July 29, 2008

Don't Miss the EAA AirVenture Seaplane Base

This past weekend I made a whirlwind visit to EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh. I packed as much as I could into my twenty-four hours at the show. I intend to write more about the things I saw and experienced at AirVenture in the coming days. In the meantime I wanted to share an unexpected highlight, and also share a of my photos for those not able to make it to this years event.

I have attended AirVenture several times in the past. Though, I have never departed from the main event at Wittman Regional Airport to visit the Seaplanes. This year after checking out the few seaplanes that landed at the airport I decided to take the short bus ride to lagoon in the western shore of Lake Winnebago to check out the seaplanes. The moment I arrived I was so glad I made the trip. After leaving Wittman with the huge crowds and non-stop activity it was nice to take a quiet stroll down a wood-chipped path that opened up to a beautiful lagoon that serves as a the EAA AirVenture Seaplane Base.

For three dollars you can take a 15 minute pontoon boat ride through the lagoon giving you a chance to view the planes up-close. My pontoon boat captain had flown down from Canada earlier this week in his seaplane and enjoyed talking with us about all the planes in the cove.

So if you are are at Oshkosh or planning to make the pilgrimage later this week then take an hour or two to re-charge your batteries with a visit to the EAA AirVenture Seaplane Base.

Speaking of seaplanes, later in the day while walking through the exhibit hall I met George Erickson, author of True North. In his book he writes about his experiences flying through the Alaska, the Yukon and Northwest Territories in a Piper PA-11 Seaplane. After a brief conversation with him I knew I had to read his book. I look forward to cracking it open this evening.

I have uploaded a variety of my photos from my trip to Oshkosh including a few photos of the Seaplane base.

Posted at 9:47 PM | Post Category: AirVenture, Airshows, EAA AirVenture | Comments (3) | Save & Share This Story

July 27, 2008

AirVenture: The World's Greatest Aviation Celebration

2008_airventure.jpgIt is that time of year again where pilots from around the world descend on an airport in central Wisconsin for a week long celebration of Aviation that is EAA AirVenture. Thousands of planes descend on Oshkosh making it the busiest airport in the world for a few days. For aviation enthusiasts this is an event you need to attend this event once in your life. I was unable to attend last year but had a great time at AirVenture in 2006.

I will be participating in the 2008 Aviation Blogger Fest at 4pm on Monday. Fellow blogger, Rob Mark of Jetwhine, has organized an event specifically for aviation bloggers. I am looking forward to meeting some of the bloggers I interact with online but have yet to meet in person.

I will post a few short updates through Twitter (MyFlightBlog) while in Oshkosh and then post a summary later in the week on MyFlightBlog.

Posted at 2:13 PM | Post Category: AirVenture, Airshows, EAA AirVenture | Comments (74) | Save & Share This Story

July 16, 2008

The Wings of Freedom Tour Returns to Chicago

2007_28_2007_b17angle.jpgThe 19th Annual Season of Wings of Freedom is underway and their magnificent bombers have arrived back in the Chicago area. The Collings Foundation has spent the last twenty years recovering and restoring historic aircraft. Four amazing airplanes will be on display at Chicago airports and also flying paying customers for a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

The Fleet that arrived in Chicago this week includes a B-17 Flying Fortress, B-24 Liberator, B-25 Mitchell and a new addition this year a P-51 Mustang. Customers can book flight experiences by visiting the Collings Foundation website. Or come out to one of the local airports during the dates below to see the aircraft and hear the roar of their engines.

  • Waukegan Regional Airport - July 16th to 18th
  • Chicago Executive Airport - July 18th to 21st
  • Porter County/Valparaiso - July 21 to July 23rd
  • Chicago/Rockford Intl. - July 23rd to 25th
  • W. Chicago/Dupage Airport - July 25th to 28th

WingsofFreedom 123a.jpgThe Collings Foundation invited me to fly in their B-17 Flying Fortress as it was flown from Valparaiso to Chicago Executive Airport last year. All, I can say is that flight was truly a once-in-a-lifetime experience. There are fewer and fewer of these amazing aircraft still in flying condition and it was a thrill just to hear its engine and awesome to experience the plane in flight. I was lucky to be accompanied on that flight by a former WWII B-17 Pilot which made the experience all that more amazing.

If you are in the Chicago area be sure to check out these amazing aircraft while they are in the area. If you are outside of Chicago look up their schedule on the Collings Foundation website.

Posted at 6:20 PM | Post Category: Airshows, B-17 Flying Fortress | Comments (1) | Save & Share This Story

December 6, 2007

Save The Red Barons

Save the Red Barons T-ShirtI was disappointed to learn today that on December 3rd the Schwan Food Company decommissioned The Red Baron Pizza Squadron. The team flew the historic Stearman biplane and has thrilled airshow attendees for 28 years with their acrobatic act.

