Having been to Oshkosh and finally fulfilling another thing off my ‘bucket list’, I thought I would share some of the information gained with the rest of you. This maybe of interest for those of you going in the future or as a future source of reference.
As you will have seen by now, I have posted on the Oxford Aviation Group Facebook and website, reports detailing what I spotted pre and post Oshkosh along with a complete log of Oshkosh itself.
I have to start of by firstly thanking Garry Dunne, Ian Wilson, Paul Chandler, Geoff Cook, John Bone, Edmund Plummer and Darren Kellett (plus anyone else I may have forgotten) for sharing info about Oshkosh before I made my visit and the subsequent logs for comparison that followed it.
I had always wanted to do Oshkosh but seemed I was destined to do it on my own as I didn’t know anyone else who wanted to do it. I looked at the flight options and having looked at flying indirect to keep the cost down, I thought it was best to go Heathrow-Chicago direct as the prices were similar.
I tried to get the flight cheaper than £550 but this was not possible as Oshkosh is right at the start of the school summer holidays and the prices go up.
As I am interested in anything that flies I also wanted to get some museum, bizjet and airliner stuff on top of all the general aviation I would see at Oshkosh. I spent the Friday of my arrival at O’Hare staying put and potting lots of airliners. Saturday was some stuff around Chicago and heading up towards Oshkosh.
Sunday-Thursday morning at Oshkosh, Thursday afternoon travelling back to Chicago and Friday was spent at O’Hare until my flight departed back to Heathrow.
Well where to start? Well I think a good place is to mention the sheer scale of event. I logged just over 4,200 different aircraft in just under 4.5 days here and must have missed hundreds in the process. Also this airfield is bigger than either Mildenhall or Fairford, both of which I think you will agree are pretty big airfields.
A good place to get your bearings is to look at this place using Google Earth. Here you will see two big runways to cover and unfortunately it is not possible to locate yourself in one place where you can cover the comings and goings on both runways at the same time.
Add to that the Ultralight runway and the Helicopters going in to Pioneer Field, you have a lot to cover and I decided that I would miss too much just sticking close to one runway, I went for the walkabout option.
Now depending on your interests you could target specific areas to cut down your walking, but as everything interests me I really tested my poor feet. The main areas were noted as Ultralight, Vintage, Static, Homebuilt, Warbirds, General Aviation/North 40 (North), General Aviation/North 40 (South) and FBO’s.
As I camped on site I started logging from first light at 05:00 and carried on to 21:00 when the sun had set and the bugs came out! Even doing this it took me 2 days to get around all these areas just once although I also managed to squeeze in the Basler Turbo DC-3 operation and the Seaplane base which are a car or bus journey off site.
By the time I had spent Sunday and Monday doing all that, Tuesday and Wednesday saw me doing it all again as although things had departed, many more had come to back fill the spaces that had been left. By the time I decided to leave mid morning on the Thursday, I had noted the following totals in the areas below;
Aerobatic Aircraft Parking = 4
AirVenture Museum = 125
Basler Turbo Conversions = 19
Comoco (Phillips this year) Plaza = 37
Exhibition = 243
Farside flightline = 10
FBO-North 40 = 306
Grass (North)-North 40 = 790
Grass (South)-North 40 = 637
Helicopters-Pioneer Field = 11
Homebuilt = 803
Nearside flightline = 4
On display = 5
On the move = 70
Seaplane base = 48
Ultralight = 72
Vintage = 753
Warbirds = 301
Accommodation is plentiful around Oshkosh and much information can be taken from the AirVenture website through which you can also make bookings. If you fancy a decent roof over your head, then there are plenty of Hotels, Motels, rooms to rent in private houses etc. It is fair to say that the closer to the event you want to be, the more expensive it gets.
It might be worth considering staying in Fond-du Luc to the South or Appleton to the North, both of which are no more than a 20 minute blast along the main Interstate 41 which passes right by Oshkosh. Both of these places also get lots of aircraft visitors that park up and road in to the event rather than fly in to Oshkosh itself, so you will probably find yourself going to these places as well anyway?
I went for the on-site camping option for two reasons – Firstly I was going on my own so didn’t have anyone to share costs with and secondly for the unlimited access to the event. I say unlimited because if you stay off site, chances are that you will need to drive in each morning so you are regulated by the fact that the car parks open at 7am – cost for parking is $9 daily.
One of you party needs to be an EAA member to be able to book the on-site camping and you will also save on admission prices by being an EAA member-see below.
Camping cost is £24 a night which also includes parking for your car so is a pretty good deal compared to permanent accommodation off site, unless sharing costs with someone else.
First light is around 5am and from the on-site campsite (Camp Scholler) you can leave your car by your tent, walk to the showground to gain two hours extra logging or photo opportunities without anyone around. Be warned though that at that time of the morning there is no campsite bus running and depending on where you have pitched your tent, it could be a 15 to 20 minute walk to get access to the showground.
I think that is the maximum time it would take as I camped near to the Camp Scholler registration entrance off I-41 and that was quite a distance away from the showground. See;
for a good map overview of Oshkosh.
Also you can’t access the showground through the official “Main Admission entrance” which leads you into the Exhibition area as that is all fenced off and locked up until the official opening time of 7am. I found that you can get early access to the showground by walking along Knapp Street where the Vintage area meets the Ultralight area, also along Waukau Avenue just past the Bus Park or along Foundation Road towards the North 40 aircraft camping area.
