So, you’re finally doing it. This year, you are going to be one of the 590,000 or so aviation enthusiasts at Airventure 2018.
Congratulations! Be warned, however, “doing Oshkosh” for the first time can be overwhelming. So, let me give you some advice. I’m good at giving it, and you’re going to need it.
- First of all, no one but EAA officials call the event “Airventure.” It’s “Oshkosh,” plain and simple. Yes, I know EAA’s first fly-in was in 1953 at Timmerman Field, and it moved to Rockford, IL in 1959 before settling in Oshkosh in 1970. I understand non-aviators associate Oshkosh with overalls. Doesn’t matter. To those who love planes, Oshkosh = Airventure, and vice versa. (This may not be fair to Oshkosh residents, but they do benefit to the tune of $110 million economic impact from a single (crazy) week.)
- Even if you make use of the trams, you will be walking. A lot. Wear comfortable shoes. I always pack my Keen sandals. As The Engineer said when I finally bought him a pair, “They feel like real shoes.” (Note: Although I mention specific brands and link to their sites, these are merely my favorites. I have no connection with any of these companies.)
- And speaking of trams — they get crowded, especially on the weekend, and often there’s someone who seems to think their packages or the airing out of their groin deserves space more than the attendees waiting for a ride. Don’t be that person. Smile and scoot over.
- I always wear my FitBit or other activity tracker. This enables to say to myself at the end of the day, “Wow! I walked 7 miles today. I deserve this ________.” I then fill in the blank with “beer,” “ice cream,” “new t-shirt,” or whatever else I’m trying to convince myself I need. At Oshkosh, you can rationalize almost anything if you try hard enough.
- Bring a water bottle and an easy means of carrying it, but try not to weigh yourself down with too much stuff. Things grow heavier toward the end of the day after you’ve walked miles in the sun. (See #2.) It’s a good idea to keep your electrolytes replenished, so I add Nuun tablets to my bottle.
- Wear sunscreen. There are very few trees. (This is #1 in my list of reasons why high-wing aircraft are better than low-wing [they provide shade], but that’s a blog post for another day.)
- In your daypack, you might pack a few snacks. Choose healthy ones that won’t melt, and you won’t be tempted to shell out megabucks at the snack bars. My favorite snack bars are made from nut butter, so not a good option. This year, I’m trying One bars. Low in sugar, high in protein, and the ingredients seem reasonably clean. Other options: beef jerky, dried fruit, nuts. And low sugar, high protein drinks might deserve a place in your cooler back at camp or your motel fridge. Iconic is my current favorite.
- You may also want to bring earplugs, especially if you’re camping. Plane noise starts early and goes late. Throw in an eye mask too so you can rest up for the next days walking.
- For heaven’s sake, wear a hat! (See #6.)
- Bring a chair. I love my Tommy Bahama beach chair. It has a head rest, drink holder, and a mini cooler and deep pocket on the back, as well as straps to carry it like a backpack — everything I need when settling in on the flight line to watch the show. Others prefer those camp chairs that fold into bags or stools that double as a cane/walking stick. Find one that works for you.
- We camp in a tent under the wing of a plane. If you’re doing the same, I recommend the best camp mattress you can afford. A few years ago, we splurged (and I do mean splurged) on a pair of Nemo Cosmo air mattresses and never looked back.
- I also recommend a PackTowel, rather than one from your bathroom. These towels wring nearly dry so you can pack them away almost immediately, an important feature if/when it rains during the week. Get the largest size you can find, and you can laugh at me cowering in the shower truck behind my tiny, ancient one. While we’re on the subject of showers, you’ll probably want some kind of small bag to carry your toiletries and clean/dirty clothing from the shower buildings/trucks.
- You’ll also need some kind of light, mostly for use in your tent at night. I take about three flashlights (solar-powered) because at least one goes missing in the tent on the first night. Last year, I added a couple of Luci lamps to our gear. They’re also solar-powered, and store flat until you need them. Get this, you blow them up like a beach ball when you’re ready to use them. Perfect for plane trips because they are so lightweight.
- While we’re talking lightweight items, one of the best purchases I ever made was my plastic mallet. I think I got it at K-Mart for under $20, and we’ve used it for years to put in (and pull out) tent pegs. Much better than the bowling pin one acquaintance used to bring every year for this purpose. (Not a joke.)
- Clothespins weight next to nothing and have a way of coming in very handy. Likewise, plastic bags and Ziplocs.
- Possibly my most important piece of advice has to do with planes, and it’s something that shouldn’t need saying. Unfortunately, it still does. Don’t touch another person’s plane unless you have their express permission!!! It’s okay to admire a plane, maybe even peek through the window at the avionics. It’s not okay to lean on, sit on, pull on, or press your greasy nose or fingers on someone else’s plane. Look, Oshkosh is all about planes, and we all find aircraft we’d like to inspect more closely. But it is possible to look without touching. If the owner is around, engage her or him in a conversation about the plane. Chances are they’d be happy to tell you more about it.
- Lastly, please don’t assume the pilot and/or owner of the plane is always a man. Women fly. Women own aircraft, and have done so from the start, yet women pilots still struggle for recognition. If you’re scoffing at my statement, perhaps you’d like to read the story of Elaine Danforth Harmon, a WWII military pilot, whose family had to fight to earn what should have been the right to inter Elaine’s ashes at Arlington. That was just two years ago.
So, have fun, don’t be a sexist, and share your tram seat. Don’t try to fit everything into one day, one week, or even one year. I know I haven’t touched the subject of what to see, where to go, or what you can learn. Frankly, that task is just too daunting even for someone as opinionated as me. 🙂
Feel free to add your own advice by commenting!