Get thee to Oshkosh

Have you made your AirVenture plans yet? If not, why not?

I’m not talking to those of you who put “Oshkosh” on your calendar in indelible ink, year in and year out. (God bless you.) I’m talking to those of you who, for whatever reason, haven’t made it it to Airventure yet, or (because you spent your formative aviation years in a bunker) don’t know what it is.

AirVenture is one of the biggest airshows in the world, a crown it battles the Paris Airshow for. For a solid week, the faithful trek to Oshkosh, Wisconsin–as many as 100,000 people a day–to immerse themselves in aviation. Big and small, loud, louder or loudest, Oshkosh has it all. You like warbirds? Gyrocopters? Seaplanes? The latest and the greatest? The vintage, the antique, the NORDO? No matter what your personal aviation interest, if you look hard enough, you’re going to find it–and likely a club of people who share your particular passion.

What I think I like best about AirVenture is that, for one glorious week, we’re all in love with aviation. Flying can be a pretty lonely pastime, what with just 627,000 pilots in the United States. And we do our best to share our enthusiasm with nonpilots, but not everybody wants to share it with us. That’s not the case at AirVenture. If you’re there, it’s because you want to be.

And if you’re a student pilot–how to describe it?–AirVenture is like a big glass of water on a hot summer day. Even if you’ve been struggling for weeks with landings and are ready to hang it up, a visit to AirVenture will leave you refreshed, renewed, and ready to get back up there again.

My first trip to AirVenture was during my student pilot days. I lucked out and got a seat on my boss’s A36 Bonanza. It was my first extended cross-country in a GA airplane. I’d been bumbling around the pattern in a trainer for several months. But this was something entirely different. We were going to go somewhere. I listened to Tom’s back-and-forth with ATC and learned what a competent pilot should sound like on the radio. I twisted my fingers into knots as we headed out over Lake Michigan at 10,000 feet, and tried not to think about how immense that stretch of water is.

It doesn’t matter if you fly, or drive, or bicycle to AirVenture. What matters is that you get there. And if you make it to the big show, I hope you’ll stop by the AOPA tent and say hi. I’m there July 27 through August 1. I’ll be the one in the big ole’ sunhat.

Share your favorite Oshkosh memories in the Comments section. See you there!

–Jill Tallman


  1. Hi Jill
    CAn you blog about what to take to OSH for a first-time visitor? How to survive the experience? Wear walking shoes, apply suntan lotion, etc. Thanks.

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