Unedited copy as submitted for the July 28, 2002 issue of Airventure Today.
Around the Field
by Jack Hodgson

Airplanes everywhere, the other place with mud, and my first time.

Wayne Beihle and his son, Shawn, are visiting EAA AirVenture from Cincinnati. They arrived on Sunday in their 1971 blue on white Cessna 182. It was only a three-and-a-half hour flight, but they stopped to top off their fuel at Dodge County.

TheyÕve been to the fly-in four times, but the last time was five years ago. Wayne says one of the reasons they love coming to EAA AirVenture is "being around other fliers. And, the people you meet. The quality of people is outstanding. ThereÕs never a harsh word."

Wayne remembers the first time he flew in and the apparent craziness when turning final. "There were planes all around. Underneath us, above us. Very unusual." But of course it turned out okay.

Shawn remembers seeing some special planes during his early visits to the fly-in. "I liked the Gee Bee, and the Concorde, and the SR-71. That was pretty cool."

This year Wayne is looking forward to seeing the NASA exhibits, "especially their stuff on GA avionics."

Terry and Dianne Copeland came to AirVenture this year in their tan, maroon & gold, 1981 Bonanza A36. It's their first time to the fly-in and they're thrilled. They're sitting alongside runway 9 watching the arrivals and departures as the sun sets.

"ItÕs sensory overload," says Terry. He seems particularly fond of the Velocity, excitedly pointing out each one that lands.

They arrived on Sunday from Mansfield Airport which is near their home in Hollister, Massachusetts.

They're loving the Oshkosh atmosphere. "Everyone is so nice," says Terry. Dianne agrees, "and itÕs not just the pilots. All the local people are so friendly too."

They came out to AirVenture a day earlier than planned in order to avoid some bad weather and are having a blast. Dianne describes AirVenture: "It's like Woodstock, only sober."

Jeff and Cathy Gerken are attending their 3rd AirVenture. They are camping with their 1969 Cherokee Six which they flew in from Lancaster, Ohio.

"We really decompress when we come here," says Jeff. "The blood pressure goes down. For all the people who come to this it's nice to see everyone so nice."

They fly out of Fairfield County Airport where they are members of EAA Chapter 443.

"There are about 60 members in the chapter," says Jeff. "We do a lot of Young Eagles there."

This year was their first time crossing the lake to get here. They usually come west and turn at Chicago. They like to come the AirVenture a couple days early to go to the Museum and enjoy the area.

"There are only two weeks that we get to take vacation. One of those will be various places, but every year one week is Oshkosh."

I've been asking attendees at this year's AirVenture about memories of the first time they attended. So here's mine.

I first attended in 1991. I wasn't able to be here for the whole week, so a friend and I arrived in his Bonanza on Sunday, which in those days was more in the middle of the fly-in than it is now.

The North 40 was full so we landed at Fond Du Lac. It was just before sunset. I loaded my camping gear onto the shuttle and headed north to Camp Scholler. I arrived after dark, wandered around trying to figure out how things worked, and finally pitched my tent in a small unclaimed patch up against the south fence.

The next morning I woke up soon after dawn and heard a buzzing sound outside my tent. I stuck my head out, and saw about a dozen ultralights flying around just to the south of the campground. They were circling in the Ultralight pattern, as they do every morning and evening during AirVenture.

I've always been pleased that that was my first view of the fly-in. It's some folks, who are up early, flying their planes, from a little grass strip, as Frank Beagle, AirVenture's best announcer says, "getting themselves some sky."

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