Minnesota Flyer - Serving Midwest Aviation Since 1960

Only at Oshkosh!

 

Tom Lymburn

The Mars begins its run for a water drop. It cruises at 140 knots loaded with 7,200 gallons.

"That should about do it."

John set the big camera down and turned to the lap top that rested on the work bench. Another biz jet taxied by the Weeks hangar. Light rain continued its dreary patter on the big hangar's roof. Deftly, he adjusted the contrast to eliminate a tiny bit of glare near the faded letters of the crew bomb tally.

At Oshkosh, in 2015, I had run into Atlanta photographer John Slemp by the Stinson. When he showed me a photo from his bomber jacket art project – a photo that was from the pilot of my father's crew, it had been another of those "Only in Oshkosh' moments.

Today was the follow up. After a series of emails and phone calls, I'd brought my father's jacket from the same 8th Air Force B-17 crew. Around us, EAA mechanics worked on aircraft tucked away in the huge hangar's corners and airshow aerobatic aircraft sheltered from the rain.

"That's it!" he smiled. "I got it."

A year later and many miles on the odometer, he'd photographed his 50th jacket. Just before Oshkosh, John had been to Kalamazoo and that Tuesday, in St. Paul. "Let me show you a part of my slide show from the Bette Theater." There I was from last year, faded maroon Vintage shirt, and ugly hat, with the caption, "Only at Oshkosh." A chance meeting and a connection. Coincidence?

Indeed, "Only at Oshkosh" was the comment over and over all week. It had been the 100th Anniversary of Boeing – the Boeing Plaza showcasing a B-17, B-29, a new generation 737, and the latest 747-8 Freighter. Two high viz helicopters, an HC-130J, and an HC-144A celebrated the 100th Anniversary of United States Coast Guard aviation.

Across the creek, behind the Vintage Red Barn was the World War I encampment, complete with an Albatross D. Va powered by a Mercedes engine, a Fokker Dr. I tri-plane with an actual 160 hp Gnome rotary (that's rotary, not radial), and a Spad VII in the colors of legendary French ace Georges Guynemer complete with the inscription "Vieux Charles" on the fabric below the cockpit. Guynemer was the second leading French ace with 54 victories. He disappeared 11 September 1917. No trace of him or his Spad XIII was ever found. French children believed he flew so high he could never come down.

One drippy morning I spotted EAA's B-25, "Berlin Express" sporting the new nose created by members of Anoka Chapter 237. They'd built it as part of making the old "Catch 22" veteran airworthy again. After skipping around some puddles and mud, Sue and I caught a school bus to the museum. Since we didn't have an aircraft to babysit this year, we had time to visit many venues we often missed.

As always, the immaculate museum showcased all ages of aviation. Earlier in the week, we met a member of the Pitcairn family at the Red Barn, so this gave me the opportunity to photograph two Pitcairn autogiros and a classic Mailwing.

The Pioneer Airport was host to KidVenture. We walked through a hangar filled with children fully engaged in making wooden propellers, riveting, learning about weather, air traffic control, flying simulators, and practicing their math skills. Each child was tutored by an adult volunteer well versed in the topic. It reminded me of the STEM programs we do at Anoka County Airport in Blaine. Kids are the future of aviation.

For old airshow folks like me, one part was sad. It was the swan song of one of the greatest combat aircraft in aviation history. Two F-4E Phantom II's were displayed on Boeing Plaza and with the warbirds. When they departed at the end of the week, after making a series of marvelous flybys, it marked the end of the Phantom's appearances at Oshkosh. By December, the Air Force will be shutting down the F-4 drone program.

One great highlight for me was the appearance of the huge Martin Mars flying boat. Built during WWII as a patrol bomber, the Mars was converted to a transport for the Navy. Because of its great load carrying capacity, Hawaii Mars has served well in Canada and the USA as a fire bomber.

Sue and I made our first trip in over 30 years to the Seaplane Base (another school bus ride) so I could photograph the majestic flying boat riding at anchor. (cover photo) During the show I was able to shoot the Mars making water drops over Wittman Field. On a visit to the Mars' trailer, I admired a Wright R-3350 QEC. The 18 cylinder radial also powers Sawbones, Minnesota's unlimited air racer.

Speaking of air racing, Sue and I connected with racing pilot John Parker who won the Sport Class last year in Blue Thunder II at One drippy morning I spotted EAA's B-25, "Berlin Express" sporting the new nose created by members of Anoka Chapter 237. They'd built it as part of making the old "Catch 22" veteran airworthy again. After skipping around some puddles and mud, Sue and I caught a school bus to the museum. Since we didn't have an aircraft to babysit this year, we had time to visit many venues we often missed.

As always, the immaculate museum showcased all ages of aviation. Earlier in the week, we met a member of the Pitcairn family at the Red Barn, so this gave me the opportunity to photograph two Pitcairn autogiros and a classic Mailwing.

The Pioneer Airport was host to KidVenture. We walked through a hangar filled with children fully engaged in making wooden propellers, riveting, learning about weather, air traffic control, flying simulators, and practicing their math skills. Each child was tutored by an adult volunteer well versed in the topic. It reminded me of the STEM programs we do at Anoka County Airport in Blaine. Kids are the future of aviation.

