Never Hold in the Air


If you ever daydream about being a fighter or bomber pilot, think of  the flying arrival to AirVenture as a military operation. That means that you need a strategy.  Of course, you have read the NOTAM… right? If not, go get it now and read it all, we’ll wait.

OK, you back? Good! I guess I gave a little bit of a red herring there – it isn’t called a NOTAM this year—its just a Notice. But you figured that out, or you wouldn’t have said you finished reading it. But now you understand the procedure – how to enter, where to enter, what altitude to fly, what speed, and the communication protocols (They talk, you listen….and waggle your wings!). That’s the procedure, the tactics if you will. Memorize it, follow it, and all will go well. But what do you do if things are going sideways, the traffic is heavy, the field closes due to a crash, and it looks like the arrival isn’t going to be that simple. This is where strategy comes in! What are you going to do when you can’t get in?

The procedure, of course, covers this: holding will go into effect. But experience has shown that if you REALLY want the full taste of a combat experience, go into the Green Lake hold. “There were bogies everywhere…like fireflies!” to quote a famous old movie. It’s not pretty, and frankly, in my estimation, it’s not safe. So let me propose a new strategy for you – hold on the ground somewhere!

Where? Well let’s look at the Sectional… errrr… Foreflight. Wautoma, Waupaca, Portage, Dodge County, New Holstein…. All about 30 miles (+/-) from Oshkosh, none of them have special procedures in place (like Fond du Lac or Appleton), and all have fuel and places to park. My favorite is Wautoma. On the first weekend of the show, the EAA chapter there usually runs a hospitality hangar that transitions seamlessly from breakfast to lunch and goes all day. And there are many, many acres of parking, paved or turf. They’ve got a nice air-conditioned building with couches and water. Great place to sit and wait. Wait for what? For the mess in the air to sort itself out!

You see, I vowed years ago that I would never hold in the air at Oshkosh – if they are holding, I’m going to land, take on some fuel, relax, take a bathroom break, and let the world roll by. Remember that if you are flying a “show plane” (experimental, antique, war bird, etc.), the EAA has promised to never turn you away. Yup, the field closes to new arrivals for SPAM cans, but they will always make room for homebuilders. So don’t feel like you HAVE to be there at a certain time. Your buddies (if they ARE buddies) will save a beer for you. Relax, watch airplanes come and go, and listen to the radio. Chill on the ground. And when it sorts itself out, calmly get back into your air machine and have a routine arrival.

It’s the safe/sane strategy – and good, sane strategy is always a winner. You can leave the guns and bombs at home.

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Paul Dye
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 and SubSonex jet that he built, an RV-3 that he built with his pilot wife, as well as a Dream Tundra and an electric Xenos motorglider they completed. Currently, they are building an F1 Rocket. A commercially licensed pilot, he has logged over 6000 hours in many different types of aircraft and is an A&P, FAA DAR, EAA Tech Counselor and Flight Advisor; he was formerly a member of the Homebuilder’s Council. He consults and collaborates in aerospace operations and flight-testing projects across the country.


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