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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.

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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.

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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.

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