For several years Nancy and I have talked about making the pilgrimage to Oshkosh, Wisconsin for the EAA AirVenture. We decided that 2006 would be the year we’d actually make the trip. Since we’re going that far east, we decided to head all the way to the east coast and visit Washington, DC and New York City. I’ve been to both cities before (although it has been almost 20 years since I’ve been to DC) but Nancy has never been to either one.
The journey to Oshkosh has always symbolized the ultimate cross-country flight. I enjoy an annual air show, but I wasn’t initially thrilled about a full week of nonstop airplanes. Consecutive days of hot temperatures coupled with high humidity and likely thunderstorms just didn’t sound like a relaxing vacation. I was definitely on board for the flight, but concerned about 7-day air show atmosphere. Phil and I agreed that three days would be plenty for our rookie trip. Since we’re going that far east, we decided to head all the way to the east coast and visit Washington, DC and New York City. I’ve been to both cities before (although it has been almost 20 years since I’ve been to DC) but Nancy has never been to either one. Phil’s idea to explore two new cities in addition to Oshkosh amplified my enthusiasm and, for me, made this trip a true adventure.
Oshkosh, Wisconsin is host to the largest aviation gathering in the world. That’s not an exaggeration like a restaurant claiming to have “the world’s best milkshakes.” About 750,000 people and 10,000 aircraft from literally all around the world converge on this tiny town each summer to be immersed in aviation. During that week, the control tower at Oshkosh displays a banner that says, “World’s Busiest Control Tower.” Pilots simply call the event “Oshkosh”, but the official name is the EAA AirVenture. Everyone who actually lives in or near Oshkosh, calls the event “The EAA”.
The plan is to arrive at AirVenture one day before it starts and spend a few days there enjoying the show. Next stop will be Washington, DC (landing at Manassas, VA, with a hotel in DC) where we’ll do the tourist thing for three days. After that it’s off to the Big Apple (New York City) for a few more days of touring around, and showing Nancy the area where I grew up. Then we’ll head back for home. We’ve got two weeks vacation time blocked off, which gives us a few days extra buffer in case of any weather delays.
Observant readers might notice that our arrival airport in the Oshkosh area is actually KATW (Appleton). That’s because the only hotel room we could find (eight months before the show) was in Appleton. Many people who attend AirVenture land right at KOSH and you can just camp on the grass with your airplane. Since this was going to be our first visit to Oshkosh, and we’re not real big campers, we decided to go with the hotel option. I’m pretty sure we’re going to attend this event again, so one of the goals of this trip is to check out the camping area and figure out if that’s for us or not.
The maps here show our planned route on top and our actual ground track below that. As you can see, we made some changes to the plan along the way. On the lower map, there’s a reason the segment between Flying Cloud (KFCM) and Appleton (KATW) is a different color — read further in this trip journal and you’ll see why. That’s all part of the fun of flying yourself, and very much part of the adventure of making a trip like this in a small airplane.
On our last across-the-country trip in 2003 we used standard paper charts for the trip. This year, we tried two new things:
- For our enroute IFR and VFR sectional charts, we used “Air Chart Systems” spiral bound charts. 2018 Update: Air Chart Systems has gone out of business and has been replaced by Sky-Nav Aviation Charts.
- All the IFR low enroute charts are in one binder.
- We opted for VFR sectionals which required one binder each for the eastern and western halves of the United States. Another option is to use VFR WAC charts which are at a larger scale so the entire U.S. fits in one binder, but you lose some detail.
- For IFR approach charts, we loaded the FAA’s d-TPP DVD on our Motion M1400 Tablet PC.
- I printed out all the approach charts for our planned stops.
- For non-planned stops we were able to just bring up the chart on the tablet PC screen and fly it with no problems.
- Nancy and I practiced using the tablet PC for charts several times during local flights and using a flight simulator until we were both comfortable and proficient with this method.
We’ve been using the “Flight Guide” airport directories for years. These little brown books were a great resource to have on this trip. 2018 Update: The Flight Guide books are no longer available, and the company is out of business. Back in the day before iPads, these were a great resource for pilots. History buffs can see them pictured in the the “20 lbs. of paper” image on this page.
Here are the numbers about each of the legs of this trip, and links to details about the flights.
|Date||Route||Takeoff (MDT)||Time (hours)||Dist (nm)||Avg Speed (kts)|
|Jul 22||Nampa, ID – Sheridan, WY||6:56 am||3.1||445||144|
|Sheridan, WY – Brookings, SD||1:13 pm||3.1||453||146|
|Brookings, SD – Flying Cloud, MN||6:01 pm||1.1||155||140|
|Jul 23 –
|EAA AirVenture – Oshkosh, WI|
|Jul 26||Flying Cloud, MN – Des Moines, IA||9:05 am||1.5||210||140|
|Jul 27||Des Moines, IA – Ft. Wayne, IN||7:18 am||2.9||426||147|
|Ft. Wayne, IN – Manassas, VA||11:14 am||2.4||394||164|
|Jul 28 –
|Aug 1||Manassas, VA – Moline, IL||6:48 am||4.5||625||139|
|Moline, IL – Des Moines, IA||12:26 pm||1.2||145||121|
|Aug 2||Waiting for cold front to pass. Des Moines, IA|
|Aug 3||Des Moines, IA – Rapid City, SD||7:21 am||3.2||455||142|
|Rapid City, SD – Idaho Falls, ID||11:31 am||3.5||438||125|
|Idaho Falls, ID – Nampa, ID||3:46 pm||1.6||211||132|
The times listed are the number of hours recorded by the GPS, which starts and stops timing when the ground speed goes above/below 30 knots. For you non-pilots, nm stands for nautical miles. To convert nautical miles to statute miles, multiply by 1.15. A knot (kt) is just nautical miles per hour.
The speeds above are simply the distance divided by the time to get the average ground speed of the leg. The actual cruise speed was about 10 knots faster than the average speeds listed above.