Stancie and I flew into Oshkosh on Thursday, the day before the special operating procedures went into effect. Everything was totally normal. We taxied in on the pavement as usual and even had a moment to exchange pleasantries with the controllers.
It was amazing how far along preparations for the show were on Thursday. Nearly all of the tents used by exhibitors, food vendors and the many groups who meet during the show were erected. Trucks were unloading supplies and equipment everywhere. And a few display airplanes were being towed into place.
Like all big projects AirVenture was 95 percent complete on Thursday with 50 percent left to do. Even though Stancie and I have been coming to Oshkosh for 35 years I am still amazed how much gets done in the last three or four days before the show opens. No matter how much planning and preparations have been made the final assembling of the show can only be done in the last few days.
But there is one group that is always first out of the gate–pilots who want to camp in the Vintage area. On Thursday the best tie down and camping spots were already claimed. And the entire Vintage airplane camping area was filling fast.
By some combination of good planning, fast action, and even better luck, the Vintage guys have the most desirable airplane camping spot on the AirVenture grounds.
The Vintage area is tucked in south of the Theater in the Woods. And there really are woods. Trees. Something that you don’t find often on any airport for obvious reasons.
The very best Vintage parking and camping spots are nestled under, or at least very close to trees casting their shade on the fortunate who get here first. Even the center of the Vintage airplane camping area is not far from a line of trees and their welcome shade. The whole place has a homey feeling. It’s contained, fenced in if you will, by nature.
Of course the airplanes themselves are perfectly suited for such a pastoral setting. There are some true pre-war antiques among the earliest arrivals, but most airplanes are from the immediate post-war classic period.
Think back to the magazine ads Cessna, Piper, Stinson, Beech, Luscombe and others ran in those post-war years. Often as not, the airplane was pictured parked in a lush field with people enjoying a picnic, or simply sitting around their marvelous new airplane. The advertisements made clear that it was the magic of your own personal airplane that could carry you to such a place.
It is the very setting of those advertisements that the Vintage airplane camping area recreates. The airplanes and their owners in Vintage airplane camping are transported back to when both were young and to when being able to fly your own airplane was a new experience for so many.
So if you want to know who gets to Oshkosh first stroll through the Vintage airplane camping area. One look and you will understand why the grassy meadow reserved for antique and classic airplanes fills up first.