Home » I Joined 677,000 People For A Whole Week At The Greatest Airplane Celebration In The World. Here Are The Coolest Planes I Saw

I Joined 677,000 People For A Whole Week At The Greatest Airplane Celebration In The World. Here Are The Coolest Planes I Saw

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Last week, my wife Sheryl and I spent about six days taking in a humongous celebration of all things aviation. It was a dream come true to attend the whole run of EAA Airventure Oshkosh 2023. As it turns out, Sheryl and I weren’t the only ones starry-eyed from an overload of aircraft. This year, the Experimental Aircraft Association did it again and pulled out another record year. As the two of us walked literal miles each day, it was hard to pick our jaws off of the ground. Somehow, this year was even better than last year.

Like I did last year, I will be writing about a bunch of the aircraft I saw out there. For now, I want you to check out some of the epic history that touched down in Oshkosh this year. Something to remember is that the majority of the aircraft that arrive for an AirVenture flew there and will fly back home. It’s living history at its finest!

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Lockheed Super Constellation

Sheryl and I arrived at AirVenture toward the end of its first day on Monday, July 24. We planned to be there in the morning, but timing just didn’t work well. We did arrive in time to watch the first day’s airshow from our campsite and to witness the chaos that was EAA’s Camp Scholler. I thought it was a joke when an EAA volunteer told me that Camp Scholler was sold out. It wasn’t even the end of the first day, how was that even possible!?

As it turns out, the reason behind so much of the madness I experienced was due to the fact that thie year was yet another record year. Here are some incredible statistics for you. Approximately 677,000 attended AirVenture this year, setting a new all-time record. That’s up from 650,000 people last year, itself beating the record of 642,000 people, which was set in 2019. EAA’s membership and AirVenture are both experiencing exponential growth as it appears more people are getting interested in aviation. That’s always a good thing in my book!

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EAA says more than 10,000 aircraft attended AirVenture this year and from July 20 to July 30 there were 21,883 aircraft operations, up from 17,000 from last year. This adds up to an average of 148 takeoffs and landings per hour when the airport was open. For comparison, back in 2019, CNN Travel reported that in 2018 Chicago O’Hare International Airport handled an average of 2,520 aircraft movements per day or 105 per hour. O’Hare took the crown for the busiest airport by aircraft movements that year. That just illustrates why the control tower at Wittman Regional Airport proudly displays “World’s Busiest Control Tower” on its railings every year.

We’re still not done yet with statistics. EAA says 3,365 showplanes were displayed this year including a record 1,497 registered vintage aircraft, 1,067 homebuilt aircraft, 380 warbirds, 194 ultralights, 134 seaplanes and amphibians, 52 aerobatic aircraft, and 41 rotorcraft. Last year, there were 3,200 showplanes including 1,400 vintage, 1,156 homebuilts, and 369 warbirds.

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Sikorsky UH-34D “Ugly Angel” YL-37

In terms of camping, roughly 40,000 attendees camped in a tent, RV, or under the wing of their plane. That number is about the same as last year, however, the number of campsites went up from 12,000 sites to over 13,000 sites. This is the reason why Camp Scholler was sold out by Monday, forcing people to plant their stakes in fields outside of the event.

These impressive numbers led to absolutely packed crowds, lines of aircraft storming down taxiways, and oh so much fun.

Our Own Statistics

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As I mentioned in my piece about how broken my family’s camper was, Sheryl and I camped in a 2007 Thor Adirondack 31BH in one of the overflow fields outside of Camp Scholler. If Camp Scholler is basically a small city for 11 days then the outflow fields were basically the suburbs of that city.

Now that I’m home, I can tell you how things finished with the camper. The 2007 Thor Adirondack 31BH has a 46-gallon fresh water tank, a 36-gallon gray water tank, and a 34-gallon waste tank. The water tank had never been used since my parents picked up the Adirondack in 2016 and despite my best efforts to flush it out, water came out of the faucets cloudy. So, Sheryl and I decided not to drink the water and used it only for cleaning and for the bathroom. We rationed the water and incredibly, the 46 gallons lasted the whole trip. Sheryl ran out of water just after her shower on Sunday ended. The gray tank was full by the end while the black tank was maybe a third full. Just because I was curious to see how it worked, I hired a pump truck to dump our tanks. The putrid truck sucked our tanks out in just a couple of minutes, which was cool to watch.

