It was the afternoon of Monday, July 25, 2016, and the first day of the AirVenture Oshkosh air show. Having just arrived, my husband and I hustled our way closer to flight line to watch a massive red-and-white Martin JRM Mars water bomber line up for a low pass. As the last one of its type still flying, the “Hawaii Mars II” was used to fight fires in Canada, and before that, served as a Navy long-range patrol aircraft.
With its four massive Wright Cyclone 2,500-hp radial engines roaring, the Martin Mars lumbered along a few hundred feet over the field, so large that it seemed suspended. As the plane approached midfield, the pilot released 7,200 gallons of Lake Winnebago water on Runway 36, creating a dramatic white curtain of spray across the sky. After watching the spectacle with mouths agape, we turned to each other said the three words thousands of other AirVenture attendees have uttered for decades:
“Only at Oshkosh.”
Whether it’s your first trip or your 25th, AirVenture 2017 promises to offer something that you have never seen before. In some cases, you may never again. Here’s a few Oshkosh “specials,” that you’ll surely want to see:
- The Blue Angels. ‘Nuff said.
- FIFI and Doc flying together. As the only two B-29’s still flyable, a flight of two B-29s hasn’t happened for decades. Other big bombers will be there as well, including more than a dozen B-25’s, a B-52 Stratofortress and B-1 Lancer.
- The lone remaining veteran of the famed Doolittle Raiders present to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the daring WWII mission. On the evening of July 26, 101-year-old Dick Cole, who was co-pilot for Lt. Col. James Doolittle in the lead aircraft, will be honored.
- A field of yellow Piper J-3 Cubs in celebration of the type’s 80th anniversary. Nearly 100 will arrive en masse Sunday, July 23.
- C-123 Thunder Pig, one of the few remaining, only one flying and an unsung hero of the Vietnam War.
- We’ve all seen plenty of Cessna 172s (more than 40,000 were built). But the very first one, Serial No. 1, has been newly restored and will be on display.
- Space heroes from the Apollo program, including Buzz Aldrin, Jack Schmitt, Frank Borman, Walt Cunningham, Fred Haise, Jim Lovell and Al Worden. All will attend an Apollo reunion Friday, July 28, at Theater in the Woods.
- The only flying Douglass A-20 Havoc. More than 7,000 of the twin-engine light bomber were built, but only a few survive.
- 10th anniversary of WomenVenture. The goal with the first event was to take a photo of the world’s largest gathering of female pilots. This year, in addition to the photo, EAA will host the first WomenVenture Social Monday, July 24, where attendees can meet and network with like-minded women.
- Less traditional forms of aviation at Twilight Fest. On Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday evenings, you can watch STOL flying, a variety of fixed-wing ultralights, gyroplanes and RC planes. It all takes place at the Fun Fly Zone.
- Barenaked Ladies. We’re talking about the band, which will perform at the opening night concert.
As my husband and I approach our 25th anniversary of attending Oshkosh, it’s fun to reflect on the many adventures and trips “behind the cheddar curtain” to attend the greatest air show on earth. We’ve made the trip in a number of different aircraft over the years; once I even caught a ride home in a Beech Starship. We’ve collected many funny stories and memories of things we saw and did at Oshkosh. But more than anything, it’s a warm, wonderful place where we can join up with our aviator friends, find a cold drink and take up right where we left off.
Those moments truly are “only at Oshkosh.”