Unedited copy as submitted for the July 29, 1998 issue of EAA Today.
Touch and Go
by Jack Hodgson

Long-long cross country, "Dame Milkstool", "Thunder Chicken".

Hey mate! Let's go to Oshkosh. John Murray had been thinking about it for a few years, so finally this year he and Kevin Green jumped into John's Bonanza F33A in Moree, New South Wales, Australia and flew to Oshkosh '98.

They put two 77 gallon tanks in place of the back seats and headed off through New Guinea, The Marshall Islands, Hawaii, California and on to Oshkosh.

In New Guinea they missed the recent tidal waves by a day. In Hawaii they calculated that the headwinds would run them out of gas before reaching the mainland, so they went to a hardware store and bought three 5-gallon cans and two hand pumps ("One as a backup, just in case"). They filled them with gas and headed out. No worries, mate

John and Kevin are ag pilots back home. They spray cotton fields at night. Ironically Kevin had a reservation to come to Oshkosh '98 on the Oshkosh Express 747, but John made him a better offer.

So, 53 flying hours, 5513 nautical miles, and 3140 liters of fuel later... Welcome to Oshkosh.

Walter and Pat Atkinson arrived at Oshkosh '98 from Ryan Airport in Baton Rouge, Louisiana in their comfortable, twin engined C45H named the "Dame Milkstool".

The plane started life in 1942 as an AT11 that was used for training bombadiers in Midland, Texas. In 1952 it was rebuilt to become the C45H, also known as a Beech 18. In 1964 the conventional gear plane was converted to tricycle gear (milkstool, get it?).

"When I was six years old," recalls Walter, "I saw one of these take off from my local airport, and I said 'I'm gonna own one someday.' It took me 41 years, but I did it."

Walter and Pat came to the fly-in this year via Michigan where they got their float plane ratings. Walter can be found as an active member of the AVSIG section of Compuserve.

Sometimes an early arrival is not early enough. Carol and Bill flew their Cessna C205 from Livingston County Airport in Howell, Michigan. Unlike most attendees from the east they came straight across Lake Michigan. No problem.

"It was a real clear day. We could see the far shore when we were about 20 miles out over the water," says Carol. "Some days you fly for about 20 minutes in the middle of the lake where you can't see either shore."

In their tenth year at the fly-in, they come well equipped for camping in the North Forty. Their gear includes an inflatable queen-sized mattress and a TV that they hook up to an old airplane battery.

They thought they were arriving plenty early this year. "We expected to get row seven," says Carol, "but we only got row 20."

No flightless birds here. Inspired by the Christian Eagle biplanes, Dennis Sherwood and Vernon Kispert designed a paint scheme of rainbow colored feathers, and nose art of a stylized bird for Dennis' 150 h.p. 1960 Cessna 150.

"We showed it to a friend who said it looked like a thunder chicken. So that's what we decided to name it." They soon added the name "Thunder Chicken" to the nose art.

Dennis and Vernon are from Canton, Texas. They packed the C150 with themselves and their camping gear for the 10 hours of flying from Texas to the fly-in. Weather forced them to spend one night in Branson, Missouri where they were so anxious to continue on to Oshkosh that they passed on seeing any of the towns many shows.

Another of the guys' inventive designs is to take an off-the-shelf 20 inch bicycle, cut it in half, just in front of the seat, then bolt it back together. The unbolted halves can then be comfortably loaded into the back of even a Cessna 150.

"You know those fancy folding bicycles a lot of people have?" asks Dennis. "Well one of those weighs more than three of ours."

EAA members are at the forefront of developing new aviation technologies. So it should come as no surprise that they've put together some pretty inventive (and sometimes wacky) campsites. Take a walk out there sometime and you'll see canopies of all shapes and sizes, banners, solar hot water heaters, collapsible bikes, TVs, hot tubs, and yes, kitchen sinks.