August 2, 2013 - Ryan Stephens and Rick Harowicz are both from Wyoming Valley Airport in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. They flew to Oshkosh this year as a flight of two Cessna 172s: Ryan in his 1967; and Rick in his '63.
They stopped twice for fuel on the way. They were particularly impressed with Starke County Airport just south of Chicago. "It's a small field in the middle of a cornfield. But everything was brand new."
This is Ryan's second Oshkosh. Last year he drove. His most vivid memory of last year is that it was hot, hot, hot. But this year he was impressed by the night air show. "It was pretty amazing."
Ryan's only had his Skyhawk for a little over a year and been flying for only two. He chose the Cessna as his first plane because of its "dependability, and its fuel burn. We made it out here on less than 7 gallons per hour. Which is pretty incredible for traveling at 105 knots."
Ryan also has access to aerobatic planes, a Decathlon and an Extra 300, through the community of pilots at Wyoming Valley.
"We're kinda like a family at the airport itself. There's a group of people who spend a lot of time there."
Rick is also based at Wyoming Valley and lives in Mountain Top, Pennsylvania. He's chief pilot of a Part 141 operation flying 172s, Arrows, Aztec, Navaho, 210. "I fly instruction, scenic flights, airport days, whatever's necessary."
He first came to Oshkosh 29 years ago, and he's very pleased with the changes since. "Beautiful improvements...Major improvements."
One constant for him all those years is the warbirds. "They are as outstanding then as they are today. Still gives me goose bumps."
They're both here with their daughters. Ryan's daughter Alyxandria is 20, and Rick's Marissa is 25. Both young women are aviation enthusiasts, and enjoying Oshkosh.
Richard Holcombe is from Florence, Oregon, and he flew to Oshkosh this year in his beloved Aeronca Champ.
Richard is so devoted to his plane that online he calls himself "Champguy."
Many people seem to think that flying from Oregon to Oshkosh in a no-electrical system Champ is amazing, but to Champguy is just fun.
"It's a lovely trip," he says. "I make a lot of stops. It takes me about four days."
He landed often, in a series of small towns, "where people are very friendly and helpful. And it's always exquisitely beautiful going over the mountains."
Florence is located on the mid-coast of Oregon. Champguy loves flying all around the Northwest, and he posts online many aerial pictures of the region's beauty.
"I want to share with people the fact that you can take a small affordable plane and you can go cross-country and not fly way up in the air, and not have to look through little windows. I can see a lot of country, and I want to share that."
Champguy's plane is a 1949 Aeronca 7CCM he's had for eight years. "It has the 90-hp engine," he says. "It was re-imported from Canada and rebuilt up in North Dakota by a guy back in 2001. And he did a pretty darned good job of it. It's not show quality, but it's in good shape, and it flies well. It's just a joy to fly."
The Champ has no electrical system. And Champguy has developed a cautious procedure for hand-propping it by himself.
"I hand-prop it, carefully. I do not let people distract me when I'm doing that. But if you get your routine down, and you keep your plugs clean, by not running the engine rich all the time, it starts without difficulty. It always starts on the second or third blade through.
"It's very predictable."
This is Champguy's seventh Oshkosh. Considering that he's a devoted "low and slow" guy, you'll be surprised to hear what his favorite thing was this year:
"Jetman. I think he's cool. I texted a friend, and said, 'I've seen bigger specks on the leading edge of my wing.' But I can understand that he might want to stay high enough so he can pop a parachute when the thing flames out."
Enjoy Around the Field all year long at www.AroundTheField.net.