Last week our Flight Instructor Nicole and Zero to Jet Student Chase checked off one of their top bucket list items. They wanted to fly across the entire country in a small airplane to Oshkosh! For most pilots, flying into Oshkosh is considered a rite of passage, something you must do at some point in your life. So, when Chase told Nicole he wanted to build time, they thought what better way than to fly across the country?
Follow along with Nicole and Chase’s Oshkosh journey below.
Cross Country Flight:
We started our adventure on Tuesday at 7:30 AM, strategically loading the 172 to make sure that we were within our weight and balance CG. With the plane packed and ready to go we started off on our first leg to Georgia. This leg was about three and a half hours and pretty uneventful. We filed an instrument flight plan and spent time in and out of the clouds until arriving in Claxton, GA. After refueling and making some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches on the cowling of the plane, we continued on for our first little bit of mountain flying. We flew over the Smoky Mountains and made our way to Livingston, TN for the next fuel stop. Nestled in the hills of Tennessee is a small airstrip with a VOR approach. We shot the approach through the valley and landed on a runway that seemed to just drop off into the abyss. But our next leg got interesting, we started off VFR until we were stuck above a thick overcast layer. We picked up a pop-up instrument flight plan and then spent three hours in and out of the soup. Chase was a rockstar, he handled the clouds like an autopilot! It is rare for an instrument student to experience so much actual instrument time. We were hoping to fly the visual but didn’t break out of the clouds until the final approach fix (FAF) at Kentland, IN and it was a relief to see the ground again! Kentland was our final fuel stop for the night before carrying on through the Chicago class Bravo. At this point, it was getting late, so flying by the city lights was a nice treat, a wonderful way to end our day. We spent the night just north of Chicago and got going early the next morning for our last and final leg into Oshkosh.
We flew the VFR Fisk arrival - The Oshkosh fly-in is unlike any other arrival, 50 miles out you will start hearing ATC calling out airplanes by type and color asking them to rock their wings. We joined in single file and followed the planes ahead of us, and with a mere half a mile separation between aircraft, we kept our heads on a swivel until we were safely on the ground. The controller called us as we were half a mile from crossing Fisk and asked us to rock our wings and then continued following the railroad tracks until entering the right downwind for 27. This is where everything went nuts! In sequence, we followed the plane in front of us and were told to land on the green dot. There are multiple dots on the runway and the tower assigns you a dot to land on. Unfortunately, the plane ahead of us landed long and was still on the runway where we planned to be wheels down. So, tower quickly instructed us to “keep it in the air, fly right over him,” this went against every bone in my instructor body, but worked out perfectly. We flew a few feet over the other airplane, and Chase still nailed our green dot. From here we were instructed off the runway and guided to aircraft camping.
After pushing back and tying down we set up our tents, mingled with our neighbors, and walked over to the main gates. It was an aviator's heaven, with thousands of airplanes everywhere. We spent the first half of the day admiring all the vintage show planes, exploring the vendors, and somehow ending up on the VIP list at the Cirrus booth. This was by far our favorite place to decompress during the day. Cirrus had a rooftop owners' lounge set up so you could relax in the shade without missing any of the action of Oshkosh. They also had their own air-conditioned lounge with snacks and drinks and an immersive customizable Cirrus aircraft experience! I designed my very own Vision jet, which I will purchase as soon as I win the lottery!
After that, we found front-row seats to watch the world-famous airshow. Here we witnessed the best of the best perform unbelievable stunts and maneuvers. From vintage Warbird formation flights to the RedBull Airforce team, we saw it all.
Once the airshow ended, we made the trek back to our campsite and freshened up for the evening. Then fireworks and airplanes lit up the sky as we watched the beginning of the evening airshow from our campsite. The night show was by far the best event, it had the same excitement as the daytime show except now the airplanes were outfitted with LED lights, and some even launched fireworks from their wing tips! Talk about ending with a bang!