water bomber

Nancy tries the couch

Our canadian canardian friends, the Keighans visit

At the end of the day, we head back to the dorms to freshen up before dinner.

Garret and Kathryn

The dorm crew

Ready for our night at Kelly's across from the dorm - with Velocity sign.

We have a long, fun evening of dinner at Mahoney's, drinks at Kelly's and then after party at the dorm.

Bill leads the way as we walk from the dorms to Mahoney's

Brett enjoys a/c and fluid replenishment

"But I wanted the large Mac and cheese"

Elizabeth assesses her cheese curd

Nice face. Kelly's with my girl.

Brett and Elizabeth

Kathryn meets our nutty waitress. She remembers us at this point.

Cheesy poofs stick to your tongue, watch!

Nice farmer tan, Garret.

"Gimme a V!"


Brett and Mark on final for show

Aerospatiale's electric plane. Pretty cool.

Velocity Lane wakes up for another morning. Already hot!

We get the call that Andy Millin is flying in. I manage to video his arrival from the photo tower.


Here is Andy's plane arriving.


The turnout is huge. Airplane parking is full and all traffic but homebuilts and warbirds is turned away. Car parking is full. The place is hopping.

North Forty is shoulder to shoulder

Big crowds

Panorama from tower facing away from runway 18

View of the flight line

Folks hanging out under Andy's plane

Reiff and Andy do an Eagle One right at Andy's plane

 Weather looked shaky for the Velocity Cookout, but Reiff and Melissa pulled it off again. Thanks guys!
I apparently had my camera on the wrong setting, so didn't get many decent pictures.


The night air show and fireworks were terrific. It was finally cool and comfortable.


The show starts with aircraft with special lighting and fireworks.


The fireworks are really good.


The weather was forecast to be bad for Friday and Saturday, but Thursday was supposed to be nice, so we planned for an early Thursday morning departure. Of course, the forecast was completely wrong. We checked out of the dorm rooms and walked out into wind and rain.

We went out to the airport anyway, hoping it would lift and ran to a tent near the plane to stay out of the rain.

Crummy flying weather!


By about 10:00 the clouds had lifted above minimums and the rain had stopped. We decided to head out and see if we could get above the clouds. Bill Batten pulled out right in front of us, so we decided to head out as a flight.

Garret helps pull Bills plane into position for departure
We fire up and start toward the main taxiway behind Bill

Getting ready to fly the unfriendly skies


Here is a video of our departure. We get to go out as a flight with Bill.


We are quickly over Lake Winnebago, then head over Lake Michigan. We aim for Andy's airport as a waypoint. The weather is pretty sketchy.

Not what I'd wish for in an 800 mile VFR flight

Between layers over the lake

The screens show us approaching the far shore

Velocity sign from the copilot

There's the shore

Feet dry over Michigan

We look down and there is Andy's airport, 35D. We set Port Clinton, Ohio as our next waypoint. It is a good distance for the final leg home and has a  lunch spot.

35D - Allegan Michigan.


It is getting more and more hazy as we head eastbound

Can't remember which city this was, but pretty shot

Final for Port Clinton


We check weather as we eat. There is a line of storms from Texas to Maine blocking our path. It looks like we might be able to divert to Scranton, PA, then just pick our way through the last 100 miles through it. We decide to give it a try.


We depart Port Clinton and fly over Lake Erie toward Erie, then Scranton. The visibility is poor. 

Departing Port Clinton

Hard to tell the lake from the sky

Keeping the shoreline in view

The storms we are dodging to the right of our course show on the screen


Made it to Erie. Next waypoint is Scranton. No more lakes in our path.


As we proceed, the storms move in and intensify. It becomes clear that we can't make it home. We decide to try to at least make it to Scranton. As you can see on the screen, even that will be a race as the storms are closing in.

Big storms blocking our path

Almost there with lots of other traffic trying to thread the needle. Each black box is a plane.

Here come the mountains. Can't get over them in this weather.

Terrain coming up, ceiling  and visibility coming down.

High terrain, wind turbines and haze
The storm almost over the airport as we make our approach into Scranton

Here's a video of the approach and landing at Scranton. The tower couldn't believe the looks, speed and payload of the Velocity and said "Wow, that's impressive. Are you a race plane?"


 After we land in Scranton, I decide to rent a car and drive the last 100 miles home. It's a 2 hour drive, but we can sleep in our own beds and I'll come back in the morning for the plane after the storms pass.

We hurry to tie the plane down before the rain

The crew is happy to hop in a car for the ride home

Me, not so much.

Just after we leave the airport, there is driving rain and zero visibility. We made the right call.

Sure enough, the weather has gotten better by late morning the next day. Garret rode back with me and we picked up the plane. It was a 2 hour drive and a 31 minute flight home.

Fueled and ready for the short hop home.

Garret and a nice jet.



It was bumpy and hot on the flight home. After yesterday, it was a pleasure to have blue skies and visibility despite the bumps.



Here is the video from our flight from Scranton to home.


After landing, we unload the plane and put her in the hangar.

 I'm not sure how to summarize my impressions of this year. It really was a mixed bag. I feel like I need to refine my Oshkosh process for next year.

This was overall the worst flying weather I've had for Oshkosh. We dodged storms and had bad visibility every step of the way. I know that I really need to get my IFR rating to solve this problem, but am having trouble finding the time.

The weather was way too hot and humid this year. That is just a luck of the draw thing from year to year. We have had weather so cold we had to wear fleece jackets and wind shells. We've been there when it was over 100 degrees. We've had rain, drought and just about everything but locusts.  The cure for that is easy. Next year, I will look into spending the extra money for an air conditioned room or house and a car.

Some of our best friends have scaled back on the Oshkosh experience. Our friend Andy decided to just make a day trip or two into the show. Our buddies Brett and Elizabeth Ferrell put their beloved Velocity up for sale. Our friends Kurt and Misty couldn't make it this year. All the above kind of put a damper on things.

The one thing that never changes is the feeling of flying into Oshkosh and being with fellow lovers of Velocities and aviation in general. I just feel happy there that week, and did this week, even with the issues we had. It is a moment each year that serves as a chance for a deep breath, for a look back at my life and all that has happened. I have been going there for half my life now, through dating, marriage, raising kids and growing my career. I have gone from young adult on a trip with my Dad to middle aged dad with my own nearly grown kids. There have been ups and downs along the way, but its been nice to have this constant. Each year feels like a homecoming.

I know I'll get teased for this, but I'm already planning and looking forward to Oshkosh 2017. I look forward to seeing all of you there and sharing the experience with you again.