A Letter to my Friends


I am posting from the Ultralight barn at Oshkosh '96 and will not
be able to repond to email until I return on Thursday, but I wanted
to share this story I wrote about one of my flights.


by Dan J. Grunloh EAA 173888

My most memorable flight ever, took place this Friday, August 2nd at the EAA Oshkosh convention and it is permamently etched in my mind. I am thinking that the "Red Shirts" (the volunteers who run the airshow), must be having a tough time and are probably missing the services of their long time airboss, Mr. Hilliard. It's a very tough job I'm sure, but instead of running 15-30 minutes late on the airshow, they are an hour and 15 minutes overtime. There have been numerous dedication to his memory at this convention.

The pilots in the Ultralight/LightPlane area have been briefed and ready to fly since 6:00-6:15 but it is almost 7:20 before we get the go ahead. Incredibly, as we are signalled to taxi forward for takeoff, a small grey cloud begins to produce very light rain on our end of the airport. Are we really going to takeoff in rain? Some pilots pull over and others make strange questioning hand signals to the flagman. It's a little like the Twilight Zone. There's barely enough sprinkles to settle the dust, no wind, and the little cloud hardly seems threatening, so off we go. I catch a lively wind gust right at lift off (as do a couple ultralights behind me) but it's not a problem.

As I reach our Oshkosh pattern altitude of 300 ft.AGL, a glance to the east reveals a beautiful DOUBLE RAINBOW which frames the background of Wittman Airport with it's thousands of airplanes. It's so pefect, it looks like a huge painting, except this one has engine sounds, rushing air, and tiny little raindrops on my goggles. We 30-40 ultralight and lightplane pilots watch this incredible sight for about 20 minutes as we fly around our racetrack pattern. I learn later that some claim they had seen a faint third rainbow making it a rare triple.

I cannot possible describe in mere words the feelings, sensations, and pure beauty of this sight. You have to experience it yourself. During this flight I am suddenly struck with the sensation that this rainbow is for Charlie Hilliard,... or from him!

My hobby of flying has become so much more moving and inspiring than I ever suspected was possible. It is the people in Sport Aviation, like Charlie, who have made it so. Thanks very much.

Daniel Grunloh (grunloh@uiuc.edu)

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