Tickets for Oshkosh can be bought in advance online and printed off from your home. Once at Oshkosh you hand these printed ticket confirmations to them and they will give you the appropriate wrist bands for you to wear. You of course can also just pay at the show just as easily.
Oshkosh is free on the Saturday, and Sunday is also free if you have a ticket for Monday. Monday onwards is $41 a day which will cost a bit if you are here for the week.
You can get a discount on the ticket prices by being an EAA member making the daily admission price $27. EAA membership is $40 and will also enable you to be able to buy a weekly pass for $115 and allow you to book the camping if required by you. So if you are thinking about doing more than 3 days at this event, it works out cheaper to become a EAA member and weigh up whether you need daily admission tickets or a weekly one.
A brilliant source of reference is the events own website –
See the “Essential AirVenture Information” for info on Daily Highlights, Aircraft, Air Shows, Tickets, Lodging, Maps etc
With regards to logging itself, there were several trains of thought before I got there. To write everything down including registration, type and row it was parked in or to not make any notes and just photograph everything?
Now I think to just take down the registrations only here will lead to lots of mistakes and if you have taken the type or where it was parked, you may find that after the event there are other logs out there to compare with and help you clear up any queries. Certainly several people shared their logs with me after the event- thanks Ian, Darren and Edmund.
I was worried about the photography side before going out there as I wasn’t confident that I would be able to recharge the batteries each day and thus maintain that form of logging. It turned out not be a problem as there are (first come, first serve) charging points at the wash blocks on Camp Scholler.
People were plugging their stuff in and leaving it in the main, but some people hung around waiting for the charge to complete so there was always someone in attendance to deter any chancers. I have to say that even though I camped within sight of a wash block, I didn’t feel the need to keep an eye on my charging batteries.
It is dark by 9pm and the flying insects come out in force as the heat dies down so my routine was to have a hot meal at the outlet next to Red Barn Camp Store and then return to my tent. After a 16 hour day in the heat, a shower will be required so that is when I put my camera batteries on charge. By 22:30, all of us are recharged for another early start the following morning.
Anyhow on my first full day on the Sunday, I opted to write everything down and photograph those where I could get a decent picture. I managed 788 mainly in the Vintage and Homebuilt areas. On Monday I thought I needed to be quicker so I didn’t write down the row numbers in the North 40 areas and was a bit more selective on the photographs enabling me to manage 1661. On Tuesday, Wednesday & Thursday, I mainly logged by camera netting 1394, 1319 and 550 respectively.
So although I was happy to log old school style to start off with, it was definitely faster to use only the camera compared to always taking decent pictures of things and a written log at the same time. Doing the two together really slowed me down on the first day.
Having said that the Vintage area was very interesting and you do want to experience the event rather than just number crunch all day? There were periods of chatting to the owners of some of the aircraft or watching a bit of the afternoon display – basically chill out times.
I found the weather to be very changeable throughout the week with major thunderstorms/rain one minute and blistering sun and heat the next so be prepared for both when setting off each day. The distance back to the campsite or car parks rule out a ‘quick’ return for anymore gear you might need! Given the amount of walking you may do it is obvious that you will need to be wearing footwear that is comfortable – I used my sandals a lot so that the air could get to my feet.
When it gets hot, it is hard work being on the field all day. Sun screen and a hat will help keep you going and there are lots of free watering points located around the airfield.
I always had a couple of bottles of water with me and then topped them up when able to. The only thing I wasn’t prepared for and was not mentioned by anybody before going out there, was the big potential to get bitten by the local flying bugs!
Having suffered personally around the campsite in particular I would recommend wearing some kind of insect repellent.
For moving about on the showground without having to walk, there is an impressive free network of trams and buses which all run regularly during the day. The Red, Yellow and Blue trams cover the showground from one en (Homebuilt area) to the other (Vintage/Ultralight areas).
From the Homebuilt end you can catch a bus that will take you around to North 40/FBO side an from the Vintage/Ultralight end you can catch a bus (for a small charge) that will take you off site to the nearby Seaplane base.
The Seaplane base is well worth a visit by the way. Several people said before I went out there that I should take the time out to do this, but I wasn’t sure about the pay-off between missing loads whilst away from Oshkosh for a couple of hours but getting some rather nice seaplanes instead.
In all my years of spotting, seaplanes have never been easy to come by so I went for it. The setting of this seaplane ‘base’ is very atmospheric and the pace laid back. This makes it a complete contrast to Oshkosh itself and my two hours here were hugely enjoyable.
I took the boat tour around and this enables you get some great photos and learn something about seaplanes as there is a running commentary provided whilst you go around. Amazingly this ‘base’ is only built and operated for the period of Oshkosh and then is reverted back to the natural look afterwards until next Oshkosh.
There are also free buses that run from the Bus Park that will take you to the AirVenture Museum/Pioneer Field and to the onsite campsite.
I should mention lastly that the organisation of Oshkosh has to seen to be believed. The only negative I came away with from the whole experience was the bloody insect bites which was my fault.
The fact that you are allowed to pretty much go anywhere airside and get close and personal to things is one of the things that rates highly but I could go on. Hopefully this write up may have interested those of you bothered enough to read it and believe me if you ever go, you will love it…..