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1998: Day 2
Early to bed, early to rise...we were up bright and early, or should I say we were up early because it was bright. I had decided to forego the use of my watch for the entire time at Oshkosh, so I woke up when the sun rose...shortly before 6:00 am. I had not had a good sleep at all...I suspect part of the reason was that I haven't slept in a sleeping bag, in a tent, for oh, about fifteen years...in any case, we awoke to crystal-clear blue skies.
I hit the EAA supplied showers. The showers consist of fiberglass-enclosed booths, each with a kitchen sink sprayer hanging down. One squeezes the lever on the sprayer, and hot water comes out, as long as you keep the lever depressed. Ingenious. The showers were deserted, so I had no troubles, excepting the half mile walk to and from them. Waking up before 6:00 am after a poor night's sleep and then attempting to walk half a mile in order to take a shower...let's just say it's not quite what I'm used to.
I fired up the trusty Coleman again, and we had some hot oatmeal for breakfast. The oatmeal tasted distinctly of fried potatoes, for some reason...I decided that perhaps we should wash our pots & pans after all, and used a knife to scrape off the burned potato residue. As we were cleaning up our breakfast mess, a Corsair taxied along the grass near to us. Several people ran up to take pictures, so the pilot obliged by turning towards us, raising his wings, lowering them again, then taxiing out to take off.
We set off for our first tour of the exhibit grounds. The first airplanes we saw were experimental homebuilts. One was called the "Private Explorer," and was literally a motorhome with wings. Its insides were massive, and in addition to four seats, the back area of this airplane contained wicker furniture, a dining table, wallpaper, and a large bed. Next we saw an unfinished (but flyable) Lancair with a PT-6 turboprop engine installed in it. Lancairs are among the fastest homebuilts around, with upwards of 300 mph on a standard piston engine. I can only imagine the speeds this PT-6 driven model must achieve. We also saw a large (emphasis on large) homebuilt, again with a turboprop, with nine seats, in three rows of three.
As we were walking around, a C-130 Hercules landed and taxied in, followed by two Sea Furies. One of the Sea Furies was bright red, and taxied in quite close to us. When the pilot hopped out, it turned out to be none other than "Hoot" Gibson, a former NASA astronaut! He had been competing in a race to Oshkosh, and had just won it, in fact. Hoot was a really nice guy, very talkative and friendly, and spent a lot of time talking to kids.
Time for lunch...we found a food stand, selling small turkey sandwiches for $3.75, and hotdogs for $2.75. This began a week-long search for reasonably priced food. A word to the wise: if you bring nothing else to Oshkosh, bring LOTS of cash.
I couldn't help notice the rather apparent demographics so far: From my unofficial study, I have determined the current population of Oshkosh to be:
After lunch, we heard the distant roar of massed airplanes, and we went out to runway 36, to watch the traditional annual mass arrival of Bonanzas. Bonanzas continued to land, one every ten seconds or so, for several minutes. It was quite a sight to see. After that, we went back to our campsite (which was right along runway 09/27) to watch more airplanes arrive, which is something which can't really be described - airplanes being vectored in from every direction, all to the same runway. Arriving airplanes were landing every 20-30 seconds. We didn't see it, but apparently a Cherokee made a downwind landing - the opposite direction to all the other airplanes, on the same runway! Arriving airplanes scattered to avoid this idiot, and I'm sure he got an unpleasant visit from the FAA afterwards.
A P-51 Mustang attempted to land three times on this runway, however he was so much faster than all of the other airplanes that he kept running up on them, and had to go around twice. Finally, the tower cleared the other traffic for a minute, and let the P-51 land.
We had a portable aircraft radio, so we could hear the goings-on between the tower and the aircraft. At one point, a Navion took off from runway 27. Shortly afterwards, we heard this on the radio, from the department of FAA redundancy:
The sun started to set, and as we nursed our sunburned skin (it was HOT and SUNNY all day), we had some pasta cooked on the Coleman stove. By the end of the day, I counted over fifty rows of airplanes in the camping area alone, that makes one thousand campers.
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