An Oshkosh To Remember I

Following is a letter that was published in our club newsletter some time ago. This might offer some motivation for those considering the flight to Oshkosh this summer...

The story begins early one Friday morning prior to the annual Oshkosh fly-in. Members of the Fox Valley Flying club are eagerly preparing their respective machines to make the 165 mile trip. The time is 05:45, the sun is beginning to rise and the atmosphere is filled with adrenaline and anticipation as the 14 ultralight pilots hurriedly fuel their planes, pack their camping gear and check their C.B. radios for what lies ahead. Some of the members that are driving are doing on-the-spot camcorder interviews with each of the pilots while they ready for the trip. As with most meticulously planned events, once the first engine is started, chaos ensues as each pilot attempts to get ready for take off with the rest of the group. Before takeoff, each pilot picks a flying partner to ensure that someone will be there in case of emergency. The first to leave are the group of slower planes - mostly MXs, the second group consists of the faster planes (less slow) such as the Challenger, Falcon, Beaver, MXL, Phantom, and Titan. Usually, we all end up within 10 minutes of each other at the airports. Our planned stops for the day are Galt, East Troy, Hartford and Oshkosh. Each leg is at most 50 miles to accommodate the planes with less range.

The take off goes well - we are all in the air by sun up. Calling ahead to the first group, we find out they are about 20 miles ahead of us. The early morning mist still covered patches of the ground and the cool air was trying to penetrate the 3 or 4 layers of protective clothing I had worn - but the adrenaline was high enough to keep the chill off. One of the great things about open air ultralights are the smells of the countryside as you pass over recently cut grass or pine trees, etc. This was one of those days when all seemed as if it were meant to be - the weather was perfect, our radios were all functioning properly (a rare occurrence), and the scenery from 20 feet altitude was awesome. Spectators from along our route waive as we pass overhead - some of the guys do a mini airshow for the more enthusiastic spectators.

As we traverse the Wisconsin countryside, the lead plane (a Falcon) points out the landmarks. During a few legs of the trip the ground is heavily wooded, and you find yourself listening for every power stroke of the engine and every new noise from your plane - the 'new' noises seem to multiply in times like this.

We all make it to the last stop before Oshkosh in one piece. By this time we are all tired and hungry, but ready for more. After all the guys arrive, we sit around and recount our trip so far as we down a few pizzas. After refueling ourselves and our planes, we call ahead to Oshkosh for an ok to arrive. After the ok, we're off. There is nothing quite like the experience of flying in to Oshkosh. As you approach the ultralight runway, you see a sea of planes covering the airport, traffic backed up on all access roads, and people and tents everywhere. We approach in single file, spaced enough to allow safe landings for those behind us. After we're all on the ground, we celebrate our monumental accomplishment. This has already been an Oshkosh to remember!

Stay tuned for the sequel - the trip home!!!

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