I have had the pleasure of seeing the Red Baron's fly at least five times at a variety of airshows. Last summer I had the opportunity to take a flight with the team.

The Squadron was made up of four great pilots whose love for flying was evident the moment I met them. They were as disappointed as I was that the weather prevented them from putting me through a full acrobatic flight. Though I still enjoyed my flight in the Stearman with this great flight team

Red Baron Flight SquadronThe folks at AirShowBuzz.com are trying to get people to sign a petition to bring back the Red Baron Squadron. You can sign the petition here then Digg the story as well.

You can show your support for the the Save the Red Baron movement with this t-shirt I created for sale at RogerWilcoWear.com. The red short sleeve t-shirt is available for $21.00.

Posted at 10:16 PM | Post Category: Airshows | Comments (52) | Save & Share This Story

July 30, 2006

EAA Airventure 2006 in Oshkosh, WI

oshkosh_control_tower.jpgThis weekend my wife and I drove up to Oshkosh, WI for the EAA Airventure 2006. Every year since 1970, Wittman Regional Airport serves as the location of one of the aviation world's premier events. It has been estimated that three quarters of a million people attend the show and over 10,000 aircraft fly in for this week-long event. During the week the control tower prides itself as being the busiest in the world.

We set-up a tent in Camp Scholler which is on the EAA grounds and open to EAA members. It was a very hot weekend and when we arrived at 10pm to set-up camp the temperatures were still easily in the 80s.

We got up early and headed over to the EAA Museum to hear Dick Rutan talk about being the first person to fly around the world non-stop. As my readers know, I am amazed by people who have pushed the envelope of flying; like Jerrie Mock's circumnavigation of the world in 1964 or Steve Fossett's trip around the globe this past year which was the first in a jet.

It was nearly twenty years ago that Dick Rutan and Jeana Yeager flew around the world without stopping or refueling in their Voyager Aircraft. Dick talked about the five years it took to take the idea and develop an aircraft that could accomplish this amazing flight. The aircraft was designed by his brother Burt Rutan; who recently designed SpaceShipOne the first civilian spacecraft to travel to space and return safely. It took them five years of hard work, dedication and some luck to build and test an aircraft that would be able to make such a flight. Dick spoke of the many close calls they had during the 9 day, 3 minute, and 44 second flight.

dick_rutan.jpgDick explained the importance of events like AirVenture to inspire people to push the limits of our world. He mentioned that before Chuck Yeager flew "Bell X-1" through the sound barrier, it was questioned whether man could build a flying machine that could travel as fast as the speed of sound. It took a man with courage and a pioneer attitude to prove it could be done.

Dick and his brother were inspired by aviation at a young age and worked with a single focus to prove that an plane could be designed and built that could allow someone to fly around the world non-stop. Since then his brother Dick helped design SpaceShipOne, the first civilian spacecraft to travel to space and return safely. Dick hopes he can inspire the youth of America to become the pioneers of the future and that they may develop the ability to travel faster than the speed of light.

At Airventure there were over 5,000 forums and discussions throughout the week. This was the only one that my wife and I attended but it had to have been one of the best of the show. It was a pleasure to have the opportunity to meet Dick after his very entertaining and enlightening talk.

After leaving the museum we headed to the farthest end of the show where the ultra-light airstrip is located. There we enjoyed watching six or seven ultra-lights flying in the pattern. Some looked like Go-Carts with a propeller dangling from a hang-glider. But they flew so gracefully that I decided at some point I will have to give this type of flying a try.

oshkosh_airshow.jpgFrom there we walked along the flight line looking at many of the nearly 10,000 aircraft that flew in for the event. It is just an amazing sight to see the thousands of planes lined up in rows off the main runway. We enjoyed seeing a ton of neat experimental aircraft along with traditional aircraft like the Cessna 172. At the far end of the main runway was an area where all the warbirds were parked. We spent nearly an hour walking through the amazing collection of planes from World War I era to present. I noticed one of the t-34 trainers of the Lima Lima Flight Team with whom I enjoyed a flight with last summer.

After seeing almost all of the planes on display we checked out the exhibit areas. I checked in with the FAA and AOPA and provided them some updated contact information which saved me a few phone calls. I also had the opportunity to check out Microsoft's new Flight Simulator X which comes out this fall. While walking through the exhibit area we saw Chuck Yeager standing next to his P-51 Mustang, Glamorous Glen III.

