Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Oshkosh Diary - Tuesday July 24

I only got down inside the show today long enough to go to the FAA Safety Forum on surviving forced landings. A rash of RV deaths of late, a few folks I know making emergency landings, and the fact I haven't flown in a couple of years, pretty well has my attention, and I've never considered myself a particularly great pilot, so these forums to make me a better pilot -- a safer pilot -- tend to be more appealing to me than forums on how to make widgets fit together just right.

After that, it was time to turn our attention to the RVers Family Reunion BBQ

I made a trip to Appleton to pick up beer, soft drinks and assorted non-perishables -- two gallons of relish, for example. Total cost? $685, less than I thought, but I still haven't bought the actual food yet.

And while I was gone, they put up the tent.

How cool is that? The BBQ is probably up to 550 people right now although it's impossible to guess on the count since I'm getting various messages that some people who bought tickets can't come and others who didn't buy tickets want to come.

It makes it pretty impossible to buy enough food, without running into the danger of throwing hundreds of dollars of it away.

As last night, groups of RVers wandered over to the site and we talked well into the evening, with a nice campfire to boot.

I was particularly pleased to see Alex Peterson, an RV-6A pilot who gave me a ride a few months ago, which I wrote about on the Letters from Flyover Country, RV Builder's Hotline Edition. Alex is one of my RV heroes and he introduced me to his mother and father (Phyllis and Wayne I believe, but don't quote me). His Dad was an Air Force pilot and I recounted how, when I was a kid, I wanted to be an Air Force pilot and I wanted to go to the Air Force Academy, until I had an eye exam and found out I was disqualified.

Heartbroken -- in a 15 year old kind of way -- I turned my attention to writing and all of that instead.

"Same as me," Alex said. Well, the Air Force wannabee part anyway. His mom noted that she had enjoyed the piece I wrote in Letters from Flyover Country, which is always nice to hear that stuff touches other folks. I have no clue if anyone is actually "out there."

Darwin Barrie, former ace detective now retired man of leisure and Little League World Series umpire, made it in from Arizona in his RV-7 today, pausing in Iowa long enough to await the end of the daily airshow.

I also met a man named Tom from the Fulton, New York area who had his grandson, Tom, also in tow, at his first AirVenture. Younger Tom and I chatted around the fire and he showed me his video he took today and I smiled at his excitement, because it reminded me of when my sons came with us for a week of camping at Oshkosh.

It always seemed we camped next to someone cool, and someone who my kids enjoyed talking to. I'm surely not cool, but I hope young Tom enjoyed talking, and will pass it on someday.

I wonder, though, how long this all can last. At the FAA forum today, a show of hands asked how many people are under 70. Many hands shot up. Under 60? A few less. 50? Significantly less. 40? Very few. 30? Hardly any at all. 20? Two.

Not exactly an inspiring thought for the future of general aviation in America.

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