Part Three: Know Your Airports!
by ANN Correspondent Larry Stencel
OK. We hope that you've caught AirVenture 2008 'fever' and are
considering adding some extra time to enjoy all that is Wisconsin
as you drive in. Now it's time to start talking about the "meat and
potatoes" of the event -- Flying. Aviation. Airplanes. You know,
those things that turn expensive fuel into noise. And fun.
The EAA estimates about 10,000 airplanes fly into Wittman Field,
and that about 2,500 of them are show planes. No matter the true
numbers or how you analyze them, there's a lot of airplanes coming
and going from one airport during the week; Wittman Field becomes
the world's busiest airport during AirVenture. A first time visitor
truly isn't ready for the sight of that many airplanes. Whether
you're on the ground or in the air, there's an airplane almost
everywhere you look. That's why it's the "Greatest."
The sheer volume of air traffic mixing many different airplane
types all converging on Oshkosh and its two nearby alternate
airports requires a special NOTAM in order to maintain good order
and flight safety. The FAA's 32-page 2008 NOTAM booklet outlining
Special Flight Procedures is in effect for AirVenture starting at
6AM CDT on Friday, July 25 (yeah, the returning early 'birds' know
how to get the good parking spots) until 11:59PM CDT on Sunday,
August 3. This includes pilots flying into Fond Du Lac (FLD) and
Appleton (ATW). Pilots are expected to be intimately familiar with
and adhere to all instructions contained therein AND to have a copy
of the NOTAM available to them for in-flight reference. Student
pilot training is strictly prohibited by the NOTAM during the
Let there be no doubt here folks. This is a high workload and
high stress flight activity once you're in the vicinity of OSH.
Flying in under VFR means putting your head on a swivel as you
approach the initial fix of Ripon while simultaneously maintaining
a loose formation with other airplanes in line and
listening/complying with ATC at FISK. Worth noting, the controllers
expect to see your landing gear DOWN when you pass overhead FISK
and you acknowledge their instructions by rocking your wings
vigorously; DO use the radio if you're having a problem. Once
you're ready to land, you'd better be able to put your airplane
down on a specific point on the runway (the colored dots) and
quickly egress, as directed by the ground flagmen. THEN you can
breathe while you're putting your place of intended parking sign up
Don't let theses comments dissuade you from flying in -- pilots
of all experience and currency levels have been doing it for years.
Just know that you're going to get a chance to use many of your
aeronautical skills while you simultaneously get sweaty palms. Can
you say, "Oh Boy. I'm havin' fun now?" Only an AirVenture-seasoned
pilot would understand.
Without pontificating, the very FIRST question a pilot might ask
himself is, "am I up to the task?" Maybe the title of this series,
"Are You Ready?" is apropos? And the natural follow-on question is,
"are there alternatives?" In fact, you should plan for them.
Beyond these two questions, you should also consider whether
your plans require arrival or departure time flexibility (OSH is
closed 8PM thru 6AM and during the daily airshow), multiple daily
operations (e.g., are you giving rides in a new design or wanting
to take friends flying), staying closer to a distant place of
lodging, meeting up with a group of similar airplanes or any of a
number of other like requirements. IF so, maybe you should consider
one of the outlying airports. Only you know your needs and
If you don't arrive early, there have been cases where there
just isn't any space left on the field for non-show plane parking
(sic) and there are cases where the volume of inbound traffic
saturates the arrival corridor or weather intervenes thereby
necessitating holding or turn away instructions by ATC at FISK.
Even the FAA NOTAM planning section mentions that use of
alternative airports is common among some pilots.
Should you decide that using one of the 'other' airports is in
order, you have multiple choices and all of them make flying in
easier albeit with a price for not "being there." Pilots who have
used them often return -- year after year -- to one of the
alternates because they develop friendships and familiarity which
transcends the benefit of landing at OSH. Of course, if you're
flying a show airplane to display your handiwork, you don't get a
choice. Oshkosh IS your final destination. We WANT to see what
OK. Let's start by examining the larger primary alternates
mentioned in the NOTAM.
Fond Du Lac Airport (FLW), is located on the
west side of Highway 41 about 17 road miles south of OSH. During
AirVenture, there is a temporary FAA ATCT in operation July 26th
through August 3rd from 7AM to 8:30PM. If you're within 4NM of the
field and at/below 3,309' MSL, communication is required. Arrivals
after sunset are "discouraged" by the NOTAM. Minimum spacing for
Category 1 and 2 aircraft operations (light single and multi
engine) have been waived by the FAA so you can expect to fly
tightly with many other airplanes, if required. Because camping and
showers and transportation to Oshkosh are available, Fond Du Lac is
likely the primary alternate to Oshkosh. Most parking will be in
the grass; if you need hard surface parking, you should contact the
FBO. Numerous restaurants and motels are located within a short
distance of the airport making it a very friendly alternate
destination. Marion College offers dorm rooms, as well. Fond Du Lac
means "Foot of the Lake (Winnebago)."
Appleton Outagamie County Regional Airport (ATW), is
located about 24 road miles north from OSH and 3 miles west of
Highway 41 off College Avenue. ATW is the closest airport to OSH
with scheduled airline service and also offers transportation to
OSH. Rental cars from several large chains may also be available
but reservations are highly recommended. Per the NOTAM, on airport
camping is not permitted so you'll have to find accommodations
elsewhere. Lawrence College has dorm rooms available and there are
quite a few motels nearby. ATW Class D airspace is active 0530
through 2300. Appleton is the largest of the three cities on the
west side of Lake Winnebago and, accordingly, has a lot more to
offer a transient pilot. The Fox River Mall area is just east of
the airport and the Harry Houdini Museum is in town, as well. It's
Green Bay Austin Straubel International Airport
(GRB), is located about 52 miles NE from Oshkosh and is
the largest of the three airports mentioned here. GRB is also an
airline destination and offers scheduled transportation to OSH as
well as rental cars. US Customs is available at GRB. Green Bay is a
considerably larger city than Appleton and Oshkosh and Fond Du Lac
so a variety of restaurants and accommodations are available.
Because it's further from OSH, the volume of air traffic is lower
and, therefore, easier to deal with. The distance to OSH can be an
issue for some. Green Bay's nickname is Titletown USA for the
As you decide whether you are flying directly into Oshkosh or
one of the above three alternates, you might want to consider
calling the EAA at 920-230-7820 for detailed information about
space availability in the Oshkosh General Aviation Aircraft Parking
and Camping areas to help you decide. While we're at it, you can
call the Oshkosh Convention and Visitors Bureau Hotline at
920-235-3007 for info, as well.
As always, anyone flying to ANY airport for AirVenture should
bring their own tiedown equipment.
In the next article of this series, we'll examine the "fun"
smaller alternate airports around Oshkosh. These airports have much
to offer and allow easy access to AirVenture for those looking for
a laid back method of flying in.
See you at Oshkosh!