At 3:30 the airshow kicked off with a ton of great acts. I especially enjoyed watching all the warbirds flying. The World War II bombers never look like they will be able to lift off the runway. It is always a treat to see those historic planes take to the sky. I especially enjoyed Mike Goulian's acrobatic performance in the Castrol Extra.

If you are an aviation enthusiast and have never been to AirVenture you are missing out. Check it out next year July 23 - July 29, 2007. Until then you can check out some of my photos on Flickr.

Posted at 6:56 PM | Post Category: Airshows, Jerrie Mock | Save & Share This Story

August 21, 2005

Sunday at the Chicago Air and Water Show

goldenknights.jpgOn Saturday, two Thunderbird F-16s grazed wings while in the diamond formation, causing a missile rail from one of the planes to fall into Lake Michigan. This lead to the demonstration being ended early so all the planes involved could safely return to the Gary International Airport. In addition, it was determined the Thunderbirds would not participate in Sunday's Air & Water Show.

I am glad to say the 47th Annual Air & Water Show was still a success without the Thunderbird performance. The crowd enjoyed demonstrations from all the branches of the armed forces in addition to the great civilian demonstration teams.

One of my favorite performances today was by Sean Tucker flying the Oracle biplane. Sean performed some amazing maneuvers that as a pilot had me wondering how he pulled them off. The U.S. Army Golden Knights were also very entertaining. The skydivers jumped from 10,000 feet descending at 120 MPH towards the beach where they each landed within a small ten foot circle.

aeroshell.jpgDuring the show I saw a few fun sights. The first, a child running around playing with his two diecast airplanes. It is airshows like this that will inspire the future pilots that will defend our country, fly us commercially and enjoy the benefits of general aviation. Secondly, I saw an elderly gentleman with his retired Air Force hat on who look as content as can be watching the AeroShell Aerobatic Team in their WWII trainers. From what I can tell all that made it out for the show enjoyed it.

I uploaded some photos into a gallery of images from Sunday's Chicago Air & Water Show.

Posted at 6:59 PM | Post Category: Airshows, Chicago Air and Water Show | Save & Share This Story

August 20, 2005

Confessions of An Airshow Addict

f22stealth.jpgSo my plan was to go to the Chicago Air & Water Show on Sunday as we have guests in town today. But when they left to have lunch with a friend of theirs, I hailed a cab and followed the roar of jet engines to the lakefront. How could I resist the excitement of the airshow since I had an hour or two to kill?

My wife and I enjoyed watching the Lima Lima Flight Team perform. It was a thrill to watch after having flown with them just two days before. While there we also enjoyed the Red Baron Squadron and part of the Sean Tucker Oracle plane performance.

The highlight of our brief trip to the show were the two F/A-22 Stealth Fighters. I knew they were only on the show schedule for today so I was excited I had the opportunity to see them fly.

The F/A-22 is a multipurpose attack and fighter aircraft being built to replace the F-15s. According to an Air Force website "the F/A-22 has demonstrated the ability to 'supercruise', flying at sustained speeds of over Mach 1.5 without the use of afterburner."

With my air show fix fulfilled for the day I think I can make it through until tomorrow's show.

Posted at 2:47 PM | Post Category: Airshows, Chicago Air and Water Show | Save & Share This Story

View Your Tax Dollars at Work

airshow1.jpgA parade of your tax dollars will be on display on Saturday and Sunday at the 47th Annual Air & Water Show. As you have read there are great military performance teams like the Army Golden Knights and Air Force Thunderbirds, but those are not the only military aircraft expected to be flying over the Chicago shores this weekend.

The list provided by the City of Chicago stated that the line-up is subject to change and planes performing will be based on availability. Thought the line-up is expected to include attack aircraft like the A-10 Thunderbolt, Bombers such as the B-1 and B-52 bombers and fighters including F-14 Tomcats and the F-117 Nighthawk. Those visiting the show on Saturday are expected to see the Stealth F/A-22 Raptor.

I uploaded some of my photos of military aircraft that were arriving to the area on Thursday to a military gallery. All planes photographed are American except the bright red Red Bull Mig Magic (Mig 17-F).

Posted at 10:52 AM | Post Category: Airshows, Chicago Air and Water Show | Save & Share This Story

August 19, 2005

United States Air Force Thunderbirds

thunderbirds_animation.jpgThe Thunderbirds are the United States Air Force's demonstration team and they are schedule to perform Saturday and Sunday in the 47th Annual Chicago Air & Water Show. I had the opportunity to get up close to learn more about them and enjoy viewing their F-16s in advance of the show. For a great animation of some of the Thunderbirds manuevers and to learn about their F-16s visit the Chicago Tribune website.

