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Oshkosh: It's Not About the Airplanes


Okay, so maybe it's a little bit about the airplanes. (Did you see the Mosquito? The GoodYear Blimp?!) But for most people, Oshkosh is about so much more than airplanes. If you follow Oshkosh on social media then you've heard the buzz of engines during the airshow and you've seen your friends posting selfies in front of amazing airplanes. But what you can't see from the photos is something else that's deeper, more elusive, that only exists at Oshkosh. Maybe it's a feeling, or maybe it's just something in the air. It's probably different for everyone, but whatever it is, it's general aviation at its absolute best. Airplanes are just the backdrop. A friend (who I happened to meet at Oshkosh) said it best in this video when he said, "It feels like coming home."

So what is it that makes Oshkosh special? What is it that keeps thousands of aviation fanatics returning each year to a place that's not even easy to get to? It's about the people, the encouragement, the mentorship, the conversation and the camaraderie. It's about an industry that welcomes you into it without pause and allows you to consider it your home without even a hint of reservation. It's an immediate family where every single one of your sisters and brothers just "gets" you.

Over fifteen years ago, I entered the world of aviation by walking into a sleepy airport terminal in my hometown, completely on my own. I had been on a single plane ride before, and I knew I wanted to fly. There was just one problem: I didn't know how. I didn't have a mentor. I didn't have a family member to show me the ropes. I didn't know anyone in aviation. I didn't know where to go or what it would take to become a pilot.

I remember walking into that terminal, a nervous teenage girl, to ask about flight lessons. With a comforting smile and a gleam in his eye, the airport manager sent me across the field to the sleepy little flight school. The owner of the flight school, without asking me why a girl like me would possibly want to fly, without hesitating or commenting on my five-foot-nothing height, hired me on the spot as a secretary. I could answer the phones, he said, and he'd pay me six dollars per hour and let me sit in on the ground school for free. "It's a deal," I said.

What I didn't realize was that this deal would go far beyond six dollars per hour and free ground school. I didn't realize I was gaining an instant family. The flight instructors took me seriously, treated me with respect, and introduced me to the world of flying with enthusiasm and encouragement. Beyond that, each one of them shared their worlds with me outside of our flight lessons. They told me about air shows and scholarships and what airline life would be like. They taught me about the bigger, Part 135 aircraft they flew during their off time. On their days off, they came to the airport with their wives and kids. It felt like home.

Fast forward a few years, and I made another solo trek, this time to EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. I'd heard the stories, but wondered how it could be more than just another air show with expensive food. I'd seen enough air shows. I'd seen Tora! Tora! Tora! and P-51s and Sean Tucker and Kirby Chambliss. What would be different about AirVenture? I had to find out. I showed up at my room that year - a small bedroom in a lady's house that I booked on a referral from a journalist friend - and found a group of people who had been coming to Oshkosh for years together. But instead of sticking to their own group, they immediately took me in, inviting me to ride the bus with them and inviting me to their nightly dinners. And then I showed up to the media tent, once again by myself, and immediately found friendly faces there, too. I walked the grounds, and while running into old friends, I made even more new friends. One introduction led to another and before I knew it, I had new aviation family members all over the place. It felt like a family reunion - with a pretty spectacular air show on the side.

Last year, I made a few friends at Camp Scholler who have been camping together as a group for years. This year, I was invited to camp alongside them at what they lovingly refer to as "Camp Bacon." I showed up with my kids, but otherwise alone, without really knowing any of these folks beyond social media. As if on cue, they welcomed me - and my children - into their aviation family immediately. They offered good conversation, interesting aviation stories, hot coffee, and even wine. They invited me to the nightly campfire, and to join them during their yearly "Dawn Patrol" walk to the warbirds at five a.m. They shared their stories with me and I learned about their aviation work. By the end of the trip, there were hugs, with the sound of P-51 Merlin engines in the background. It felt like coming home.

This is my family.

This is Oshkosh.

Kids Flying Biplanes

Plane and pilots en route AirVenture 2015

At 19 and 22 years of age, my boyfriend Daniel and I are still considered "kids" by the majority of adults. For this exact reason, we got a lot of interesting reactions when we flew a 1931 Waco ASO open cabin biplane into EAA AirVenture Oshkosh last week. Most people cannot fathom flying such an antique aircraft themselves, and seeing us doing it seemed out of place.

This particular Waco has been in my boyfriend’s family since the 1960s. It was an old crop duster that had been sitting in a field in Louisiana and desperately needed a restoration. They obtained the aircraft and spent over 10 years restoring it to the stunning condition that it is in now. Although he grew up around this plane, Daniel got his license and spent a couple hundred hours flying a Stinson 10A before he was allowed to move to the Waco. His tailwheel skills still amaze me, and his transition into the Waco only took a handful of hours.

