The Days Before


While AirVenture doesn’t officially start until Monday, the three or four days before are really my favorite. It’s the time of gathering, the time of preparation. Volunteers have been on site for weeks – some for more than that. I arrived Thursday evening to find the grounds prepared, signs up, rows of aircraft parking prepared… and none of that happens by itself! I enjoy showing up a couple of days early because I get to spend time with my friends who do all of that work. We get to sit and talk before the tsunami of airplanes and people that make this the greatest of aviation events arrived with the cacophony of thousands of flying machines.

I left our base near Lake Tahoe at 0600 Pacific time on Thursday, with clear weather predicted all the way to a weather system with all sorts of pretty radar colors across Iowa and Minnesota. My plan was to fly up to the back side, find a place to stay, and continue on in to Oshkosh on Friday. But I had good tailwinds much of the way (see the picture), and came up on the back side of the weather just when it was weakening from the morning convection, and before it strengthened for its evening blow. The predictions were for rain chances of 70% for Oshkosh on Friday, so I figured it was worth at least a little reconnaissance to see if I could find a way through. I spent decades flying in Midwest and coastal thunderstorm weather, so it was sort of fun (in a masochistic way, I’ll admit) to give it a go once again. And with a rule of good VFR and always having an escape path, I arrived on the “front side” with nary a drop of rain on the airplane – so I stopped for fuel about 80 miles out and motored on in to the show.

It was still a local towered airport when I arrived, but the controllers were having fun welcoming the early birds, and figured that if they knew where they were going on the field, they simply “approved as requested” all taxi requests. I tied down our RV-6 in front of Homebuilt Headquarters and found a place to camp with the volunteers in the HBC area. Life is good here in Wisconsin – hope to see lots of you in the coming week!

(And no – I didn’t follow that leg line from KSLB to KAEL – I took a much less exciting route around the south end of it all…)

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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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