September 24, 2013
by Tori Williams
September 24, 2013
August 2, 2013
I am sad to report that today, August 1st, marks our last day at AirVenture. It has been one wild ride, that’s for sure. I have heard stories since before I started flying about EAA’s “best week of the year,” but no description does justice to this event. The sheer mass of the grounds, the variety of aircraft to be seen, and the continuous stream of events contribute to an impossibility of seeing everything. Over the previous three days that we were here, I felt a subtle pressure to do and see as much as I could. Today was a little more relaxed, and I let myself wander and enjoy what opportunities presented themselves to me.
The first couple hours of the day I went to work, passing out flyers and answering questions about the Institute. Many people expressed their excitement about a high school aviation program, and wished me luck in my studies. A common response was “I wish they had this when I was in school!” Lunch time rolled around so I grabbed mozzarella sticks from the international café, found a tree with some shade and watched the planes go by. I knew this was my last chance to take everything in, so I headed to the ramp to look at the various WWII planes.
The fascinating history and amazing stories surrounding these planes never cease to amaze me, so I decided to go and take a look around inside the B-17. I have never been inside one before, and I was surprised at how small and tight of a space it really is. Walking across the bomb bay was a bit of a challenge, with it being such a narrow walkway. With my 5’5” self, it was interesting to imagine the full-grown men on the crew skillfully navigating throughout the inside. After this little peek into history, I got a better look at the P-51 and Caribou. The air show was about to start, and I was in a great location to head on over to the flight line and get a view of the pilots heading to the taxiway.
The theme of today’s show seemed to be female pilots, with a starting lineup of Patty Wagstaff, Teresa Stokes, and Julie Clark. All of these performers were amazing, but I felt a special connection with Julie Clark. I had the opportunity to meet and have brunch with her about a month ago, an event hosted by the Kentucky Bluegrass 99s. It’s always nice meeting women who fly, and Julie Clark is a wonderful woman. I did not have a chance to talk to her again today, but hopefully our paths will cross again soon.
During the air show I saw Chesley “Sully” Sullenberger about 10 feet in front of me, getting out of an amphibian aircraft. Sully famously landed an airliner on the Hudson River after a bird strike put out both engines. A Harrier flew around the airport, and came to a hover in front of the flight line. It was incredible. The things that you can see at AirVenture are new and exciting every day. The rest of my day was just a relaxing stroll through the fields of aircraft, stopping by a couple planes that peaked my interest and talking to the pilots. It has been a wonderful year at AirVenture 2013, and I cannot wait for next year. I want to give many thanks and much appreciation to The Institute for Aerospace Education for sponsoring me to visit this wonderful place.
August 1, 2013
As I come to the end of my third day here, I can’t help but feel pleasantly overwhelmed with all of the new experiences that I have had. There is so much to see and do here. My day started off with a bus trip over to the seaplane base at lake Winnebago. Serene waters supported the beautiful seaplanes that were scattered about not too far from the dock. Picnic tables lined the shores, welcoming guests to sit and watch for a while. I had the chance to see a couple water takeoffs and landings. Larry Mooney, a pilot and master mechanic for the institute, talked me through the exact processes happening for a seaplane to work. I have decided to get my seaplane rating soon after I am licensed.
Next on our agenda was a visit to Pioneer Airport, another short bus trip away. Hangars lined the grass runway, filled with even more historic planes. It was nice to tour around reading the placards that explained their stories. At this airport was another KidVenture setup, having a number of booths set up to teach children various aviation-related activities. I learned how to change out the brake pad in an airplane, and got an overview of the mechanical workings of turbine engines.
Soon after this, I got a text from a woman who is a member of my Kentucky Bluegrass chapter of the Ninety-Nines. The Ninety-Nines is an international organization of women pilots started by Amelia Earhart. They are very proactive in education, support, and companionship amongst women pilots. It has been a blessing for me as a student pilot to be an associate member of this organization. This wonderful lady, Erin Thompson, messaged me to let me know that she was here and wanted to meet up. We had a good chat, sharing our experiences from the week and locations of uniquely painted planes. She directed me towards the pink panther plane, one that she insisted I could not miss. After a little searching I found that she was completely correct.
I was now on my own again, moving with the crowds to see where my free time of the day might take me. The sun had begun to peek from behind the overcast clouds, and I decided to travel back to the exhibit hangars to escape sunburn. Prior to my arrival at AirVenture, I had read through the 26 page list of 2013 exhibitors. It is always amazing to me just how many different companies and products have innovative uses in the world of aviation. From advanced electronic systems to inflight headphones for your dog, missionary pilot organizations to enthusiastic flight colleges, almost anything you could think of is represented. Half the fun of AirVenture is talking to the passionate owners and operators of these booths about how their products, services, or organizations are making general aviation better for current and future pilots.
It was getting close to dinner time, and the five of us gathered back in the camper. We had been invited to a dinner hosted by the Flabob airport in California, so we traveled to the Whittman terminal building to meet up with their wonderful group. Spirits were high as attendees chit chatted about their various projects and recent life events they had experienced. I had the pleasure of meeting a lot of very interesting people. One of these people happened to be retired Major General Patrick J. Halloran. Amongst a plethora of other achievements, he has flown over 600 hours in various SR-71 Blackbirds. Both 11 year old Palmer and I had our eyes wide in amazement at the facts he told us about the Blackbird. Faster than a speeding bullet, cruising at an altitude of over 80,000 feet, moving so quickly that it expands out filling all possible gaps in the airframe. We left dinner feeling star-struck and in awe of the powerful SR-71.