He debated for several days if he should fly the Stinson into AirVenture for a second year, or take the Waco. He finally did decide to take a leap and fly the Waco, and we are both so glad he did. Although it is pretty much the opposite of the type of plane you would want to go on a long VFR cross country with, the flights there and back were unforgettable and enjoyable. The flight up was 6.7 hours total flight time (plus a stop every hour to stretch our legs and snack), and the flight back was only 5.7 hours (plus hourly stops as well).

Wearing our "Straightwing Crew Hats"

The flight was a particularly enjoyable experience for me because Daniel would give me full flight control for entire legs of the trip while we were enroute. The seat in the front has a grand total of zero flight instruments besides the stick, rudder, and throttle control. It was a fun learning experience for me to fly entirely stick and rudder, and for him to give me constructive feedback based on what his instruments read. My first couple attempts I kept getting into what I called "The Dolphin," where I would over-correct for altitude changes and fly in a constant slight attitude of up and down, like a dolphin swimming near the surface of the water. Once I got the hang of how much input I needed to stabilize the aircraft, it was much smoother sailing.

Half the fun of AirVenture is relaxing in the shade of the aircraft wing and talking to fellow aircraft enthusiasts that walk past. We set out chairs and spoke with people for a couple hours every day. It was always interesting to see the reactions of people who had been admiring the aircraft from the other side, then came over to see us smiling and asking how they were. The most common reaction was "do YOU fly this?" and a general disbelief that such a young guy could be the pilot in command of such a plane. Most people congratulated him on his accomplishments and expressed their jealousy. There was one flight line personnel who saw Daniel climbing on the wing to reach his iPad and promptly came over to scold him for climbing on the aircraft and asked several times if he was REALLY the pilot. We did appreciate his concern for the well-being of the aircraft!

An interesting thing to consider is that the average age of WWI and WWII pilots was early 20's. Pilots younger than Daniel were flying more powerful aircraft in extremely dangerous circumstances. We kept that in mind during our journey and certainly feel reverence and respect for all veterans. Aviation has such a rich heritage and we feel honored for the opportunities we have had so far to experience flight as it would have been in the 1930s.

Beautiful view of Chicago and some sailboats off our right wing as we headed back south.

Daniel's father and my good friend Hayley flew in their Waco YKC, which is closed cabin. It was funny when we would land on the way back and they would be sweaty from all the heat the engine gives off combined with the hot day, and Daniel and I would be wearing two or three jackets to keep from being freezing. The higher the altitude, the colder the air, so we generally flew around 2000 feet.

It was an amazing year at EAA Oshkosh AirVenture and another great experience flying in. Hello to any of the brilliant people we met while up there, and I hope everyone enjoyed the week as much as we did!

Top 9 Things to do at AirVenture in 2015

  1. Test your drone flying skills with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University's Small Unmanned Aerospace System (sUAS) Challenge. The drone challenge will feature a 30-foot drone cage at Aviation Gateway Park, and will include both obstacle and speed courses designed for unmanned aerial vehicles. The competition will be held daily from 3 to 5 p.m. and is open to anyone age 10 and up. Or, for those who intend to bring a drone with them, a field next to Pioneer Airport will be designated for drone use. Small RC model aircraft (less than five pounds) may be used in the designated area from 7 to 9 p.m. every night.
  2. Visit the widely praised EAA AirVenture Museum to see more than 200 historic aircraft that are available for viewing. From the classic Piper Cub to the Spirit of St. Louis, EAA's AirVenture Museum has all of the best airplanes. From the museum, you can take a ride in a 1929 Ford Tri-Motor or a 1929 Travel Air E-4000. The museum also has four theaters and a special hands-on KidVenture area, and from May to October, you can take a short tram ride to Pioneer Airport and walk back in time through seven hangars that explore the 20s and 30s, aviation's Golden Age.
  3. Take your kids to Pioneer Airport, which is the place to be this year. From airplane and helicopter rides to drone flying to KidVenture, Pioneer Airport mixes old with new by introducing the next generation of aviation buffs to the aviation world in a variety of ways. Kids can complete a Future A&P course by visiting various booths and learning how to accomplish maintenance tasks like riveting or prop shaping. At the Young Eagles flight education area, future pilots can learn about airspace, lift and fly a flight simulator. Pedal planes are available for the youngest pilots, and older ones will enjoy a bit of history walking through the AirVenture Museum hangars.
  4. Watch the Valdez STOL aircraft show each other up. Each May, specially modified short takeoff and land (STOL) aircraft compete in a competition in Valdez, Alaska. More than a dozen of them will be at Oshkosh this year, and the competition is not to be missed. You can find them at the afternoon air shows, at the ultralight air strip and a final competition will happen prior to the night air show.
  5. If low-key is more your style, visit the Oshkosh Seaplane Base located at Lake Winnebago. Buses run from AirVenture to the Seaplane Base regularly, and beyond the weekly Watermelon Social event, it's a quiet respite from the crowds and heat.
  6. Celebrate the great moments of World War II. This is the 75th anniversary of the Battle of Britain, the successful air war to defend England in the summer and autumn of 1940, forestall a planned invasion of the island by Germany, and the first major turning point of the war. This is the moment that Winston Churchill famously predicted, should it be successful, would be known as England’s "finest hour." Airshow themes celebrating this turning point in the European war throughout the week will include many of the 300 warbirds expected to attend Oshkosh, including a rare flying example of the de Havilland Mosquito fighter/bomber.
  7. Take a seat in a classic aircraft. In addition to the Ford Tri-Motor making its accustomed flights above the AirVenture Grounds, this year you can take a ride from nearby Appleton in the B-17 Flying Fortress Aluminum Overcast, one of the rare surviving examples of this heavy bomber that dropped more ordnance than any other Allied Bomber of World War II. The flights depart from nearby Appleton and a shuttle bus will depart the AirVenture grounds an hour before the flight.
  8. Join Burt Rutan for a week-long recognition of the 40th anniversary of his iconic early aircraft design, the VariEze. For four decades Burt Rutan has continuously broken the mold, creating one unusual aircraft design after another and popularizing concepts such as canard wings and composite construction, culminating for many with his design of SpaceShipOne, the first commercial space flight vehicle. Rutan will be at Oshkosh to share this celebration of his unparalleled history of innovation. His designs will be included in the Homebuilts in Review each morning at 10 and Rutan will be interviewed following at 1PM.
  9. Stop by the Globalair.com booth! Have we met before? Stop by and meet your hard-working GlobalAir team! We'll be in Hangar D, Booth 4028.

