Day 5: We made it to Oshkosh – KATW-KOSH – Along the Blue Spruce Routes to the USA

Flight 10 : Appleton to Oshkosh

We woke up very excitedly: today we will fly into Oshkosh via the notorious Fisk arrival. We had charged all our gear and cameras, and we were charged up ourselves after our big steak. After a typical mediocre plastic cutlery breakfast, we returned to the FBO in Appleton and I took a sneak peak at the actual Fisk arrival situation:

This year in Oshkosh, more than 10’000 aircraft arrived and departed in about two weeks time. On top, every afternoon during the EAA Airventure show, there is an airshow so the arriving and departing from the Oshkosh airport (KOSH) is halted. It takes an enormous effort from the side of ATC to make the arrivals and departures happen smoothly and safely. Every year, a Notice is published that describes these arrival and departure procedures to the pilots. You are supposed to have read and studied this document !

The majority of the airplanes arrive via the Fisk arrival as described in the Notice. That morning, I saw two things: (1) Fisk arrival was already crowded, and (2) the air was still hazy by the pollution of the Canadian bush fires. This would be an interesting morning !

At the FBO, we saw a lot of high end aircraft that had opted to not fly into Oshkosh, but rather get there by public transport … not risking the craziness of Oshkosh with their beautiful craft. But not us: we will go in !

So we departed VFR from runway 30 at Appleton (KATW) again, and quickly listened to the ATIS of Oshkosh. The transition point for the Fisk arrival was set at Puckaway Lake, which indicated an already busy morning, but not a super-busy one. So we set course for the Puckaway Lake transition point. Because of the reduced visibility due to the smoke haze, ATC insisted on keeping 2 NM separation.

As we were flying our Piper Seneca Twin, we had opted upfront to fly faster and higher on the Fisk arrival. Our blue line speed is 92 KIAS so it is safer to fly faster. So we cruised at 2500 ft towards Puckaway Lake. Damned the visibility was bad with all that haze !

We descended to the prescribed 2300 ft. We were able to follow traffic on Foreflight as I kept it connected to the cell phone network at this low altitude. This gave us a somewhat delayed view of the traffic around us and it served us very well.

At the Puckaway Lake transition, we joined the crazy Fisk arrival at the higher and faster route. Down below we saw aircraft after airplane passing below us at their 90 KIAS speed. Visibility was still bad but it did not hinder us seeing all ground features. Toby was helping out a lot with the visual navigation and the airplane spotting. We tuned on the Fisk Arrival frequency. They were busy with spotting aircraft at Fisk, asking them to rock their wings and assigning either runway 27 or runway 18L. They also passed general info like that the transition is at Puckaway Lake and that they expect all aircraft to be at 1800ft, 90ft by Fisk.

From Puckaway Lake we flew to Green Lake. The visibility improved somewhat.

Once we passed Ripon, we followed the railway tracks at 2300ft to Fisk right below us while overtaking the slower aircraft at 1800ft. Fisk Approach, in the meanwhile, kept clearing airplanes to runways 27 or 18L while asking to be at Fisk at 1800ft, 90 knots.

So I looked on the Foreflight traffic display and opted to descend from 2300 ft to 1800 ft in a gap between airplanes ahead of me. I selected my gear down, descended and slowed down. I cut in front of the first airplane who complained about my behavior but my maneuver was safe: I had surprised him.

When approaching the Fisk waypoint, ATC called me:

Twin, Rock your wings.

So I rocked my wings, and I got this epic reply (that all pilots flying into Fisk get):

Good rock !

Keep following the railroad tracks for runway 27, monitor Tower on 118.5

We were pretty nervous now, almost forgetting to enjoy the special situation. We had plenty of airplanes before and behind us. Soon the gravel pit north of Oshkosh came into view, and then we looked south and saw the thousands and thousands small airplanes parked all around the Oshkosh airport : Waw ! What a sight !

Oshkosh Tower identified us when flying downwind:

Twin on downwind: I will call your base. I have an IFR arrival on short final

Tower called our base and we turned very sharply right while descending.

Twin, cleared to land runway 27, GREEN DOT, after landing keeping rolling to the end

So we aimed at the green dot in the middle of the runway.

(c) Bob Rongé: by coincidence these Belgium airplane lovers photographed our Oshkosh arrival

We landed one meter beyond the green dot: we finally had arrived !!! 35 minutes of flight.

Relieved, excited and happy we taxied all the way from the end of runway 27 to the camping ground South 40, getting a first impression of the size, craziness and spectacle that Oshkosh would give us in the next couple days.

We had flown nett 31 hrs to get here from Belgium !

Setting Up Camp

A large team of volunteer linemen showed us the way and we got assigned a parking / camping spot on South 40 amongst the larger aircraft

(c) Bob Rongé

When we arrived, our friend Mark was waiting for us and greeted us :

Welcome to Oshkosh !

Mark had flown here with his friend Andrew and their daughters in his Cessna 177 Cardinal all the way from Vancouver, Canada. It was great seeing Mark again and here ! We would hang out together during the rest of the show and share many beers 😉 .

We set up camp: one tent along the wing. The airplane tightly tied down as per regulation. And Toby wanted to sleep inside the airplane, so we applied the cover over the Seneca to keep it dark: one item crossed from his bucket list.

I registered the airplane, paid the fees. We had some food from the nearby store and topped up some supplies such as water. And we bought a sack of ice to keep our fridge cool.

In the meanwhile, a PC12 had arrived left of us, unloading a whole family, a very nice King Air E90 set up camp to our right with a friendly family from Texas. We had friendly chats with all our neighbors ans shared stories on how we arrived here. What a great relaxed atmosphere !

I raised the Belgian flap by attaching it to our tail and lots of people asked where we came from. The fact that we had flown in all the way from Belgium amazed them and it started to sink in with us too …

And boy, was it hot here !

I also checked by means of SMS what had happened to the couple crossing the Atlantic in the Grumman Cheetah … they were in Greenland in the meanwhile, planning to get to Canada.

First Impressions of Oshkosh

As said before, we had not prepared too much about what we would do once we arrived at the EAA Airventure show in Oshkosh: we would just absorb it and go with the flow. So we gathered hats, sunscreen, waterbottles and photography gear and we took the bus northbound towards the show.

Oshkosh is run by volunteers: plenty of friendly people helping us to get around… and not surprisingly: all people were airplane-nuts: they all swung their heads when a new airplane engine sound appeared over the horizon.

We soaked in the mood. Still tired from the journey, we had no other ambition than to get some impressions: this place is huge !!

Vintage, homebuild, warbirds, Boeing plaza, aircraft vendors, avionics vendors, engine vendors: my whole fantasy was present at this show ! It was like going to Bellewaerde theme park for the first time when 7 years old.

We met with Tom from Aviatize, another Belgium who had invested in presence at this show with a nice outdoor booth. They make software to manage flight schools and small aircraft operations tailored to General Aviation. They would have a lot of business success during the show. And for now, we were happy with the beers they offered us.

After doing a first tour of the showground, we returned back via tram and bus to our camping spot at South 40: very tired, overwhelmed but happy we fell asleep almost immediately…

Stay tuned for the full overview of the EAA Airventure Show in the coming days !

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