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Flying the OSH Arrival: A Pilot’s Perspective

The VFR arrival into Oshkosh has changed, in part because new technology, primarily ADS-B, has allowed controllers to know precisely where arriving traffic is, and to call them out by N-number if need be.

OSH Arrival Map
Being able to visualize other traffic and pinpoint the distance from the airplane you’re following allows a jumble like this, where the arrival transition began, to sort itself out nicely well before the familiar fixes at Ripon or FISKK, where controllers often had to act quickly to un-jam the arrival in years past.
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“Friends, this is your afternoon ATC team taking over for the morning crew, who have been doing a fantastic job—and you pilots have been as well! As a heads-up, we’re landing on runway 27 and the 36-es, and there’s an ag applicator spraying directly beneath FISKK. Now everybody, pick a partner, fall in behind them, and maintain space of a half mile up to a mile. Welcome to Oshkosh, everyone, we’re glad you came.” 

I was in the Mooney, 30 minutes from landing, and joining the congo line way back at Endeavor Bridge. Wait, you’ve not heard of that fix? You did read the NOTAM, right? If you were planning to plug FISKK into your GPS and just loiter until a controller waved you inbound, you’ll get sent right to the back of the line, probably at a GPS fix you won’t recognize. 

In fact, interlopers doing just that were getting broken out—called out by N number when their ADS-B information gave away their identity—and sent to rejoin the line where we’d all rallied up. It was Sunday—opening day eve—and the fire hose of airplanes was directed at Wittman field. The arrival got a little adjustment from past years—new transitions were added to stretch out the line of airplanes to mitigate holding on the arrival. Several times there was holding throughout the show so far, but at times, controllers have also used shorter transitions to the arrival as traffic ebbed. 

Speaking with several pilots who’ve flown in this year and in years past, the feedback is overwhelmingly positive—especially considering the human reluctance to change when something has been relatively unchanged for years. 

If you’re planning to fly in to the last few days of the show, be sure you read up on the NOTAM, available on the AirVenture web site. There are a few things worth noting, though. While you’ll have the information available to build the arrival into your flight plan on the GPS, keep your eyes outside as much as you can—the controllers want you following roads and railroad tracks, even as they curve between waypoints. And while you may see the plane ahead of you on your traffic display, that’s only for airplanes that are ADS-B equipped—and you’re flying into an event that showcases a lot of antique/classic designs that manage to dodge the ADS-B mandate. 

While we urge you to look outside, having the ADS-B traffic displayed really helps establish proper spacing in the arrival queue. That Cessna 170 in front of you that looks a couple hundred yards away may be pushing a mile of space, or it could be the other way around.

And now we can echo the words we heard from the controllers as we approached: Welcome to Oshkosh. We’re glad you came to join us!

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