It's almost indescribable.
"The world's largest fly-in."
But it's more than that.
Wittman Field in OshKosh is a mighty big airport... odd for such a small town. And it would be interesting to chat with someone, or come back to Oshkosh say, in a month, to find out how much of this space is used the other 355 days of the year. But in 10 days during the last part of July each year, this airport advertises itself as "The busiest in the world", and it's hard to argue...
We arrived early yesterday morning and heard this "rumbling" in the distance. We rode over as close to the noise as we could and saw the HUGE arc of a Corsair propeller pointed skyward, spinning at idle speed.... RUMPA-RUMPA-RUMPA-RUMPA-RUMPA. There's just nothing else in the world that sounds like a huge round motor! Then, like a pleasant light-jazz number, another voice was added to the mix, and we looked behind the Corsair to see a
Mitsubishi Zero belching a little smoke in the air as its engine awoke from its slumber.
Both were ground-guided to the taxiway and sat in the morning Wisconsin sun warming up, making that delightful sound... the Zero actually sounding more ferocious even though (or probably because) it had far fewer cylinders adding to the sound of the band.
Then the sound of the water-cooled V-12's started...
One Mustang. Then another. Then another. Then another.
The Corsair taxied for takeoff. The Zero followed. Then four Mustangs took to the air.
It was then that we caught the motion of another aircraft in the distance taxiing toward the runway...
a B-17 in olive drab paint....
Its lumbering takeoff looking pedestrian after the Fighters had roared down the runway.
This certainly is one of the only places in the world where you can see this sort of thing...
Two airplanes, (the Corsair and Zero) that would have been engaged in mortal combat 65 years ago, sitting next to one another on the taxiway, clearing their throats and wiping the sleep from their eyes before making a wonderful noise and taking flight in front of us.
The theme of the airshow this year is "A tribute to our Veterans".
Yesterday we watched as 21 DC-3's flew by in a beautiful formation...
Seven V's of 3 aircraft each...
Forty-two big Ol' round motors rumbling overhead.
Who has seen such a thing since WWII? It's an experience I'll never forget.
Later, I'm at the Enstrom display area, checking out the two machines they have for us to examine. From the canopy adjoining the display I hear a gentleman introduce himself to the Enstrom representative: "Hi I'm Steve ******". (It's an uncommon name.) When they've finished their chat I walk over and extend my hand...
"Yes!" he exclaims and looks me over from head to toe, searching for a clue.
I haven't seen Steve in over 30 years. It's a small world in the midst of this crowd of tens of thousands.
I really don't know how anyone can adequately describe this event-
Hundreds of individual airplane owners fly their machines to Oshkosh and sleep in tents beneath their wings.
Airplanes are lined up in individual sections, surrounded by like models-
Cessna 170's. Stinson Station Wagons. Howards. WACO's.
Homebuilts, Warbirds, Vintage airplanes.
In the fixed-wing world, the Warbirds are my favorites.
Owners bring their machines to the event so those of us who weren't yet born can get a minimal taste of what "The Greatest Generation" experienced. I'm guessing that B-17 probably burns 75 gallons of fuel per hour/per engine, and it has four of 'em! If Avgas is $5.00 per gallon, (and it's actually a little more), that owner is spending $1500 per hour
ON FUEL ALONE to give the rest of us the pleasure of watching and hearing the airplane as it lumbers overhead.
(These are those rich "Fat Cats" we're supposed to despise for not paying their "fair share" of income taxes!)
Our country is in a transition.
The EAA Convention is an extraordinary event that has become an annual tradition after many years.
We cannot know what the future holds, but my hope is that we can make the CHANGES needed to head off an economic catastrophe that would deny our children and grandchildren the experience of seeing and hearing these historic machines doing their work.
But if you've never been to Oshkosh in July, you should start planning now for next year.
There's no promise it will be economically possible in the future if/when our present leadership get its way.