Unedited copy as submitted for the July 25, 2000 issue of Airventure Today.
Around The Field
By Jack Hodgson

Earlybirds Gather for AirVenture Oshkosh 2000

Welcome to Oshkosh. Bob Landvogt and his grandson Mathew have just arrived in the North Forty. While Mathew puzzles out the intricacies of tent pole assembly Bob talks about AirVenture. It's his 7th time to the fly-in. It's his 3rd time camping with his red, blue and white Skyhawk. And it's his first time arriving as pilot in command. "I'm a late bloomer," he says. It seems so, he's 70 now and he didn't learn to fly until age 59.

Bob lives in Kingwood Texas and flies out of Cleveland Municipal. Last year Bob and a friend were unable to make it to Oshkosh due to weather blocking their way. This year he has a different philosophy of navigating around the weather that might sum up his life's philosophy too: "If you want to get here you can do it. Just wait for an opening and go."

Joe Thomas from Wellington Aero Club fly-in community in Wellington, Florida. This is his 3rd AirVenture, but he's no stranger to aviation. Joe is retired after 26 years flying for Pan Am. Over the years he flew DC6s, 707s, 727s, 747s and L1011s. Unlike many airline pilots of his era he didn't learn in the military. His first flight training was in 1953 in a Champ at Fairfield, California.

These days Joe flies his blue and white Cherokee Six. He's lived in the Wellington fly-in community for only 8 months but he says it's as good as he thought it would be. There are about 30 planes based there and everyone loves flying, he says.

Great Britain pitching in on the flight line. Tony Restall has been working EAA Flight Line Ops for 11 years. He comes all the way from England each year to help out here at the fly-in, and he's not even a pilot. "I just love doing it," he says.

He began volunteering at the fly-in with the Civil Air Patrol. Then 8 years ago he moved over to the FLO team. These days he's a co-chairman.

Tony offers some advice for pilots arriving in the parking areas at AirVenture. First of all, he says, is to trust the flag people. They've been directing 1000s of planes and though their instruction may seem odd, or not to your liking, they have your best interests at heart and are intimately familiar with the idiosyncrasies of parking in the grass at Wittman Field.

Another tip is to definitely have a sign prepared to tell the flag people where you want to go. "And make the signs big. We're old guys and can't see so good anymore," he jokes. Lettering on signs should be readable from at least 50 feet. The EAA's suggested abbreviations for these signs are good, or some clear alternative message is fine too.

Each year Tony travels to AirVenture from London via Memphis where he visits family. About a week before the start of AirVenture he heads to Oshkosh. Then, after the fly-in, he returns to Memphis for a few final days then back to London. Until next year that is.

Working alongside Tony is Carla Lambert Giese who is a newcomer to AirVenture's Flight Line Ops. This is her first year. She was recruited by her Dad, Carleton, who's been doing it for many years.

"I was just coming into town on vacation to visit my Mom, and my Dad said wanna go over to the airport? He signed me up to help, and I love it! I'll definitely be back next year."

But he couldn't find any big inflatable palm trees. Ray Palicki is the guy with the Pink Flamingos. In addition to the plastic birds his red white and blue C-210 is surrounded by his camping gear, and two inflatable rubber life rafts. "Those are the hot tubs," he explains.

This year Ray has devised a new way to help out his friends in the North Forty. He brought along a "weed whacker" lawn trimmer and has been visiting his neighbors, offering landscaping services around their tents. With a mischievous smile he explains that he, "wanted to add a bit of civilization to the place."

Ray has been attending Oshkosh since 1982 from his base at Detroit Metro Airport in Michigan.

Not to be left out, Ray's camping neighbor Juan Fernandez, from Panola City Airport in Carthage Texas, has equipped himself this year with a telescoping garden rake. They make quite a team.