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The propane worked better after advice from our readers. Whenever the fridge didn’t see propane, I used the stove and that got propane to its destination. Thank you, guys! The same couldn’t be said for the battery. It was clearly damaged from being discharged and it wasn’t happy being run every night. By Saturday, it was roached enough that it could run just a vent fan for maybe four hours before dying.

The battery disconnect also stopped working entirely. Since I re-wired it twice, I have a feeling that it’s broken somewhere else. Apparently, this trailer had a rodent problem during a recent stint in storage, so that’ll be a fun thing to track down. Finally, the floor near the entrance door is definitely soft, which has us wondering about where else could there be water getting in.

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So Many Epic Planes

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ASI Super Guppy Turbine

None of our camper problems put a damper on our trip, which was simply spectacular. When I read that NASA’s Super Guppy was going to be in Boeing Plaza during Wednesday night’s fireworks show, I had to make my way out there. As it turned out, about 20 or so other people, most of them seemingly EAA volunteers, also had the same idea. My phone did a commendable job, I think.

Let’s kick this off with a 1930s aircraft reborn for the modern day.

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Junkers A50 Junior

Junkers Flugzeug- und Motorenwerke AG hasn’t been around since 1969, but it’s technically back today thanks to businessman and avgeek Dieter Morszeck and his luxury luggage company, Rimowa. Morszeck loves vintage aircraft so much that Rimowa decided to modernize the Junkers F13 and put it back into production in 2016. This has since turned into a full-blown business–Junkers Aircraft–and the company has most recently brought the Junkers A50 Junior back from the dead. Its parent company is Waco Aircraft, another dead name brought back. From Junkers Aircraft:

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Junkers A50 Junior

The Junkers A50 Junior had its maiden flight in 1929. The single-engine, two-seat low-wing monoplane with an oval fuselage cross-section and dural corrugated sheet metal planking was equipped with an 80 hp engine and already had a take-off mass of around 600 kg at that time – in other words, an ultralight aircraft of the first hour.

The Junkers A50 Junior was able to set a number of FAI world records around the world and became famous, among other things, because Marga von Etzdorf was the first woman to fly her Junkers A50 Junior from Berlin to Tokyo in several stages in 1931.

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Junkers A50 Junior

The “reissue” Junkers A50 Junior has modern avionics, 100 HP Rotax 912iS power, a corrugated aluminum body, and looks like no other aircraft in the sky. It’s $199,500, which is expensive, but I expected a boutique plane like this to be even more expensive.

Another aircraft that grabbed my attention was NASA’s Aero Spacelines Super Guppy Turbine. This plane will get its own piece, but for now, here’s a description I wrote a couple of years ago at the old site:

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ASI Super Guppy Turbine

When you need to carry cargo that can’t fit on any regular freighter, there are some rather freaky-looking planes that can get the job done. NASA’s choice is its Super Guppy Turbine, registration N941NA. It was originally put into service all the way back in 1953 as Boeing KC-97 Stratotanker SN 52-828.

One big problem of the space race was figuring out how to get giant rocket parts to Cape Kennedy. They were far too big for the road and for rail, so NASA used slow barges. In 1961, Aero Spaceline Industries stepped up to the plate with a solution. The firm would take a KC-97 Stratotanker and heavily modified it to carry the second stage of a Saturn rocket.

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ASI Super Guppy Turbine

First came the Pregnant Guppy, which had a 19-foot diameter cargo bay and cut transport time for rocket parts from 18 to 25 days down to 18 hours. In 1965 ASI introduced the Super Guppy. This one featured a 25-foot diameter cargo bay, more powerful engines, a pressurized cockpit, and a nose that hinged out to swallow huge loads.

ASI and NASA used the plane for a whole 32 years, using it to carry loads as large as the third stage of the Saturn V. This Super Guppy is one of two Super Guppy Turbines, which come powered by Allison T-56 turboprops. As humans head back into space, NASA is using N941NA to carry spacecraft parts like it used the original Super Guppy in the past.

