Landing On The Dot At Oshkosh

Flying to Oshkosh in less than two weeks is no different than any other trip—until you get close to the destination.

To have a chance of understanding the procedures and fitting into the traffic flow at Oshkosh you must study the official NOTAM carefully. The printed NOTAM booklet is 32 pages long. Much of it won’t pertain to your trip because the procedures cover other area airports in addition to Oshkosh Wittman Field. And there are special procedures for warbirds, seaplanes, ultralights, no radio aircraft, IFR flights and so on, but you need to fully understand and even memorize only the information specific to your plans.

Remember, the Fisk arrival procedure begins at Ripon. It’s called the “Fisk arrival” but you must fly over Ripon first. Ripon and Fisk waypoints are stored in nearly all aviation GPS data bases. But remember to add an “e” to Fisk. Airspace identifiers can contain two, three and five letters, but not four. So look for Fiske in your GPS.

The other general advice for arrival at Oshkosh is to have more, much more, than the normal amount of reserve fuel because there could be lengthy delays or even the requirement to divert to another airport. For example, if there were to be a minor runway mishap traffic delays would pile up quickly while the runway was being cleared. Or, if you plan to arrive during the week before the air show begins and are delayed and don’t arrive until after the show starts you will have to go to another airport and wait until the air show is over and Oshkosh reopens for arrivals.

The two target airspeeds for arrival at Oshkosh are 90 knots, but it you can’t fly that slowly, it’s 135 knots. Ninety knots translates into about 104 mph if that’s how your airspeed indicator is marked. If your airplane can’t indicate as fast a 90 knots (104 mph) the drill is to go max cruise until necessary to descend and land. It would be a good idea to go out and fly some practice arrivals holding the recommended airspeeds to see how you may, or may not, need to modify your normal traffic pattern and landing approach.

But the most important arrival technique I think you should practice is spot landing because if you arrive when it’s busy the controllers are going to assign you a touchdown spot on the runway.

There are brightly colored large dots painted on both Runways 9/27 and 18R/36L. During the show the north-south parallel taxiway is used as a runway and is labeled 18L/36R so make sure you know which runway you are assigned because one of them looks exactly like a taxiway, because it is the rest of the year. Tower controllers can tell you to land on the numbers, or one of the dots so that more than one airplane can be safely spaced on the pavement at the same time.

Landing on the numbers is easy and natural because that’s what we do in normal flying. But overflying lots of pavement to get to one of the dots is not something we do normally, and can create strange visual illusions. And the tower controllers may not assign your touchdown point until you are pretty close to the runway.

Despite the pressure of the situation nearly all pilots arriving at Oshkosh make pretty darn good landings. When I have seen things not go so well it was usually when a pilot was stretching to keep flying until reaching the assigned dot. On Runway 27—the most used arrival runway during the show—the green dot is about 2,600 feet beyond the threshold which is itself displaced. That’s a lot of pavement to hover over on your way to the green dot.

When the long landings don’t work out well it’s usually because the pilot gets too slow while holding the airplane in the air. The inevitable stall and drop leads to a big bounce which can be very demanding to handle, especially in taildraggers. The worst drop- in I have seen in several years was an A36 Bonanza that was hovering about 10 feet in the air on the way to a dot when the airplane stalled and fell hard enough to blow a main gear tire on impact.

So, before heading for Oshkosh I think it’s a good idea to fly to an airport with a long runway and practice landing on a designated spot halfway or more down the pavement. Then if you draw the long landing assignment from Oshkosh controllers you’re ready. You know what it looks and feels like to fly over thousands of feet of pavement before touchdown. And a good landing is the best way to start your trip to AirVenture.

Follow this link to see videos on arrival procedures at Oshksosh:

See you in Oshkosh.

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17 Responses to Landing On The Dot At Oshkosh

  1. steve carter says:

    I won’t be attending OSH this year due to the EAA paying extortion money to FAA however I did hear there will be some Asiana airlines arriving. Should be interesting.

    • Jeff Boatright says:

      Pretty pathetic that you’re making jokes about the deaths of three teenaged girls just to score some imaginary points in the axe grinding competition.

      But thanks for letting us know that you won’t be at Oshkosh. The event will be just that little bit more enjoyable for the rest of us.

