Mental Prep

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A funny thing happens to me in early July – I begin to psych myself up for the trip to Oshkosh, and honestly, it can be a struggle. First, you have to remember that I have flown to Oshkosh every year that it has been held for the last twenty(ish) years. And when I get to the show, I am not just there as a typical attendee – I work as a journalist, or as a volunteer, or as a speaker, so it is a busy time. The days are long, and not always under my control so it can be tiring and stressful – definitely not a vacation.

But that’s not the reason I have to psych myself up for the trip. You see, there are two ways of looking at the flight from Western Nevada (Lake Tahoe, basically) to Oshkosh. The first is that it is a stressful VFR trip with thunderstorms, mountains, long distances, rough air, and uncertainty (IFR doesn’t make it any better, because the thunderstorms are still there). The uncertainty come from how I am going to route, what is happening to the weather up ahead (hint – it always gets worse as the day goes on, so the worst is encountered at the end of a very long day of flying…), and knowing that I have things scheduled that await my presence at the show. Never mind the fur ball arrival – I try and plan to be at Fiske when everyone else isn’t but that can be affected by all of the uncertainties noted above! Engineers and pilots frankly don’t do well with uncertainty – we like to have a plan, and make that plan work.

But there is another way to look at it, a more “Zen-like” way of approaching the tip I suppose. That is to look at it as a great adventure. First, the need to be there…is it real? Well not really. I’ll get there when I get there, and if I get delayed, I cancel scheduled events and frankly, no one will care an hour later. But aren’t I supposed to write something for our show coverage at Kitplanes? Sure – but how do you know if I am writing this from Oshkosh or Rawlins (WY)? There are ways, and there are ways…. So check off “I gotta get there on Thursday!” Stress one relieved.

Now what about getting “stuck” along the way? A couple of years ago, my wife, flying our Tundra with another Kitplanes writer, got stuck in South Dakota for two nights on the way to the show. I was a couple of hours ahead of them, and made it through the weather that they couldn’t. And the result of their arrival on Sunday? Nada, nothing, no one knew or cared. And they got to hang out with a bunch of other pilots at an FBO that opened the doors to the pilot lounge, arranged food – heck, for all I know they had a better party than we were having in Homebuilt camping! This is about the flying after all – so enjoy the trip!

I like to get it into my mind that the early aviators never really knew what was ahead of them – when they would get somewhere, what they’d do when they got there, and if any plan would last beyond noon. And they didn’t care. Schedules are for airlines – not barnstormers or itinerant pilots traveling to a weeklong circus. So you miss the Sunday night potluck, or beer bust, or…whatever. Get to the show – or don’t get to the show – enjoy the adventure along the way, make new friends, poke into the dark corners of strange hangars – you never know what you might find – but it’ll probably be marvelous, so long as you relax and go with the flow.

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Paul Dye, KITPLANES® Editor at Large, retired as a Lead Flight Director for NASA’s Human Space Flight program, with 40 years of aerospace experience on everything from Cubs to the Space Shuttle. An avid homebuilder, he began flying and working on airplanes as a teen, and has experience with a wide range of construction techniques and materials. He flies an RV-8 that he built, an RV-3 that he built with his pilot wife, as well as a Dream Tundra they completed. Currently, they are building a Xenos motorglider. A commercially licensed pilot, he has logged over 5000 hours in many different types of aircraft and is an A&P, EAA Tech Counselor and Flight Advisor, as well as a former member of the Homebuilder’s Council. He consults and collaborates in aerospace operations and flight-testing projects across the country.

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