July 3, 2014 - Flying into the World’s Greatest Aviation Celebration should be, well, the greatest aviation experience ever! For 99.9 percent of the pilots, flying to EAA AirVenture Oshkosh is a safe and fun experience. Having been to Oshkosh many times over the years, I can tell you “stuff” can and does happen, but there are ways to avoid problems.
The EAA website has a lot of valuable information for pilots flying into and out of Wittman Regional Airport, and I strongly advise you read it. Here are some other personal observations and pointers I’ve accrued over the years.
Flight to Oshkosh
Are you ready? Is your airplane ready? If you are like many pilots you are not flying as much as you would like. For whatever reason you may not be exercising your pilot skills or your airplane enough and this can lead to bad pilot habits and possible mechanical issues.
First things first: Do you need a couple of hours dual with an instructor to sharpen your skills? Spending a few bucks brushing up with an instructor is one of the best forms of insurance you can buy.
Second, is your airplane up to snuff? You can certainly give your airplane a thorough inspection but why not have a mechanic give it the once-over? You don’t need a full-blown annual, just have an experienced mechanic check out your bird. Again, this can be a few dollars well spent.
Planning, planning, and planning. When was the last time you made a long, or even a short cross-country flight? Planning your route and overnight stays, if necessary, can make your trip safer. The last thing you need is to find out during your trip fuel isn’t available at one of your planned stops. That can lead to an unnecessary extra leg to another airport, stretching your fuel.
If you’re camping or plan to fill all the seats in your airplane, think about gross weight, weight and balance, and load shifting. When was the last time you flew you airplane at full or near full gross weight? Don’t forget weight and density altitude concerns with hot weather. If need be, look into shipping baggage and camping equipment ahead of time.
What about you? Flying can be stressful. I remember many years ago flying a Cessna 150 from Illinois to Florida in a single day. The trip wasn’t a 20-hour car trip, but when I got to my destination I was beat. Don’t let fatigue get to you. Plan your trip so when you arrive in Oshkosh you are sharp and on your flying game.
Don’t forget to get your copy of the EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2014 Notice to Airmen (NOTAM) released by the FAA about arrival/departure procedures for the event and read it thoroughly. My first flight into Oshkosh was only from Northern Illinois but it was very “interesting,” and that was in 1974. Make sure you study the NOTAM beforehand, and not when you are approaching FISKE to get in line for approach to KOSH.
Arriving at KOSH isn’t like landing at your home airport. The approach will have you following other airplanes and other airplanes will be following you. You will be rocking your wings to acknowledge ATC instructions, and you will very likely be flying approach speeds and altitudes that you may not normally fly.
One, fly your airplane. Two, keep your head outside your airplane. Three, do not get distracted. This is not the time for taking pictures or laughing it up with your passengers; in fact you should brief them so they know you are going to be concentrating on a safe arrival. Keep your wits about what you are doing and if for any reason you need to go around…do so!
Arrival at KOSH
Once you arrive, make sure you have the proper signs so the ground volunteers can safely direct you to the correct parking area. You can find details on ground signs on the EAA/AirVenture website. If you don’t have ground signs this will create unsafe situations for the ground volunteers, you, and your passengers, so read the information on www.eaa.org and have your ground signs ready once you have cleared the runway.
Just because you are on the ground doesn’t mean you can get lazy. Watch and follow the ground volunteers. Keep your head outside your airplane and watch for people, wingtips, and uneven ground. Also watch your prop wash. What’s behind you does matter!
Once you have your airplane parked, make double sure your airplane is totally secure starting with shutting off the master and the mags. Hot engines can kick over if someone grabs the prop. (Your engine could be really hot if the last leg of your trip was long and if you had a lower- and longer-than-normal approach and a long taxi.) Make sure no one tries to turn your prop so it looks nice straight up and down or flat side to side. Trust me the nice-looking prop can wait.
Next, secure your airplane. Control locks in place and properly tie down your airplane. By the way, do not show up with those spiral jobs from the pet store. Make sure you bring aircraft tiedowns and rope designed to properly tie down an aircraft. Seriously, you spent a bunch of money to own a nice airplane. Invest in proper aircraft tiedowns.
Whether you are going to be here for few days or a week, the last thing you want to happen is explain why your airplane is on top of the airplane next to yours because you did not properly tie down your aircraft with proper equipment. I’ve seen those conversations and they are not pleasant.
The last point about being at AirVenture is to make sure you follow proper camping rules. The rules are there for everyone’s safety. So have fun wherever you park your airplane!
Headed for Home
Just like coming to AirVenture, going home is an undertaking that should not be taken lightly. Follow the points above to coming to Oshkosh and maybe add the following tips.
If you made any purchases, think about the extra weight, balance, and load shifting. If you can ship stuff home you might want to start with your dirty clothes, then go ahead and take you new purchases with you in the airplane.
Don’t be a “hot dog” on your departure. You are most likely not a fighter pilot or air show performer so don’t try and fly like one. Follow the departure procedures in the NOTAM to the letter and you will start your trip back home safely.
Oshkosh is the best of the best. There is nowhere in the world you and I would rather be. Let’s all get there safely, have fun, and fly back home safe and sound.
See you in Oshkosh!!!
Contact the aviation insurance professionals with the EAA Insurance Solutions administered by Falcon Insurance Agency at 866-647-4322 (4EAA), visit the EAA website or stop by the EAA Insurance Solutions tent in EAA Square at AirVenture to request a quote.
Bob Mackey is senior vice president of Falcon Insurance Agency, Inc. the official administers of the EAA Insurance Solutions. Bob has more than 35 years experience with aviation insurance and is a commercial and instrument rated pilot. If you would like to share any comments with Bob send him an e-mail.