      • Bryan says:

        What Jeff said. I generally want to promote the “biggest tent” possible for the aviation community. However, I’d really rather GA were not associated with individuals that would make a remark like that.

  2. Roger Halstead says:

    The arrival procedure for Oshkosh is about the best example I can think of for not always flying a stabilized pattern. They are telling you how fast to fly, when to turn, where to put the gear down and *WHERE* to land which may be one of three spots on the runway. If they say to set down on the dot, they mean “on the dot”, not 200 or 300 feet before or after. When they tell you to turn base now they don’t mean like the Blue Bonanza that went clear to the lake. I and many others will always remember the controller’s voice saying “Awwwhhh Don’t go clear to the lake!” I don’t know who he was, but I’m sure he was flying a Blue Bonanza<:-))

    • Greg Burneske says:

      I have flown the Ripon Fisk approach at least fifteen times. The biggest mistake I see people make is not holding 90 kts. I have caught up to airplanes and have been passed (very near to the airport too) by airplanes that should be able to easily fly 90 kts. My theory is that people are flying 90 kts ground speed per their GPS instead of the required 90 kts IAS specified in the NOTAM.

  3. SkyGuy says:

    Saw a cash several year go at AirVenture
    Pilot tried to level off at 30′ and stalled.
    We all shouted, he needed to add power…..but crash.
    The wingtip dug in and he spun around.

    Saw another several years later….the pilot tried to get to the numbers…..but stalled and flipped.

  4. George Willenbrock says:

    Nice Map! Good to see North is LEFT, just like in school….and, any chance of dots, and numbered arrows illustrating the points in the text?
    My GPS doesn’t have the dots – what will I do, what will I do?

  5. Lee Moore says:

    Another thing to remember is that you have to stay directly over the railroad tracks between Ripon and Fiske. A lot of guys put the two waypoints into the GPS and think it’s okay to follow GPS guidance. It is not. The GPS course does not account for a slight southerly bend in the tracks and will cause you to be north of the tracks, which will elicit a “follow the tracks!” command from ATC. I strongly recommend forgetting the GPS and keeping your head up and eyes outside where they belong. I am not sure this is what folks are doing, but it seems plausible since every year when I hear that command, it is somebody who has drifted north of the tracks.

  6. Art Gentry says:

    Having flown both the Fisk arrival and mass arrivals several times, best advice I can give is, once you hit Fisk, turn off the GPS, turn on every light you have, get your eyes out of the cockpit (except for occasional panel scans), LISTEN, don’t speak unless they ask you too or safety demands, and do what they tell you, when they tell you. And last but not least, watch out for the inevitable guy that doesn’t do any of the above. Every year I see someone who’s either not up to snuff, thinks the rules don’t apply to him or thinks he knows better than everyone else

  7. Garry Edson says:

    Flown this approch many times over the years. Not very difficult if you stay praticed at basic flying skills. But, also you need to remember you have final say as to how the aircraft is handled and when you can or can’t compliy with ATC. Safety is the most important issue not the dots.

    • Ken says:

      Good points Gary. Landing precisely on a dot is not that important. There is more room than that. 100′ either side and you will be OK. Crash trying to plant it exactly on the dot and you will not be OK!

  8. JJ says:

    Also watch out for the possibility of having to make a downwind landing. Worse, a quartering tailwind. If the wind switches, it can take a long time for Oshkosh to “turn the pattern around”. The classic scenario is, landings are on 36 then the wind comes up strong out of the west-southwest (common at OSH). You have hundreds of stressed-out amateur pilots all bunched up together, many coming in way too fast to begin with, trying to man-handle a downwind landing and “hit a dot”. It can get ugly.

  9. Eck! says:

    Been there did that.

    Doing it in a C150 was more of a challenge as 90kts is near fire walled!
    We cheated a bit by being at the upper altitude limit at fiske and descending
    very slowly for air speed. with two pilots about and a well memorized approach
    (and a copy of the relevant part of the text on board!) we were told
    middle main runway and proceeded to do that exactly.

    The other skill is nearly formation flying. For some its very disconcerting with
    planes close and all around. You do have to both trust, be observant and listen

    Had a blast doing it.


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