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Sun, Aug 05, 2007

An Oshkosh 'First Timer' Waxes (A Little Too) Poetic On Experience

To Be Fair... It's Just That Kinda Place

by ANN Correspondent Dave Ziegler

If you are passionate about aviation, and the time finally comes when you're headed to Oshkosh for the very first time, let me tell you from first hand experience that no amount of planning or research will prepare you for what awaits. Even the last day found me gawking like a child with my jaw constantly open in golly-gee fashion.

Sure, you know you'll get see tens of thousands of aircraft, but until you actually gaze down the seemingly endless rows filled with planes of every size, style, and vintage, you can't possibly imagine how small those chock-filled ramps and fields will make you feel. You've most likely heard about how aircraft arrive en masse, but until you see wave after wave landing in pods of four or five at a time, you can't possibly imagine their carefully synchronized ballet or the harmony of their engines.

What happens at AirVenture will stir the soul of any pilot or aircraft lover, guaranteed. The performers are the best of the best, and while you're strolling the grounds, looking at the latest the aviation world has to offer, you'll see them roll, loop, and tumble. Classic warbirds roar by with a cacophony only producible by large radial engines, and the newest most technologically-advanced aircraft shake the ground as they are put through their paces in front of an enthralled audience.

If you think I am abusing my poetic license to the point where it should be revoked... you just haven't been there before. I know, I'm supposed to behave like a professional journalist, but the fact that I am also a pilot and lover of aviation makes it impossible to be completely detached or impartial here.

In fact, numerous times I interrupted my writing with a dash outside to see what just roared by -- not that my editor could mind, as I recall him speeding away on a golf cart to watch the C-17 land (that was an "expedited departure," Dave... Managing Editor's Note)

I knew AirVenture would be incredible, but I didn't realize just how much I would get to see, learn, and experience. There is no other place that provides such an opportunity to meet many aviation greats, from airshow pilots to Air Force veterans, or hear a favorite aviation author read from their own works. Of course, there are also the over one thousand forums and workshops, covering every topic from airspace to welding, and hundreds of exhibitors showing off their latest products, and the Fly Market where you'll find the new, the old, and the bizarre for sale.

Perhaps one of the most amazing aspects of AirVenture, however, is the atmosphere. The community that comes together to celebrate aviation is a friendly, welcoming one, with strangers talking and laughing with each other like old friends reunited. The mood is electric and very family-friendly.

The EAA staff is comprised of some of the friendliest and most helpful volunteers you'll find, and they go out of there way for those who need help. Both the crowd and staff do an incredible job of preserving the AirVenture grounds. If a piece of trash made it anywhere other than the proper receptacle, I have yet to see it.

To be fair and balanced, there is at least one downside to AirVenture. The brauts may be some of the best I've had, but you do pay a premium for them. Not a bad sacrifice to make, however; considering attending AirVenture is most likely a life-changing experience, it's a small price to pay.

FMI: www.airventure.org

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