The day came to a close with a beautiful nighttime air show. Various airplanes, powered gliders, and helicopters dazzled the audience with thousands of fireworks and lights shining down. The grace and wonder that surrounds general aviation was highlighted by the great show and music. I truly believe that everyone, not just aviation enthusiasts, needs to visit AirVenture at least once in their lifetime. There is no substitute for the things I have learned and experienced during these three days.
July 31, 2013
Day two of the AirVenture experience started out with some delicious eggs, bacon, and toast, courtesy of our own Jim Cline. With our stomachs comfortably full, we walked a short way over to the EAA Museum for some air-conditioned exploration. Hundreds of AirVenture guests had a similar agenda, but the building felt in no way crowded. This spacious museum offers a unique way to view their hundreds of aircraft, with a ground level and second viewing level higher up. It was great fun seeing the aircraft from up above, then going down closer to see the true scale and details.
Two exhibits that really stuck out to me were the ones dedicated to the Voyager, and the KidVenture section. Seeing inside a replica fuselage of the Voyager really put into perspective the physical and mental challenges of the 9 day continuous flight around the world. The dedication and enthusiasm of the engineers, pilots, and EAA community could be felt through the stories told along the walls of the exhibit. Nearly 27 years after the flight successfully landed, the “last first of aviation” is still inspiring a new generation of innovators. I am looking forward to an opportunity to meet one of the pilots, Dick Rutan, tomorrow afternoon.
Moving upstairs and though a futuristic looking “authorized personnel only” doorway, you reach the Kid Venture section of the museum. I was excitedly ushered straight to this spot by 11 year old Palmer Collett, who has previously visited two years in a row. Immediately inside was a full-scale F-22 Raptor, complete with access to the cockpit. Lining the walls were various kid-oriented activity stations, meant to demonstrate the advanced technology used in the F-22. Past this fascinating room, we reached a larger room dedicated to various simulators. There were several airplane, hot air balloon, hang glider, and RC simulators.
At KidVenture there was also a mock control tower, filled with some very cool points of interest. Visitors could listen to real-time ATIS information, watch helicopters take off, learn about how to understand ATC instructions, and take a look around with binoculars. Although most of this was geared towards educating children, I found myself learning new things as well. A large portion of my day was spent exploring and interacting with these spectacular exhibits. I hope to visit this museum again in the future.
Today mostly revolved around learning more of the rich history of aviation. So many captivating stories and legends have come from the human desire to reach the skies. Museums devoted to preserving this history are such a delight to visit. The EAA Museum in Oshkosh is now definitely in my top five favorite places. The day ended again with a wonderful air show, and I leave you with the words of Voyager pilot Dick Rutan, “adventure is the essence of life.”
July 30, 2013
You could feel the excitement in the air as thousands of people anxiously awaited the first official day of AirVenture 2013. Five of these eager attendees traveled from Frankfort, Kentucky, particularly excited about the many opportunities that would be presented for networking and talking to people about The Institute for Aerospace Education. AirVenture is known as the world’s greatest aviation celebration, making it the perfect place for sharing inspiring milestones and triumphs the Institute has seen. As the main gates opened, the group also saw many gates of opportunity open.
I am Tori Williams, a current student of the Institute. As I enter my senior year, I celebrate a recent solo and successful 80 NM cross country flight. A decision was made this year to only allow adults and seniors acting as staff to attend. I was given the chance of a lifetime to work closely in promoting the institute, while simultaneously experiencing my first year of AirVenture.
For those readers who do not know about the Institute of Aerospace Education, we are a non-profit organization dedicated to increasing aerospace education for high school students. Our mission is to improve science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) learning through the context of aerospace. Students become thoroughly prepared for the career path they choose such as… flight/aeronautics, space systems, engineering, aircraft maintenance, aeronautical engineering, aviation management and operations, and Air Traffic Control.
Having this initiative, it is essential to network with other schools, pilots, aviation communities and businesses. AirVenture is notoriously the largest meeting of aviation enthusiasts in the world, a heaven of helpful and passionate people. The five of us attending this year were up and prepared to promote the Institute as early as 2 hours before opening time. I am not a morning person, but the distant hum of thousands of aircraft gave me an awakening adrenaline rush.
Because this is my first AirVenture, I was not quite sure what to expect. Many people had given me a rough idea, describing it with such words as massive, unforgettable, amazing, and overwhelming. I must say I found all of these to be great descriptors. The airport is so large, it appears to go on forever. Rows and rows of unique and beautiful aircraft can be seen from almost any spot. People from all walks of life gather to share stores and admire the pure wonder that is at the heart of aviation. I spent every moment in awe, constantly finding new and fascinating places and things to take in.
Despite it being just the first day, I have already explored the 4 massive exhibit hangars. I had the opportunity to speak with the president of the Ninety-Nines, meet the Lieutenant Governor of Wisconsin, buy some unique and beautiful airplane jewelry, and watch an amazing airshow. If the great events of the day were indicators of how the rest of this week will be, I know this will become one of the best weeks of my life. AirVenture is more than I ever imagined it would be, and I cannot wait for some more exploration tomorrow.