I had the opportunity to listen to Major Rusty Keen talk about some experiences with the Thunderbirds. Keen flys the number two plane. He discussed the importance of planning prior to an airshow. They use maps in advance of arriving at the location. Then they try to memorize all visual references within five miles of show center in the few days of practice prior to the show. He equates the air show to a large Vegas production were everything needs to be choreographed down the most minute detail.

thunderbird_5_small.jpgHe also talked about all that goes into preparing for an airshow. Even though there are only six pilots performing in the show the Thunderbirds utilize more than 65 people to prepare the planes and to manage the show. The had a giant

While viewing the Thunderbird F-16s I noticed that plane number 5 had it's number painted on the plane upside down. Keen explained that the pilot of plane five Maj. Scottie Zamzow spends almost 80% of the show upside down so it is only fitting that his number be painted so it can be read.

The Thunderbirds will roar over the Chicago Lakefront with their wings as close as 18 inches apart on Saturday and Sunday. I cannot wait to see them perform!

Posted at 7:41 PM | Post Category: Airshows, Chicago Air and Water Show | Save & Share This Story

August 18, 2005

Flying with the Lima Lima Flight Team

limalima1.jpgToday I had the opportunity to attend the press day for the 47th Annual Chicago Air and Water Show. Over the next few days I will post some stories about the day. I will dedicate this post to the highlight of the day: A Flight with the Lima Lima Flight Team.

I drove down to Gary International Airport where most of the planes are based during the air show. The only other time I had been to the Gary International Airport is when I did a brief landing there while flying in a Cessna 172. The 172 would have looked out of place today with the military jets and all the performance aircraft.

When I arrived I learned I would have a chance to fly with the Lima Lima Flight Team. It was hard containing my excitement. I had talked on the phone earlier in the week with John "Ripper" Rippinger about the team. In our conversation his enthusiasm for the T-34 jumped through the phone I new if I had a chance to go flying during the press day I wanted to go with Lima Lima. John suggested I fly in the plane that occupied the fifth spot in the six plane formation which would afford me a great vantage point for some photos. So he introduced me to the pilot of that aircraft Skip "Scooter"Aldous.

I felt comfortable with Skip as my pilot from the moment I met him. He was a gentleman who seemed to exude confidence. Maybe the fact that he has been flying for over forty years. Most of his flight time was in the U.S. Air Force where he built a nice resume of planes including: T-33, T-37, T-38, F-102, F-106, and the F-16 (same as will be seen this weekend flown by the Thunderbirds). Between his time in the military and after retirement he has flown over 6,000 hours and he has flown with Lima Lima since 2000. With approval of his credentials in place I was ready to strap myself into the T-34.

Literally, I strapped myself to the plane. The first thing I had to do was put on my parachute (yeah I said it I needed a parachute). Next I belted myself to the rear seat of the T-34. Bill went through the emergency bail out procedure but promised it would not be necessary. With the safety review out of the way we fired up the powerful T-34 and began our taxi to the runway.

The Lima Lima Flight consisted of six planes. The first four took off in formation then my plane and the sixth plane in the formation took off a few seconds later. We met up with the others creating a formation of six shortly after takeoff. It was amazing to see aircraft so close to our wing.

limalima2.jpgIt was a bumpy morning but as the planes flew over Lake Michigan we found smoother air. That is when the show really began. We started off with some steep banks which were amazing. Then we performed a maneuver called the Wifferdill where each plan in the formation one at a time would peal away by pulling back on the yoke and sending the plan into a nearly straight up climb. Then the pilot would rotate to the left until the nose of the plane went from a climb into a dive back towards the lake. During this move we experience 2.5 to 3Gs. It felt like I had two men standing on my chest. I cannot imagine what it would be like to experience more intense g-forces.

During some of the manuevers the planes would turn on the smoke machines which made for a cool site being in a plane at the rear of the pack. It was exciting to watch us whip through a tight turn following the trail of the flight in front of us.

On our return to the airport we did a fly over of the runway then performed a Pop-Top Break where each plane pulled back and to the side of the yoke pulling the plane out of the formation and rolling us back around the other dirction. That was followed by a tight turn to bring us onto final for landing. It was the quickest twenty minutes I have experienced in a long time.

I cannot wait to see the Lima Lima Flight Team perform this weekend in their beautiful yellow T-34s. I know they will put on an enjoyable show for all to see.

I put together a minute and a half long movie that includes some photos and video clips which you can be downloaded here in two sizes: 2mb .mov & 7mb .mov (higher quality). I also created a Lima Lima Flight Photo Gallery. Additionally, Chris Booker of the Chicago Tribune shot some great footage of our flight. The plane he is shooting during takeoff is mine.