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ASI Super Guppy Turbine

This year I finally made it out to the Seaplane Base. True to EAA’s word, the Seaplane Base offered a much slower, more tranquil version of AirVenture. You could sit back in the shade and watch various floatplanes and flying boats touch down on Lake Winnebago. Since it was sizzling hot outside, I went for a swim at the Seaplane Base, where I watched planes fly low right over my head to touch down in the bay. You couldn’t do that on AirVenture’s flightline on land!

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This year’s theme for AirVenture was 70 years of the Experimental Aircraft Association. The variety of aircraft on deck this year was incredible. The beefy C-5 made a return, as did the Boeing C-17 Globemaster, a Boeing KC-135 Stratotanker, and even a FedEx Cessna 408 SkyCourier.

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Cessna 408 SkyCourier

Speaking of flying boats, check out this Grumman HU-16 Albatross. Sheryl and I sat under one of the broad wings of this aircraft when we watched Wednesday night’s airshow. The aircraft’s occupants watched the show from the cockpit and from the hatch in the bow/nose.

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Grumman HU-16 Albatross

 

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Grumman HU-16 Albatross

Here’s a description from the Pacific Coast Air Museum:

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HU-16E Albatrosses were in the U.S. Coast Guard fleet from 1951 to 1983. These aircraft were used on many types of missions. They were used as search platforms looking for lost boaters or downed aircraft and to locate sinking fishing boats. If they were needed, de-watering pumps were dropped by parachute. Crews launched day or night. The aircraft were used to check on ship collisions or to locate vessels with ill crewmen. Many times the aircraft escorted helicopters to complete rescues, and rarely this amphibian landed on water to make a rescue.

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Cessna Model 337 Super Skymaster

Did you know that Cessna once built a push-and-pull twin-engine aircraft? I didn’t until I ran across this Cessna Model 337 Super Skymaster. It was designed to be a lightweight, inexpensive, and easy-to-fly twin-engine aircraft. Having a tandem engine eliminated the need to have a twin-engine, non-center-line-thrust pilot rating while also in theory, bolstering safety during emergencies.

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Cessna Model 337 Super Skymaster

 

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Cessna Model 337 Super Skymaster

Another highlight was the Fairchild C-123K Provider “Thunderpig.” This plane is literally the very last of its kind, from EAA:

The Fairchild C-123 Provider served as a cargo and troop transport aircraft throughout the late 1950s to mid-1970s. About 300 were built, but only one survives in flying condition. That airplane, affectionately known as Thunderpig, will be coming from the Air Heritage Museum in Beaver County, Pennsylvania, to be part of the “Vietnam Remembered – 50 Years Later” commemoration at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2023.

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Fairchild C-123K Provider “Thunderpig”

 

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Fairchild C-123K Provider “Thunderpig”

This particular airplane was built in 1956 and served at a number of bases in the U.S. It was resurrected from an aircraft boneyard in Arizona in the 1990s and delivered to the Air Heritage Museum’s restoration facility. The name Thunderpig was the nickname used by the 911th Airlift Wing based at Greater Pittsburgh Airport when it flew the C-123 there.

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Fairchild C-123K Provider “Thunderpig”

 

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Fairchild C-123K Provider “Thunderpig”

I got to watch this start-up and depart Wittman. This plane seems to leak just about everything. When it sits still, oil drips from the engines onto the ground. When it fires up, it puts on enough of a smoke show to waste any mosquitoes in a quarter-mile radius. It even smoked during its takeoff run! Given Thunderpig’s provenance, I think it has the right to be a heavy smoker.

Unlike last year, I finally got to see everything at this year’s AirVenture. It took us about five days for us to see everything from the event and I learned about some interesting quirks. Sheryl says it seems like AirVenture is really two shows in one and I can see where she is coming from. The aircraft on display from Monday through Wednesday may be vastly different than the aircraft that appear from Thursday to Sunday. This year, the massive commercial aircraft were all gone by Thursday morning, replaced with military equipment.

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Boeing 747-400 LCF

 

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Boeing 747-400 LCF

It was also interesting to see just how many people left on Thursday morning. That morning, there was a conga line of aircraft so long that both main runways were clogged up almost end-to-end with planes waiting to go. Due to some unexplained circumstances, departures were closed off. The wait to leave was so long that many pilots shut down their aircraft and took naps under their wings. It reminded me of those articles of horrific traffic jams taking so long that people start camping out.

