One of the great pastimes here at AirVenture is to sit at the edge of the North 40 camping area, along the fence of the east/west runway, and watch all the planes arrive.
Many AirVenture attendees land and specifically request a parking spot at the end of a row so they have an unobstructed view. Others will hike over with their camp chair, and a cool beverage, to the edge of the fence and settle in for a few hours.
In between landings, spectators will chat with Oshkosh friends, or just enjoy the Wisconsin air.
Doug Prior and Larry Urban are sitting in the shade of the Cessna 182 that they arrived in.
Doug and Larry came to AirVenture with two other friends, Skip and Buddy, who are off buying supplies. Skip owns the Cessna 182, but once upon a time they were 4-way partners in a Cherokee 140. "That was a great plane," says Doug.
It still is a great plane, Larry and Buddy still own their portion. But the others have sold their shares to invest in other planes.
Doug now owns a Decathlon. "Fun airplane," he says, "but not so comfortable for long trips." And Skip has the 182.
The guys flew here from Montgomery County Airport near their homes in Conroe, Texas.
The flight was a little longer this year than in the past since they made a side trip to Mobile, Alabama to pick up Larry who was visiting family. From there it was on to Oshkosh.
Larry's been coming to AirVenture since 1981, and Doug "six or seven times over the past 12 years."
When their not sitting in the N40, Doug and Larry work for the FAA, they're "Flight Watch Specialists" based at the Conroe, Texas AFSS. They're two of the guys you talk to on 122.0 to get briefing updates and other info while in flight.
"Every year you see something new," says Doug about their passion for visiting the fly-in. "You're always walking along, looking, and thinking to yourself, 'I've never seen one of THOSE before.'"
He describe how in the old days he would drive along Knapp Road (the road that now passes along the front of the Forum's Plaza) looking over the fence and thinking, "Look at all those planes! What is THAT? Look at that! I LIKE that."
Mike and Mike are right at the edge of the North 40. They have their aviation radio at hand, and are keeping things under control. Mike Rudik has attended AirVenture "off and on" since 1989. This is his tenth time to the fly-in. Mike Schofield is here for the fourth time, and he loves it.
"We wait all year to come here," says Schofield. "Then in April we start counting the days."
When asked what is their favorite part of the fly-in they quickly say "This! Sitting here and watching the planes land."
Rudik has been flying since he was 16, but didn't get his license till 1988. Schofield only started six years ago. They flew out here in Rudik's 172, Schofield has a 150 that he loves and he's restoring another.
Another plane that Schofield owned was a Skyhawk he bought on eBay. He saw the auction listing, which had no bidders. He used his computer expertise to research the plane, and the seller, on the web. Then, just as the auction was about to expire with no bids, he jumped in and made an offer. He won the auction, flew down to Texas with a mechanic friend to inspect it, and closed the sale. He then made some improvements to the plane and sold it at a profit.
Both Mikes agree that over time, the intimidating AirVenture arrival procedure get easier. "Doing it many times helps you to learn the landmarks."
Although Schofield only learned to fly recently he was bitten by the bug early on.
"When I was a kid I lived only a few blocks from the airport. I would sit on my deck and watch them fly by. I used to think that they were all going someplace important. I didn't realize that they were all just going out for breakfast."