Oshkosh isn’t about airplanes, it’s about people. Think abstractly; people created (not invented mind you) the need to fly,, then airplanes were invented so men could become aviators. Without people there would be no need for airplanes.
On a more concrete level, Oshkosh 2012 was another great event. Crowds were better than last year. The rain from the past showed up, but it didn’t really last. It rained enough to keep the dust down and that was about it. Most of the days were bright and sunny and by the time the airshow started, there were some clouds, which just made the photos better. The guests of honor this year were the nearly 200 Piper Cubs every kind and model. There were “regular” Cubs, Clipped Wing Cubs and even a pair of Cubs powered by the rare radial engines. For that matter, even Super Cub Serial #1 was there. Warbirds showed up as usual with the P-51 count approaching twenty or so (I didn’t really count them, but that was close), also on the field were at least three B-25s, and fields of T-6s, T-28s and T-34s.
The ramp had a lot of jets including a pair of A-4s, the FJ Fury, F-86, a Super Pinto, and an assortment of L-39s. There was an even bigger assortment of other things that flew. From airplanes to helicopters to gliders, it was on the field. There were two restorations this year, that really stood out; the Liberty Aviation Museum’s B-25 “Georgie’s Girl”, which was fresh from rebuild at Aero Trader and the Colling’s Foundation’s A-36 which just flew in from American Aero in Florida.
Both won awards and both deserved them. The JU-52 that was here really stood out. It was of show winning quality and it flew every day; for that matter it was flown over here from Germany. I often think of it as a “German version of a DC-3” since it fulfilled that function. I’ve seen them fly before; I’ve just never seen them fly like this. The performance was low and they made a lot of very tight slow turns. Maybe a DC-3 can do this, but I’ve never seen it before. I have a lot more respect for that airplane now.
Back to the people who really are the core of the experience. The rest of the event was like usual; well if the BEST is usual? Normal superlatives really don’t fit in here. The orders of magnitude are simply too big. There were thousands of transient aircraft on the ground and lots of people camping next to a lot of those airplanes. Literally and actually there were hundreds of thousands of people walking on the field and all with a common bond. That wasn’t eating the same food from vendors or buying aviation supplies in the countless exhibitors. They were all talking and living aviation. If it was their first trip to this event, they had a strange “deer in the headlights” look.
Not being able to understand what it was that they were actually seeing. If they had been to several events, they looked a bit more in control. If they were real veterans, they were at home here. It always amazed me how many people you see at the EAA Convention that are your friends. Actually they are all your friends; you simply haven’t met all of them yet. If I’m talking to Paul Bowen, Jay Beckman or Neil Armstrong, we are with the people who we understand and those who understand us. For me and many others, this is the only time we get to see each other. I know people from all over the US and the world that I only see at Oshkosh. If I think carefully, I may well have more friends who show up there than I actually have near home. A lot of those people are in the same boat. It’s really hard to find people who understand aviation except at a place where aviators gather.
Since Rockford in 1966, the EAA Convention represented the only father-son trip we ever took. He took me when I was young and later in life I took him. My mom and brother have all attended the Convention; I’ve taken other relatives and friends over the years. When he was very young, I started taking my son too. Some people know this year will be their last trip and some don’t. I’ll never forget 1996, my father died the night before we left for Oshkosh, as you may guess we both missed it that year. We will all have memories of this place that will stay with us for a lifetime.
This year was good, hopefully next year will be better. A picture is worth a thousand words and I’ve attached a lot of pictures; So here are many thousand “words” for you all to study. We will see you at Oshkosh next year, it is truly the greatest aviation event in the world and has no peers. I am humbled that the EAA allows me to come there to be a part of it. I’d like to thank Dick Knapinski , Communications Director at the EAA for making this story and these photos possible.
You can contact the author Mark Hrutkay at TNMark@Me.Com.