Once again, Sheryl and I had the time of our lives. I never thought I could have so much fun at an airport, but it was easily some of the most fun I’ve ever had. It was also an inspirational time. I met so many pilots during my time at AirVenture, including women, LGBTQ people, and such a huge variety of people all brought together by a shared love for aviation. This event also inspired me to keep on working toward my own private license. I’m making Sheryl hold me to a dream: I want to fly to AirVenture within two years.

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Lockheed Super Constellation

 

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Beech D18S

 

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A vintage Aeronca!

Stay tuned, because I have a lot of airplane history to write about. And if you’ve ever thought about going to an AirVenture, do it, you won’t regret it.

(All Images: Author)

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TOSSABL
TOSSABL
11 months ago

While I’m sure the life of an Autopian writer is not all glitz & glamour, I have to say that this sure sounds like a great week at work! It will be interesting to see the total number of articles it generates. You’ve already gotten car, camping, and plane articles out of it. I can imagine maybe you have some motorcycle content waiting in the wings (personal transport around the event, perhaps?), but I’ll be rather impressed if you can pull a train or 4-wheeling/Rallye article from it.

Anyway, my inner 8yo thanks you (Seaplanes: cool!), and am looking forward to reading more about the neat stuff you saw.

Loren
Loren
11 months ago

That sky-write smiley-face gave me the creeps as I’d just seen S1 E23 1:35 of The Mentalist (2009, see pilot for context). Cool, if that’s what they meant to do.

More to the subject, My family, although not aircraft owners, always hit an-airshow-a-year in my growing up, either at local airports or military bases, and I more-or-less continue the tradition. This one sound like the one to go to for sure. Someday.

Joshua Christian
Joshua Christian
11 months ago
Reply to  Loren

Hahahaha I know exactly what you mean!

changedmynameasIworkinadealershipandsomeofourbrandsarentgreat
changedmynameasIworkinadealershipandsomeofourbrandsarentgreat
11 months ago

Nice write up. That A50 is gorgeous and great pick of the super-connie!

Gubbin
Gubbin
11 months ago

That Junkers A50 was my absolute favorite. Didn’t make it there until Sunday but my god what a bunch of crazy stuff. Boat-planes you can park in your garage! Garage-planes you can park your boat in! Turbine-powered flying trashcans! Upside-down turbo-supercharged 2-stroke diesels! Helicopters passing overhead regularly like ski lifts and quite possibly every single documented type of sky pilot roaming the ground.

Adrian Clarke
Adrian Clarke
11 months ago

Homebuilt aircraft? No. Fucking. Thank you.

Ron888
Ron888
11 months ago
Reply to  Adrian Clarke

I’m a bit of a doodler and dreamer.For many years i planned to built an ultralight,but never got around to it.The best procrastination i ever did XD

Geekycop .
Geekycop .
11 months ago
Reply to  Adrian Clarke

Oh come on, live a little. Depending on your skillset it could literally be a little, but I trust my own craftsmanship, just maybe not someone else’s.

Fordlover1983
Fordlover1983
11 months ago
Reply to  Adrian Clarke

Once upon a time, ALL aircraft (and all cars) were homebuilt!

Freelivin2713
Freelivin2713
11 months ago
Reply to  Fordlover1983

Scariest is the Ford plane! Ha ha
Found On Raincloud Dead

Fawgcutter
Fawgcutter
11 months ago

“Did you know that Cessna once built a push-and-pull twin-engine aircraft?”

They used a Skymaster in “Bat*21,” a 1988 Vietnam war movie starring Gene Hackman. IMDB listed it as a goof since the military version, the O-2, would have lower windows for better observation: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0094712/goofs/?tab=gf&ref_=tt_trv_gf
PS My uncle also bought one after he got his multi-engine certification.

Preston Flowers
Preston Flowers
11 months ago
Reply to  Fawgcutter

they also used the Skymaster in Project x

Nick Fortes
Nick Fortes
11 months ago

All I see is a lightbulb with wings in the title pic. That plane is on some Megamind shit.

Ron888
Ron888
11 months ago
Reply to  Nick Fortes

Exactly what i thought! They should have used it to promote the movie

Myk El
Myk El
11 months ago

All that information and not a word on what the Grumman HU-16 tastes like?

