Oshkosh and Beyond: Part 1

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.

Fortune cookie message that says "Your sense of adventure will lead you on a great vacation"
This is a scanned image of a fortune cookie message that I got about a month before this trip. I had no doubt that this would be a great adventure.

I liked this fortune so much that I laminated it and stuck it in my logbook

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.

Our planned route. The airports in black are fuel stops, while the ones in blue are overnight stops.
Our actual ground track for this trip. Notice that we made some changes to the plan along the way. The thin grey lines show our original planned route.

Profile view of our entire route. Notice how sharply the terrain drops off after Rapid City, SD (KRAP).

The magenta lines show our planned flight altitudes. The blue areas are Class B or C airspace. The yellow areas indicate areas with flight restrictions.

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.


The new charting tools we used for this trip included a tablet PC loaded with digital instrument approach charts, and three spiral bound binders from Air Chart Systems.
The 20 lbs. of paper charts we carried during our 2003 trip from Boise to Boston

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.

Trip Summary

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 –
Jul 25
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
Eastbound Total 14.1 2,082 147
Jul 28 –
Jul 31
Washington, DC
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
Westbound Total 14.0 1,874 132
Trip Total 28.1 3,956 140

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.

This map shows the whole trip with different colors for each flying day.
Series NavigationOshkosh and Beyond: Part 2 >>

2 thoughts on “Oshkosh and Beyond: Part 1”

  1. How do you do your maps? Where do you get the maps and how do you draw the lines on them? It’s all very well done.

    I’m going to Oshkosh for my first time this year. I’ll probably camp somewhere. then fly to Northern Wis and Minn, maybe over to Mt Rushmore in SD.

    How do you put your maps and story on the internet?


    1. I use Jeppesen’s FliteStar program for flight planning. It includes a great set of VFR and IFR maps, and also lets you download your track information from your GPS and plot it on the map. The maps on the site are mostly screenshots from FliteStar.

      Have a great trip to Oshkosh. I’m sure you’ll have a wonderful experience.

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