Welcome to Oshkosh! Marc and I left for AirVenture at exactly 5:59 A.M. on Friday, our ETD being 6:00. We departed Twin Oaks in his GlaStar and found ourselves above the clouds, staring out at our familiar mountains. I bugged 9500’ and engaged the auto-pilot so I could enjoy my homemade breakfast sandwich, courtesy of Chef Cook, who worked the rudder and throttle while I ate. Our goal for Friday was to make it to Aberdeen, SD and that we did! I was nervous for our first five-hour leg to Miles City, MT, but I and my bladder held out, no problem. The GlaStar seats were comfortable, which made the ride all the more enjoyable. Plus, the weather was exceptionally nice. I kept worrying our luck would run out, and it somewhat did upon arrival to OSH (Go figure), but overall we had a very smooth trip.
I was equally nervous and excited for this adventure. It’s a great privilege to get to land at Oshkosh so I felt internal pressure to do well. Sure, I knew I’d have another pilot with me who has done the arrival multiple times, but still wanted to feel as mentally prepared as I could. I read the Notice a handful of times and watched numerous videos leading up to takeoff. I think this ultimately psyched me out, something Paul Dye commented on during our car ride back to the KITPLANES house—that the arrival is actually fairly simple and yet it’s somehow become this BIG thing that pilots over-stress. I came to that conclusion as well, when I caught myself thinking, “It’s not like I’m preparing for a checkride, why am I freaking out?!” and yet I still felt the need to dwell on it. But what does it come down to? Confidence. Breathe and have fun.
What the Puckaway
We departed Aberdeen at 6:53 A.M. We wanted to take off at 6:30, but there was some confusion between us and the FBO so our airplane got pulled out of the hangar at 6:30 instead. We knew mass arrivals were starting at 10:00 and wanted to beat said furball. Nothing much to report on until we arrived at Endeavor. They were using the Puckaway Lake Transition, so upon reaching Puckaway I settled into 90 knots and maintained 1800 feet while Marc kept his head mostly inside, acknowledging ADSB traffic and urging me to make minor corrections.
Just when we were nearing Ripon and thought we were in, Approach announced they needed to sterilize both runways and asked us to circle back to Puckaway and start over. And what happened when we finally arrived at Fisk on our second attempt? We were asked to circle back to Puckaway. On our third attempt I was so burnt out from joining and re-joining for nearly an hour that there was no anxiety or fear left in me about landing. I was asked to land on the purple dot on runway 36L. Turning final, I felt stable and Marc agreed. I ended up landing short, holding my power in as long as I could to get me closer to my mark, but finally let it settle, acknowledging internally that it’s a guide and felt visually I was within reach. It was a good landing nonetheless, the best one I’ve made in N531CE, or Charlie, as Marc calls it. I felt safe and was proud of myself.
Things that surprised me? I expected to feel way too close to other aircraft, but ended up not feeling overwhelmed, just focused. I can’t imagine making the trek without an experienced pilot on board. I also figured I’d hear at least one person express low fuel, but to hear at least three make the claim alarmed me. We had over seven hours on board while circling, an obvious safety net in our eyes. I was also excited to realize we didn’t have to taxi too terribly far to get to our preferred Sportsman and GlaStar parking, the infamous Brown Arch in view. I’d heard the classic “Welcome to Oshkosh!” from both the controller and ground crew in videos, but figured I’d be the one person to hit a window where they were exhausted and sick of saying it. Sure enough, I was greeted with said statement multiple times and shed a tear of joy. Very excited to write KOSH in my logbook!