Idiotking
Idiotking
11 months ago

That sounds like an excellent weekend! If he was about 10 years younger, I would arrange to take my father-in-law there to take it in; he flew the Constellation, Albatross, UH-34, and pretty much anything else the Navy would let him for over 20 years.

In 2003 I was lucky enough to get a ride on a Turbo Mallard—the smaller sibling to the Albatross—where we took off from a runway in Miami and landed in the water off Bimini, then waddled up onto the ramp where they would discharge passengers, turn it around, and waddle back out into the lagoon to take off. Before they shut Chalk’s Airways down, that was how you got on and off the island without having to take a ferry or barge. it was probably the best flight I was ever on: I could see clearly into the cockpit from my seat. Sadly, two years later, the plane I flew on was the one that had a wing spar disintegrate and crashed, precipitating the shutdown of Chalk’s.

BigThingsComin
BigThingsComin
11 months ago

With nearly 3000 made, you’d think we see more of the Cessna PushMi-PullYu out there.

- O S G O -
- O S G O -
11 months ago

The South Korean’s (ROK’s) flew the hell out of the C-123.
I used to marshal them in, directing them where to go on the airfield.

Without fail, every time they were told to stop, they would ‘reverse prop’ the engines and the force of the wind would knock me back on my ass. Howls of laughter would emanate from the cockpit.

ROK pilots are tricksters. Use caution.

GoesLikeHell
GoesLikeHell
11 months ago

Great Article! Love the content.

We didn’t make it up there this year, but usually try to go for at least one day. I’m the guy wearing a shirt with cars on it at an airplane show.

Bobfish
Bobfish
11 months ago

Excellent article, thank you for showing us these amazing planes! If you’re ever near Dayton, Ohio check out the Air Force Museum at Wright-Patterson, some truly amazing stuff there. My favorite “Old Plane” memory will always be playing the National Anthem for the surviving Tuskeegee Airmen at Fantasy of Flight back in…. 2007? Incredible to see them in person and see them reacting to the replica Redtail.

Bomber
Bomber
11 months ago
Reply to  Bobfish

Can verify and recommend the Museum of the Air Force in Dayton, OH. This is an amazing museum. Just plan at least 2 days…it’s that big.

I’ve never been to a civilian air show having grown up an Air Force brat. So many planes! My fondest memories of air shows was Ramstein Germany’s air show (the year before the disastrous crash into the crowd) not going to the show but being out at the playground (I was 9 after all) and the Thunderbirds flying VERY low over us as part of the acrobatics. We were pretty close to the show overall…my parents just didn’t want to deal with the people so we had gone out there to see as much as we could.

The other memory was much older…I was in my 20’s and my dad had retired and I got into the air show at the base he retired and there was a heritage flight with a P-51, an A-10 and an F-16 flying in formation. Immediately after a B-1B buzzed the crowd followed by a B-2 slowly passing. My dad retired at Whiteman so the B-2 was a normal thing for me but that total flight was something to see.

Adrian Clarke
Adrian Clarke
11 months ago
Reply to  Bomber

Visited when I did my US road trip last year. Absolutely awesome place, and I got to see the only surviving XB70 Valkyrie. Happy to see the RAF representing with a Tonka.

Zeppelopod
Zeppelopod
11 months ago
Reply to  Bomber

Thirded on the recommendation for the National Museum of the Air Force. I should be headed back to Dayton next year, if fellow Autopians (Aerotopians?) want to meet up.

Plus, I’m pretty sure they relocated all the stuff that was on base (like the presidential hangar) to the public viewing area.

Fawgcutter
Fawgcutter
11 months ago
Reply to  Bobfish

The old Waco aircraft facilities are open for tours north of Dayton as well. Last time I was at the Air Force Museum they had the B-29 “Enola Gay” cockpit there (yup, the one that dropped the two A-bombs on Japan). Of course, most young people would think they’re in the cockpit of the “Millennium Falcon” now (since Lucasfilm used a B-29 cockpit for it).

