By Carol Browne
Last year, at a club meeting, Phil Goyne mentioned that Oshkosh would be on again in 2023 and asked us who might be interested in going. A lot of interest and at the end of the day, a group of intrepid aviators and companions from the Lone Eagle Flying School headed off to the USA. The group consisted of Phil and Mary Goyne, Carol Browne, Aaron Handford and fiancée Maddi, Bec Hallahan and Dad, Steve and Trevor Bange. We didn’t travel together so various routes were covered which invariably took in av geek bucket list destinations like the Seattle Museum of Flight, the nearby Boeing Flight Experience, Smithsonian Air and Space Museums in Washington DC and Chantilly, Virginia and the Henry Ford Museum in Detroit.
As a first timer at Oshkosh, I ran out of superlatives to describe the event 10 minutes after I first arrived at the airfield. Wow, amazing, awesome, fabulous, extraordinary, magnificent, gobsmacking don’t even begin to do it justice.
There were more than 10,000 aircraft, over 800 exhibitors and a record- setting 677,000 attendees. The variety of aircraft on display was massive and included trikes, powered parachutes, helicopter, gyrocopters, warbirds, ultralights, sea planes, all manner of light sports aircraft, twins, Connie ( a beautifully restored Lockeed Constellation), the Super Guppy, the amazing Ford Trimotor (that Trevor and Carol got to have a flight in) and a variety of military aircraft including the C17, the Galaxy C 18, fighter jets including the Raptor F22, the F18 and even a blast from the past, the F111 as well as Chinook and Blackhawk helicopters.
There were more than 1400 forums and workshops so it is impossible to give any realistic impression of the scope and variety so I will just mention a few that some of us attended. They included sessions on Rotax engines, understanding clouds, dealing with graveyard spirals, metal shaping, the impossible turn, piston engine cooling, women aviators in combat in the USA military, managing stress in the cockpit, tools for engine diagnostics, the glass cockpit on a budget, aging aircraft issues, aviation weather and aviation photography.
Then there were the air shows. They featured every afternoon for about 3 hours and there was also a night time show combined with a massive fireworks display. It is impossible to describe the amazing array of aerobatics and formation flying performed by the amazing pilots and aircraft involved. Perhaps the most spectacular was a jet powered glider and a Chipmunk performing aerobatics and simultaneously launching fireworks from their wingtips and tails in the dark and flying around (and appearing to fly through) the spectacular bursts from ground launched pyrotechnics. The show was capped off with an exploding wall of fire. I remain totally astonished by the absolute feast we were treated to that evening.
One of the first exhibits on entering the airshow was Jabiru. A visit was of course essential and we were all invited to drinks and nibbles on the Thursday afternoon. It would have been rude to refuse and we all enjoyed the hospitality and the opportunity to chat with other Jab enthusiasts. Another pleasant occasion a few of us attended was the international visitors social hosted by the organizers. It was a great to swap aviation stories and make new friends from all over the world. There were more than 2000 international visitors with Australian visitor numbers only being surpassed by the Canadians.
It was a most amazing trip and I am sure we are all hatching little plans to get back there again one day. A huge thanks to Phil Goyne for getting the ball rolling, sorting us out and organizing the accommodation. It was a pilot’s dream trip.