Plane & Pilot
Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Oshkosh By Any Other Name

Of damp dogs, wet aviators and rained-on cowboy hats

The first couple days of the show had a lot of EAA management types biting their nails because of gaping holes in all the parking areas. Most, in fact, were stone empty. A creeping feeling of what-if-we-gave-a-fly-in-and-no-one-came was setting in. Then, the impenetrable walls of storms running from Chicago and halfway around the world (or so it seemed) broke, and the airplanes began streaming in. By midweek, airplanes flowed to the horizon, and only the antique area had vacancies. In fact, the overall attendance in almost all areas was up. Which brings us back to the budget debate: What happened to the recession and the end of the world that was to follow? It was hard to reconcile the economic realities with the attitudes displayed at Oshkosh.

I have no doubt that the recession is hard upon us, and we have some even harder times to come, but when it comes to passion, the government has yet to come up with the wet blanket that’ll put out that fire. If anyone wants an antidote for the economic blues, all they have to do is journey to Oshkosh (or the Street Rod Nationals, or Sturgis or Daytona Bike Week or…). Yes, the economy raised its ugly head at OSH, and there was lots of talk about “what are we going to do if…,” but the words weren’t coming out of long faces. Everyone on the grounds was absolutely excited because they were knee-deep in their personal passion and, come hell or high water, the dire-sounding news from inside the Beltway wasn’t going to intrude on their cloistered little world.

I spent a couple of minutes watching a group of friends, evidently two families that had set up housekeeping on the grass with their Tri-Pacer as a centerpiece. Without hearing their words, it was obvious that the old flying milk stool was their pride and joy, and they were loving the life they’d built around it. It wasn’t a high-dollar airplane. It wasn’t an award winner. But it was part of their family, and it looked as if this wasn’t their first time to this particular rodeo. Nor would it be their last.

Yes, I worry like crazy about the future. However, I have a fix for that: I just wander out to the airport, roll open the hangar door, pull up a folding chair, sit down and stare at my airplane. And marvel at my good fortune. I’m absolutely positive the country will find its way. And I’m equally as positive that my airplane will keep me from losing my way. As long as all of us use our passion, whatever flavor it may be, to keep our heads and find our way, the nation will be okay. If we get nuts and succumb to the rages of the naysayers, we’re doomed.


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