TOSSABL
TOSSABL
11 months ago
Reply to  Fawgcutter

Slight correction here: Enola Gay participated in both nuclear bombings, but only actually carried the weapon for the Hiroshima strike. It was the weather reconnaissance craft for the 2nd bombing—which was targeted for Kokura, but smoke from conventional bombings (of Yahata) the previous day obscured that target so Nagasaki was hit instead. Bockscar was the name of the craft that dropped that bomb.

Despite having been around at the time, I didn’t know-or had forgotten-that the MF’s cockpit was a B-29, so thanks for that.

Rad Barchetta
Rad Barchetta
11 months ago

I got to see a DreamLifter in flight over Charleston, SC not long ago. Presumably delivering parts related to the Boeing plant there. What a sight!

Dodsworth
Dodsworth
11 months ago

The head-on view of the Super Guppy looks like Megamind. My day is made!

Ben
Ben
11 months ago

The aircraft on display from Monday through Wednesday may be vastly different than the aircraft that appear from Thursday to Sunday. This year, the massive commercial aircraft were all gone by Thursday morning, replaced with military equipment.

Interesting. Any theories on why?

I’m making Sheryl hold me to a dream: I want to fly to AirVenture within two years.

Okay, but don’t let David pick your project plane. 😉

EXP_Scarred
EXP_Scarred
11 months ago
Reply to  Ben

I’m making Sheryl hold me to a dream: I want to fly to AirVenture within two years.

I’d start studying the Fisk Approach procedure now.

William Domer
William Domer
11 months ago
Reply to  Ben

I see the rust flying off it as it makes its’ way from Somewhere in Illinois up to Oshkosh. Powered by some out of date Mopar engine. The deal on the side is a few sets of fingers crossed.

Torque
Torque
11 months ago
Reply to  Ben

Mercedes if you don’t have your pilots license yet, you may want flying (yourself) in to EAA at Oshkosk as a 5 year goal.
As you may be aware Oshkosh becomes literally the busiest airspace in the world at that time, not something that I can imagine would be advisable for a brand spanking new pilot.
As another reader advised the Fisk approach process alone would be advisable to take 1-2 years alone to learn for a private pilot whom already has several hours under their belt.

Torque
Torque
11 months ago
Reply to  Torque

If you want to be a passenger on a plane flying in to EAA, THAT should be entirely doable in 2 years!

Geoff Buchholz
Geoff Buchholz
11 months ago

Good grief, that Super Connie is gorgeous. Great write-up, Mercedes!

Rick Sutter
Rick Sutter
11 months ago

I’m really looking forward to the article about your experience flying in 🙂

Chronometric
Chronometric
11 months ago

Junkers A50 Junior – corrugate all the things. Thanks for sharing a great experience with the earthbound.

Ophidia
Ophidia
11 months ago

I love your articles, Mercedes! This from a household filled with several different gender flags!

Kenneth Hendel
Kenneth Hendel
11 months ago

One of my favorite things from Oshkosh this year was Military Aviation History getting to attend, and spending the whole time looking like Dr Grant seeing dinosaurs for the first time at Jurassic Park.

Brandon Forbes
Brandon Forbes
11 months ago

I promise I did read through the whole thing, and it was an awesome write up and the pics were great, one question though. I thought you and Sheryl got married already? Sorry, I know that’s random, I just saw fiancée on the first line and was confused.

Brandon Forbes
Brandon Forbes
11 months ago

Ok I’m not crazy, at least not in that regard haha.

Waremon0
Waremon0
11 months ago

Stunning photography, Mercedes! The Super Guppy photo is exceptional, worthy of a “shot on iPhone” billboard ad.

Icouldntfindaclevername
Icouldntfindaclevername
11 months ago

Great write up!
We can all help hold you to your dream of flying there in 2 years 🙂

DadBod
DadBod
11 months ago

Hey is would be awesome if you guys could add tooltips to the photos, especially on stories like these. I’d love to know what planes are pictured without digging through the text.

Waremon0
Waremon0
11 months ago
Reply to  DadBod

And a zoom feature while you’re at it. Please and thank you!

Live2ski
Live2ski
11 months ago
Reply to  Waremon0

right click on the image and open in a new tab, then you can see the full size image

Ophidia
Ophidia
11 months ago
Reply to  Live2ski

Thank you!

DadBod
DadBod
11 months ago

thanks! This story is awesome, my dad used to take me to air shows.

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