Why the P-51 is Still the Most Beloved Airplane at the Air Show

Perhaps the most influential warplane of all time, the P-51 Mustang is still one of the most beloved aircraft in the air show circuit today. Seventy years past its prime, the Mustang remains a steadfast and prominent part of air shows, only occasionally and temporarily overshadowed by the appearance of a modern fighter jet. Reliable and distinguished, people who know the P-51 recognize it and greet it the way they do an old friend - with respect and admiration. Why do people love the Mustang so much? After decades of innovation and an abundance of new sleek, capable aircraft, why do people still marvel at the sound of the Merlin engine?

A war hero…
The Mustang is an airplane with a story. It's a war hero - a sigh of relief in a dark time, a ray of sunshine that helped end an uncertain era in our nation's history. It's quick, easy on the eyes and music to our ears. The P-51 Mustang is so well loved and so respected because it tells the story of innovation, speed, valor and beauty during a time of difficulty.

As the first aircraft designed around a laminar flow wing, the Mustang was ahead of its time. And it wasn't just the 425+ mile per hour airspeed that made it impressive. The aircraft was rolled out in record time -about 100 days - making it one of the fastest aircraft to be produced, even during wartime. In a 1943 Popular Science article, author Andrew Boone predicted, "When the history of this war is written, there may be a hundred days underlined in red pencil - a period in which a young engineer and a veteran designer took a theory on airflow and turned it into the deadliest change-of-pace fighter airplane this stage of the war has yet produced." He was right.

The production of the P-51 was a demonstration of our nation's ability not only to innovate, but to innovate rapidly and on demand. The P-51 was designed by request of the British Purchasing Commission, and around 100 days after signing the first contract with the British Purchasing Commission, North American rolled out the first P-51, initially dubbed the NA-73X.

The British ordered 320 more aircraft from North American in March 1940, and soon after, America jumped on board, too. The U.S. Army Air Force took possession of its first Mustangs in March 1942. The airplane flew in every theater during World War II and continued to serve throughout the Korean War. By the end of World War II, it had destroyed 4,950 enemy aircraft - more enemy aircraft than any other fighter aircraft in Europe.

That engine...
There's no doubt that the P-51 Mustang, with its numerous capabilities, had a tremendous effect on the outcome of the war. But we should give credit where credit is due, and the Merlin V-1650 engine, originally designed by Rolls Royce, was a game-changer.

Early on, the P-51 was fitted with an Allison V-1710 engine and used as a dive-bomber and for reconnaissance missions. But the Allison engine, as good as it was, lacked performance at high altitudes, and in 1942, Mustangs were fitted with more powerful 1,430-hp Packard-built Merlin V-1650 engines. The aircraft's capabilities expanded greatly, marking a turning point in the war.

With the Merlin engine, the P-51 could fly up to 441 miles per hour at almost 30,000 feet. Flying at altitudes without losing power made the Mustang capable of both long-range, high altitude escort missions as well as its low-altitude reconnaissance missions that it was known for.

