How to Do Oshkosh

What to see, where to eat, who to talk to, and how to make the most of the great big airshow in the quiet little town.

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THE FLY MARKET Housed in a shabby tent city north of the exhibitors’ buildings and west of the control tower is a collection of kitsch not to be missed.

“My favorite part is the Fly Market,” confesses Senator Inhofe. “The first thing I do is head to the Fly Market and buy my stuff.” Inhofe once found a clock for a Stearman biplane. You can also find a lot of non-aviation-related items: awful hotel wall art, stir fryers, “magic pens,” hammocks, hats, hoses, paint removers, drills, anti-bacterial solutions, an endless variety of offensive T-shirts, and a “leather blow-out.” In the waning days of the show, peddlers determined to dispose of this “inventory” will often sell out for pennies on the dollar.

FORUMS & WORKSHOPS The forums harken back to the EAA’s roots as a group of builders assembling aircraft at home and are the means by which the tradition of this craft is passed to the next generation of self-airframers. Here you can learn “The Do’s and Don’ts of Resins,” how to install a Subaru engine in your airplane, and the latest techniques in welding, working with sheet metal, wood, and composites, and applying fabric covering.

The better forums tend to be held earlier in the morning. Past attendees have heard noted aircraft designer Burt Rutan’s insights into future aircraft design, gotten an FAA briefing on the latest plans for the national airspace system, or received helpful hints from a flight surgeon on staying fit for flying.

One show favorite is the Dawn Patrol, led by the folks who represent Canon camera equipment. From Canon’s small headquarters, next to the EAA media center, a few steps west of the control tower, staff members lead daily photo expeditions very early in the morning when the light is soft, the weather is cool, and the crowds are small.

SHOW FOOD About the best thing one can say about the on-site food is that it is available and no worse than one would find at a county fair. Prices are about what you would pay at a major sports stadium. Amid the many opportunities to increase your cholesterol, the warm doughnuts stand out: deep-fried as you watch and rolled in sugar and cinnamon, sold in the morning near the International Aerobatic Club’s pavilion. KEEPING YOUR COOL The important thing is to take regular rest breaks and drink plenty of water. Heat prostration is a common affliction at Oshkosh among all ages. But there are pockets of air-conditioning available. The Bose headphone trailer is one of them (but you have to sit through an infomercial). Another is the Cessna tent (but they will try to sell you an airplane).

The museum would be my first choice. The EAA AirVenture Museum, set well away from the center of the action, houses one of the most diverse private collections of aircraft in the world. The museum giftshop offers the standard books and keepsakes, along with odd treasures such as videos of the 1950s “Sky King” TV series.

During AirVenture, noted aviation authors, such as Rinker Buck and ace Clarence “Bud” Anderson, lecture in the museum’s theater. It’s a welcome respite to slouch in your theater seat, soak up the air conditioning, close your eyes, and listen to tales of flying.

Oshkosh at Night

INSIDE THE FENCE Night programs feature everything from aerobatic/pyrotechnic shows to polka bands to astronauts who answer audience questions in the Theatre in the Woods. The most fun, of course, is had at the individual campsites, the details of which have been omitted here to protect the guilty.

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