Ninety Knots


AirVenture Oshkosh NotamMy AirVenture NOTAM booklet came fairly late this year, despite having ordered it the day it was available. Not to worry–I downloaded the document onto my iPad at the same time, so I have had it to review. Only a few changes this year, and only half apply to the average VFR arrival. Remember–90 knots and 1800’ MSL BEFORE you get to RIPON, find someone to follow at 1/2 mile, and if you get cut off, exit the line and go back to start again. Sure – it’s the other guy’s fault for cutting you off, but while we have the right to be on the approach if we entered it properly, we also have the obligation not to kill anyone, including ourselves. Duke it out on the ground.

The Oshkosh VFR arrival takes about fifteen of the twenty-nine pages in the NOTAM booklet, and that alone is usually enough to send chills up the spine of the casual aviator. But after you have read al those pages, digested and understand them, you should take a little step back and look at the big picture. What the entire thing amounts to us putting you in a defined spot on the edge of the Class D airspace (FISKE intersection), and then having the tower tell you which runway to use, and how to get there. Hmmm….that really sounds like what you do every time you fly into a towered airport, doesn’t it?

The maps and charts are there to show you good VFR landmarks to use to fly the pattern – and the tower tells you which pattern to use.  You can even take comfort in the fact that you don’t even have to talk on the radio – in fact, DON’T talk on the radio unless you are asked to do so – and that makes life even simpler.

I don’t want to play down the importance of flying the procedures properly – I just want to help folks unwind the knot they feel in their stomach just a little. If half our brain cells are tied up being worried about the arrival, that doesn’t leave us much to look for traffic and use a little common sense to safely arrive at the biggest airshow on earth!

Ninety knots, 1800’ MSL (set your altimeter before you get to RIPON please), and pick an airplane to follow. The procedure exists so that everyone is flying predictably… and therefore we know what everyone else is going to do. Well, to be honest, about 10% will be wildly unpredictable – either because they are tied up in knots, haven’t read the NOTAM, or just don’t care. Don’t be one of the latter – and don’t be afraid to bail out (of line) and go back to look for another slot. See you over RIPON!

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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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