When I was young, homebuilders were those crazy guys at the end of the airport in a falling-down hangar that were attaching Cub wings to a homemade fuselage and seeing if they could get it to fly. If they did fly it, they spent a month fixing it between short hops around the pattern.
My, how things have changed!
I mounted my winged steed, the RV-8 we call “The Valkyrie” at 0530 Pacific time just east of Carson City. The sun was not quite over the horizon, but it was light enough to see the mountains, and sunrise was slightly early as I quickly climbed to 13.5K, engaged the autopilot, and headed out on the Great Circle route to Oshkosh. With 800 miles absolute range and doing 170 KTAS, I had lots of places to choose from for my first fuel stop in Wyoming. The sun is a bit blinding coming straight in the windshield, but with judicious use of sunglasses, my hat, and an old VFR Planning Chart that still lives in the cockpit, I made it bearable. Three hours and twenty minutes later, I had deviated north towards the northern border of Wyoming to avoid convective activity (which would end before I got to the Black Hills), and stopped for fuel in Pinedale, a little slice of heaven snuggled up against the Wind River Range that I’d never seen before.
A quick turn for fuel had me climbing out again, leveling off and headed to Fairmont, Minnesota. That took just four hours and ten minutes—a far cry from those guys with the Cub-like thing in that shambles of a hangar. Rather than press on to a reportedly very gusty set of winds in Oshkosh, I bedded down with family in the Twin Cities for the night, and completed the trip the next morning in calm winds, little traffic and I got to spend the night in an air-conditioned bedroom with a real bed instead of a tent. Arriving at the show, I parked next to an old friend, Danny King’s “Beautiful Doll” and marveled at how homebuilding has changed; and changed what we can do with our airplanes. Eight and a half hours flying to cross more than half the country in a reliable machine with over 2100 hours on the clock and ready for many more.
“Welcome to Oshkosh” said the Tower, “Turn left on the hard surface and follow the flagman.” And so it begins—another week with 600,000 of our closest friends in aviation!