AirVenture 2007, a recap

Set-up on Sunday ended on a high note. Monday kicked off the week in grand fashion, with 100s of eager attendees getting their first glimpse at the Acceleration Expansion Pack demo we had installed the previous day. The only "working" aircraft in the demo was the F/A-18A+ Hornet, and almost immediately became the single favorite aircraft of the week. Monday night, we all were invited to the annual Rubber Chicken Party (Hal has a picture here). I did not know what the story was behind the party, so I did a bit of research and found this blurb on Patty Wagstaff’s news page: "AirVenture … started with the traditional Rubber Chicken Party, which is hosted by our friend, Brent Blue, from Jackson, Wyoming. Brent has the party every year to celebrate his birthday but I’ve yet to see a birthday cake from him. I think next year the PWAS crew will have to supply something HUGE and fitting for such a fabulous host. The party is by invitation only so we will not reveal the whereabouts, but suffice it to say it’s a great way to start the Convention."

Tuesday was my day "off" from working the booth, so I spent some time with Ron walking around the grounds, visiting various aircraft manufacturers. Brett got a hold of several fligh tline pavilion passes, so that afternoon Hal, Brandon, and I watch the airshow in comfort. The day was rounded out with an enjoyable evening of watching Top Gun at the Fly-In Theater. We were invited to watch the show in the VIP section (Hal’s description is priceless) which made for an even better experience.

Wednesday, I had booth duty in the afternoon, so I had a chance to further explore the grounds around Oshkosh on my own that morning. I had a great chat with the pilot who flies the homebuilt NXT aircraft Relentless. With the Acceleration pack coming with some Reno racing, the NXT sure is an appealing design…

Thursday, I was on morning duty, so readied myself very early and sat watching the inbound aircraft landing on RWY 9 as I ate my bagel. Customers in the booth continued to find the F-18 to be the hit of the show. I was often asked if we had an F-22 available, and I had to reply with a reluctant "no, but there is one available at Alphasim" response. My afternoon was spent along the flight line watching the airshow performers have their way with their aircraft. That evening, some of us enjoyed a nice dinner at Fox River Brewery in downtown Oshkosh. Others enjoyed an evening with the Eagles and then some.

Friday, was much like Thursday, with my having booth duty in the morning, so that I could enjoy the airshow that afternoon. Unfortunately, events suddenly changed immediately following the mock Reno race. As most have heard about by now, two P-51 aircraft collided on the south end of the field on RWY 36, causing one of the pilots to be fatally injured. At first I thought that they would have cancelled the rest of the airshow, but after a two-hour delay, they picked up and had the rest of the show. By that time, though, I had already made my way back to the Super 8. We all were invited that evening to a sponsor’s event on the deck of the Hilton, which was a pleasant way of ending an eventful day.

Saturday, my last full day in Oshkosh, was met with beautiful weather and low humidity. I again worked the booth in the morning, so I had a chance to watch the F-22 perform its demonstration that had been cancelled on Friday. What an amazing aircraft. The taxpayers have certainly gotten their mojay’s worth with that aircraft. We all took things kind of easy that night, having a few burgers on the deck of the Hilton for dinner.  Hal, Roy, Dan, and I decided to take one last stroll around the grounds on the "cart." I got a few spectacular shots of a P-51D beautifully reflecting the setting sun. Voices from "Empire of the Sun" sang in my head as I was capturing the shots…"P-51 – Cadillac of the sky!!"

Sunday morning, I packed my bags and stowed them in the rental car as I strained to get a final glimpse of the airfield, which by now had become quiet desolate compared to very early in the week. I had to leave fairly early to make my flight out of Green Bay, so I only had a chance to say parting words with Katy and Dan. And off I went up highway 41 northbound. I listened to my scanner for as long as range held out, and then it finally fell silent… I returned home late that afternoon. Christy & Christy Lake had gotten back from N. Myrtle Beach just a few hours before I arrived. As things around the house return to "normal," the memories of the week at AirVenture 2007 will last.  

This year’s experience tops last year’s by leaps and bounds. Thanks again to my Microsoft colleagues who value my companionship enough to have invited me back.

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