Going Direct: The Greatest Plane In Oshkosh History

I’ve been to a lot of EAA airshows in Oshkosh, but this one was special for me for me in one big way.

For the past couple of decades and change, I’ve been happily trekking to Oshkosh in late July come rain or come shine—it's been a lot more shine than rain, luckily. Lord knows the show itself is special, and I have so many memories of it, I can't remember them all. I do remember meeting for the first time some really extraordinary airplanes there: jets by Eclipse and Cirrus and Honda and Embraer, weird and cool creations by Burt Rutan (again and again...has anyone else noticed what a genius he is?), remarkable commercial airliners, old and new, including the Airbus A380, the Boeing 787 and…my favorite, Concorde. I’ve seen innumerable classics, fantastic amateur-built creations, mean and mighty warbirds, and everything else, from powered parachutes to rocket powered homebuilts.

But the most important plane I’ve seen there in all my time is my own, a 1964 Skylane that’s long on capability and short on modern amenities.

I’ve been to 26 Oshkosh AirVentures in a row now, and I’ve arrived there in a crazy number of different planes along the way. I've shown up in airplanes I leased, airplanes I rented, airplanes I bummed rides on and one airplane of which I owned a small slice. These great planes, Cherokee Sixes, Socata Trinidads, Piper Archers, Citation CJs and lots of different Cirrus SR22s, all meant a lot to me, because airplanes are just remarkable machines no matter whose name is on the pink slip.

But this year was the first year ever that I flew to KOSH in my very own 100-percent mine and nobody else’s, airplane. (Okay, it’s really mine and the bank’s…but they never get to fly it.) And when I landed, as if to make a statement, I hammered the tiedown anchors into the soft Wisconsin soil and, suddenly, I was like the thousands of other airplane owners out in the North 40, staking out a piece of Oshkosh of my very own.

It wasn’t the fanciest airplane in the camping area. It wasn’t the fastest, the biggest, the most advanced or the most unusual. (Though I do believe with no bias whatsoever that it was the most beautiful one.) But it was mine, and it didn’t take knocking over a bank or two to buy it. It’s about the same cost, or even a little less, than an SUV. In fact, one of the most amazing things about this journey of ownership is just how easy it is to buy an airplane. If I had known that, I might have bought one sooner.

That first night in OSH, I put up my little tent and then crashed (wrong word) early, and slept a much needed restful night after a really long couple of days getting ready for the show. The next morning, I was ready to go. I woke up, brewed up a cup of hot coffee and watched the planes take off, led by a pair of magnificent P-51s singing their glorious 12-cylinder greeting to the day. I watched as A36 Bonanzas, doors off, motored their way to photograph other planes in the magic hour of morning, and there were even a couple of bizjets that, I imagined, had dropped off passengers the night before and now had to return to base….I felt truly bad for those poor corporate pilots that they were heading in the wrong direction. OSH is where all the action would be.

It was a spectacular week for all the usual reasons we’ve been writing about nonstop on PlaneandPilotMag.com, but when the week was over, I was ready to head home. I folded up my tent, unstaked my bird and bid farewell to the field and the show.

Then it was seven hours and change down to San Marcos, Texas, where my airplane lives, dodging buildups, going VFR, me and my old bird, winging across the wide Texas skies, new friends in a way, but in another very real way, maybe a more real way, friends from before this all began, a pilot seeking the sky and the places on the other side of the horizon, and a rough, rugged, winged pal who is just as rearing to go as I am, even these 50-plus amazing years down the road we both have witnessed from the air.

That, ladies and gentleman, is why we fly. And why we won’t be stopping any time soon. For either one of us.


If you want more commentary on all things aviation, go to our Going Direct blog archive.

11 thoughts on “Going Direct: The Greatest Plane In Oshkosh History

  1. Robert, you have written a gripping story about flying and airplanes. Thank you for this beautiful love song.

  2. What a great story that a lot of us can relate to. Thanks for putting it together in such great words. I feel the same way about my 1969 V35A Bonanza. I get more and more impressed with it each time I fly it. I am just glad I am one of the lucky people that get to be caretakers of some fantastic machines that make dreams come true.
    Tailwinds to you!

  3. Hi Robert,

    Well Done!!
    Great story you’ve written and one which has inspired me to make this trip at some point myself. I own a 1967 172H and your description of these old birds is right on. One day soon she and I will experience a similar feeling at air adventure and your story inspired it.
    Thank you.

    Best Regards,

    Larry

  4. Hey Robert,
    So nice to see and hear about an aviation magazine editor flying an old bird like so many of the rest of us rather than one with all latest and greatest gizmos. Great story that I and many of my fellow airport bums can relate to. Thanks.

  5. Very nice story Robert and congratulations. I’m not sure how many “circles of Oshkosh” there are, but you have added hours in one of them that many believe to be the best experience.

  6. Very well written piece about your obvious passion. Plane&Pilot is appropriate for your publication. It’s about the plane as much as it is about the pilot. I don’t get to go every year. I’ve been, oh, let’s see now, counting the co-pilot rides, I think maybe seven or eight times in 24 years. But the best ones were the three in my faithful 1969 C172K. I am planning to go next year. Thanks for the prose, Robert.

  7. Robert, I saw you walk by at the show and didn’t have a chance to shake your hand tell you that you’ve been one of my favorite aviation writers all these years (as proved by the note above)…even read your byline when living in the UK during the late 80’s, 90’s! I was sitting in the rain at my vacation home in CO at the beginning of Oshkosh this year. My was Glastar sitting in its hot hangar west of Houston, lamenting the fact I and it weren’t at the show. I looked at my wife and said lets go! She’d asked if I’d be bringing the tent (then demurely declined the adventure). So used some airmiles, grabbed a rental car at ORD, and enjoyed Thurs-Sunday. I’ve yet to get my Glastar there, that’s next year! But I’ve felt the same pull many, many times over the last 30 yrs. Thanks for writing for us!

  8. Mr. Goyer,
    Nice write-up – so succinctly put!
    As a student pilot who just purchased a 1966 Cessna 172G (that needs some work), I will hopefully experience the same sense of freedom and excitement when I head up to Oshkosh in my “new” and 100 percent owned-by-me Skyhawk next July 😉

  9. A great story! We have the freedom to fly anywhere we want in this great country. You have captured the essence of Oshkosh.

  10. This article, ladies and gentlemen, is one of the many reasons why I love this magazine. And why I won’t be stopping anytime soon. Thanks Robert, for the trip to Oshkosh.

  11. The Greatest Airplane in my history is my Cessna 120. My airplane is 71 years old and I’m 67. I bought her 1984 for $5,700. I was 34 years old at the time and the Cessna 120 was 38. We went through middle age together and now I have to accept that we have crossed the line into becoming “Classics” together. Maybe someday we will be classified as “Antiques”, but for now I’m happy with being a “Classic”. We soloed at New Orleans Lakefront Airport and took my checkride at Hammond, La. and we’ve spent about 1,500 hours together, mainly in the states of the Old South. Now, we live in Texas and probably fly less than either of us would prefer. Basic Med came along at just the perfect time and we have been flying more this past year than we have in the past ten years. My airplane is the best investment I ever made, but I’m not talking about financially. If you’re a pilot you know exactly what I mean. Operating costs at 5-6 gph are minimal. My annual inspection is no more than $500 plus a few parts here and there. Insurance is less than my car. I own a hangar which is worth double what I paid for it ten years ago. I think I’m going to stop now, and go fly!

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