Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Of Porta-Potties And Fields of Yellow

Oshkosh—the event never fails to amuse, confound and surprise

For what it's worth, my trip to Oshkosh this year was my 44th. No, let me amend that: It was my 41st to Oshkosh, plus three to Rockford, the last home of the EAA's yearly orgy of all things aerial and wondrous.

Also for what it's worth, it once again managed to push adrenal glands into high gear and make me sad to see it end. However, as I sit here typing, my butt turning to sand and refusing to move while my brain is still mush-like in its inability to think in straight lines, I have to admit something I've never admitted before: A week of Oshkosh is too much of everything, which, of course, makes it just about the right amount of everything. It's one of those "everything to excess, nothing to moderation" things that leaves you smiling but absolutely dead from adrenaline letdown afterward. How can we possibly be expected to function in the real world after a week in that "other" world—the one that's all about flying machines, flying folks and, in this case, flying porta-potties.

Okay, so they weren't actually flying. More like preparing for slow taxi by aligning themselves better with the ground. As in laying down on the job. This courtesy of a short, but incredibly exciting, 10 minutes of wind and rain that had everyone involved saying, "Oh, no, not another Sun 'n Fun!" We couldn't have two tornados at two major fly-ins. That would mean the gods had it in for us.

Turns out the gods were just tweaking our noses, and the 50-plus-mile-per-hour wind with rain so heavy you couldn't see two car lengths, was just Ma Nature's way of reminding us who was REALLY in control at Oshkosh. In a narrow band across the grounds, that had yours truly right in the middle of it, winds were so high they tumbled dumpsters across the ground and exceeded the posted crosswind component of Port-A-Lets by a sizeable margin.

One of the unnoticed aspects of the brief event was that the rain hadn't really let up before people standing around the dumpster blast zones started cleaning up. As if there was some sort of person-to-person telepathic connection, individuals started chasing down the blowing trash, like a bunch of ants protecting their burrows, righting the dumpsters and cleaning up the area.

The above scene was so typical of the EAA mentality and would have made a great YouTube moment: Where else would you have thousands of rain-soaked people scurrying around in the aftermath of a near-tragedy cleaning up trash? Where else, 10 minutes after 50 mph winds roared across a monstrous outdoor event, would you be hard-pressed to find a single piece of wind-blown trash anywhere on the grounds? For me, that may have been one of the more inspirational observations of the week. It made you proud to be part of such a group.

By the way, miraculously, only two aircraft were blown over, one of which damaged another. That's truly amazing and speaks volumes as to how well the majority tied their aircraft down.

Another amazing aspect of this year's av-extravaganza was the yellow tint given the proceedings by the presence of over 150 Piper Cubs. Think of that: 150-plus slow-moving puffballs of fabric and tube slowly migrating to a single point to be part of the celebration of their 75th birthday. As far as that goes, just think of the concept of having so many airplanes in one place that were well over a half century old with many pushing three-quarters of a century. And I'm not just talking about the Cubs.


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