The sound of the Merlin engine is one that's not easily forgotten. It's a slow, rumbling sound that sneaks up on you, maybe startles you, only to put you at ease, knowing that behind the whir of the engine is the sound of victory that many people know and remember. In a 1943 article in Popular Mechanics, the author describes the airplane as fast and quiet. "There is no distant engine drone, growing louder as the plane approaches, but a sudden screaming roar overheard and the wild horse is upon you."

Pure elegance…
Today, we marvel at the history and the airplane and the sound of the Merlin, but we also stand in awe of an airplane that is not only fast and practical, but absolutely stunning to look at. With its bubble canopy, its sleek lines and silver wings... the P-51 Mustang is simply one of the most beautiful airplanes in the word.

Never has an airplane surpassed the P-51 when it comes to utility and beauty in one. It's strong and powerful, yet quiet and elegant. It's a natural performer, and it demands respect without the dog and pony show. For those who witnessed its prowess during the war, it's evocative. For the others who marvel at it during air shows today, those who can only look into its past and wonder, it's an airplane with a strange pull, an often unexplained attraction.

You may wonder why you're so drawn to an airplane that is before your time, why this particular airplane is such a showstopper. Because whether you know the history of the airplane or not, the Mustang is an airplane that stops you in your tracks. Its beauty captivates you, lures you in, and makes you want to hear its story. And it's a story worth repeating, air show after air show.

The Ultimate Barn Find? Bid On a P-51 Mustang for $150,000!

In a dusty hangar in southern California, at an unassuming airfield, there sits a forgotten treasure: A P-51D Mustang, a legendary World War II warplane that could become the find of a lifetime for one lucky buyer. One of the few remaining 425-knot piston-powered airplanes - the fastest piston-powered airplane of its era and perhaps of all time - lies in a hangar at Torrance Airport in southern California, waiting to be auctioned to its new owner.

As the inheritor of the fabled Merlin engine, the most admired sound ever produced by twelve cylinders marching two-by-two in the classic V-12 configuration, the P-51 Mustang was the best fighter aircraft of its time, shooting down 4,950 enemy aircraft by the end of the war in 1945.

According to photographer and historian Dick Phillips of Warbird Images, who researches the history of P-51 Mustangs, this airplane, serial number 44-84896, was manufactured for the war effort in 1944 and ended its military career in 1956 as part of the 169th Fighter Squadron in the Illinois National Guard. According to Phillips, the airplane was stored in California until it was sold on the civilian market for $867 dollars to P.J. Murray of Oxnard, California and was registered with the tail number N5416V.

According to Phillip's records, N5416V would be sold 10 additional times in the next five years before being sold to James Keichline for $8,950 dollars. Keichline owned the aircraft for ten years before selling it to its most recent owner, Ken Scholz in Playa Del Rey, California in 1973. Scholz originally kept the aircraft tied down on the ramp at Torrance Airport, but vandalism caused him to move it to a hangar in 1978. Scholz, a retired aircraft mechanic, apparently never flew the plane, but intended to restore it during his retirement. It seems he would never get the chance.

Starting June 2nd, this old 1958 P-51 Mustang will be auctioned by Scholz's estate, and the starting bid is only $150,000. It's a little rough around the edges and needs an extensive restoration, but it's complete - or at least advertised as "appearing complete," which we know is hardly a guarantee. The Packard Rolls Model V-1650 engine is being auctioned separately, starting at $8,000. And there are no logbooks or any other documentation for the aircraft. Add to this that the aircraft is being auctioned "as is," and, according to the listing, there is a host of problems that will require extensive efforts on behalf of the owner, including crazing and discoloration on the canopy, oxidized paint, corrosion, and a total overhaul of all instruments and gauges.

We know that the aircraft will need to be almost completely rebuilt, but what about the logbooks? How much do the missing logbooks decrease the value of an aircraft? We know that with a typical aircraft purchase, the logbooks are vital for determining airworthiness, and can reduce the value of an aircraft significantly, sometimes by up to a third, but for an aircraft restoration project this may not be accurate. Without logbooks, an active airplane may not be airworthy until an A&P mechanic or IA recreates each AD or service bulletin and attests to its performance and compliance, an expensive prospect that may end up repeating service that was previously performed but not evidenced without proper documentation. But a project as extensive as this P-51 Mustang is likely to be documented over the course of its restoration, providing proper documentation in the form of logbooks by the end of the project.

Rumors are swirling that the bid price will come in around $400,000-800,000 (minus the engine) but the cost of this restoration project will far exceed that dollar amount. According to a few of our Facebook followers, a restoration like this will likely cost at least $1.5 million. The airworthy P-51 aircraft on the market right now seem to be going at a market rate of $2.0-$4.5 million. This 1945 Mustang is listed for $2.14 million.

How much would you guess this P-51D Mustang will bring at auction? How much do you think it will cost to restore it? How much would you pay for the privilege of owning it?

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