For old airshow folks like me, one part was sad. It was the swan song of one of the greatest combat aircraft in aviation history. Two F-4E Phantom II's were displayed on Boeing Plaza and with the warbirds. When they departed at the end of the week, after making a series of marvelous flybys, it marked the end of the Phantom's appearances at Oshkosh. By December, the Air Force will be shutting down the F-4 drone program.

One great highlight for me was the appearance of the huge Martin Mars flying boat. Built during WWII as a patrol bomber, the Mars was converted to a transport for the Navy. Because of its great load carrying capacity, Hawaii Mars has served well in Canada and the USA as a fire bomber.

Sue and I made our first trip in over 30 years to the Seaplane Base (another school bus ride) so I could photograph the majestic flying boat riding at anchor. (cover photo) During the show I was able to shoot the Mars making water drops over Wittman Field. On a visit to the Mars' trailer, I admired a Wright R-3350 QEC. The 18 cylinder radial also powers Sawbones, Minnesota's unlimited air racer.

Speaking of air racing, Sue and I connected with racing pilot John Parker who won the Sport Class last year in Blue Thunder II at One drippy morning I spotted EAA's B-25, "Berlin Express" sporting the new nose created by members of Anoka Chapter 237. They'd built it as part of making the old "Catch 22" veteran airworthy again. After skipping around some puddles and mud, Sue and I caught a school bus to the museum. Since we didn't have an aircraft to babysit this year, we had time to visit many venues we often missed.

As always, the immaculate museum showcased all ages of aviation. Earlier in the week, we met a member of the Pitcairn family at the Red Barn, so this gave me the opportunity to photograph two Pitcairn autogiros and a classic Mailwing.

The Pioneer Airport was host to KidVenture. We walked through a hangar filled with children fully engaged in making wooden propellers, riveting, learning about weather, air traffic control, flying simulators, and practicing their math skills. Each child was tutored by an adult volunteer well versed in the topic. It reminded me of the STEM programs we do at Anoka County Airport in Blaine. Kids are the future of aviation.

For old airshow folks like me, one part was sad. It was the swan song of one of the greatest combat aircraft in aviation history. Two F-4E Phantom II's were displayed on Boeing Plaza and with the warbirds. When they departed at the end of the week, after making a series of marvelous flybys, it marked the end of the Phantom's appearances at Oshkosh. By December, the Air Force will be shutting down the F-4 drone program.

One great highlight for me was the appearance of the huge Martin Mars flying boat. Built during WWII as a patrol bomber, the Mars was converted to a transport for the Navy. Because of its great load carrying capacity, Hawaii Mars has served well in Canada and the USA as a fire bomber.

Sue and I made our first trip in over 30 years to the Seaplane Base (another school bus ride) so I could photograph the majestic flying boat riding at anchor. (cover photo) During the show I was able to shoot the Mars making water drops over Wittman Field. On a visit to the Mars' trailer, I admired a Wright R-3350 QEC. The 18 cylinder radial also powers Sawbones, Minnesota's unlimited air racer.

Speaking of air racing, Sue and I connected with racing pilot John Parker who won the Sport Class last year in Blue Thunder II at speeds approaching 400 mph. A superb pilot and great gentleman, John was happy to talk with members of another race team.

Oshkosh 2016 marked the return of a delegation from MnDOT's Office of Aeronautics. There was no map to stick a pin in, but we could have had our picture taken with a cut out of Paul Bunyan. Mari Anne Kolesar was volunteering at the Red Barn store again. A long time regular, Mari Anne exemplifies the spirit of EAA. Paul Ehlen and Sierra Sue II, along with John Beyl and Steve Kamison as ground crew were parked at the north end. Sierra Sue II was an award winner last year.

Speaking of award winners, Pat Harker and his crew at C&P Aviation brought home a warbird award with their historically rare stinson L-1 Vigilant, complete with Search and Rescue colors. The always gregarious Nancy Carter held court at the IAC building, making the rounds selling rain ponchos while some of us sheltered from the wet one morning. And it wasn't just people, A Forestry Service de Havilland Beaver, on wheels rather than its usual floats, was parked outside the Federal Pavilion. It often resides in Ely.

Tom Lymburn

The Boeing 747-8 Freighter of Cathay Pacific Cargo (Hong Kong) dwarfs spectators.

Like all weeks at Oshkosh, good things must come to an end. We'd watched the Canadian Snowbirds, talked with a NOAA pilot who hunted hurricanes, admired the Vintage award winning Ryan ST once flown by Ryan aircraft expert and writer Ev Cassagneres, whom I'd met over a decade ago, shared time with Myron Bishman, a flying farmer whose son Matt let me fly his Luscombe years ago, and listened to A&P Kevin Hill while he explained mechanics' nicknames for parts of Boeing planes to a Boeing staffer. What could have been better? Well, maybe a little less wet, but sheltering from the rain brought strangers together to talk aviation. A new pair of Rockports with more support?

Sitting and retying a stray shoe lace led to more airplane talk. No matter. Oshkosh was Oshkosh, the only place to be. It could happen "Only at Oshkosh."

Tom Lymburn is a well-known aviation historian, airshow announcer, columnist, feature writer, and photographer for the Minnesota Flyer and other publications.

 

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