Morning in Oshkosh


I had a reason to be on the field crazy early today. And I wish I’d had this reason sooner.

Arriving to the field around 6 a.m. reveals a completely different AirVenture. Few people are here—actually, there are probably many, but the vastness of the grounds cleverly disguises that fact. It feels empty, but not in a post-apocalyptic way. There’s a stillness, a quiet that you can never hope to achieve during the show.

After a cool night, dew cossets the outdoor exhibits, painting a frosty layer onto the airplanes, and the sun cuts through the tents and across fuselages and wings revealing details (or perhaps disguising a few) that escape the eye in the middle of the day. I like to sit and stare at airplanes, at the details, when no one else is looking. I try to imagine the thought process. How did the builder come up with that? What problem was he trying to solve?

There’s a sense of anticipation, too, because you know what a crazy scrum this place will be in just a few hours. Homebuilders, aviation enthusiasts, industry people, curious locals all will clog the entry roads and stream through the main gate in numbers that, even though I’ve been coming here off and on since 1988, still amazes me.

Time continues on, the sound of humans and machinery pierces the morning quiet. Forklifts moving merch, the local college students raising the tents at the food concessions. Oshkosh slowly shakes itself awake. Soon the first airplane takes off. I can’t see it, but it’s something with a big, flat engine and a long prop, making that angry buzzing into the clear Wisconsin sky.

For another day, AirVenture has begun.


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Marc Cook
Marc Cook is a veteran special-interest journalist who started as a staffer at AOPA Pilot in the late 1980s. Marc has built two airplanes, an Aero Designs Pulsar XP and a Glasair Aviation Sportsman, and now owns a 180-hp, steam-gauge-adjacent GlaStar based in western Oregon. Marc has 5000 hours spread over 200-plus types and four decades of flying.


  1. OSHKOSH at 6am a poetic and topical description featuring the amphibian.AIRPORT 96W1 EXPANDED THANKS TO THAT WEATHER FRONT. As a visitor from AUST housed in University early transport and breakfast on the field was a great start to the day Some unexpected benefits. I vividly recall a NAVY team [average age 25 ] arrive early one morning to reclaim 2 visiting F-14s. Cheers Neil Tait

  2. While I hated getting up early for preflight, I always loved the airbases early morning feel in summers. Quiet, but there seemed to be a sense of anticipation of the day.


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