Skirting Chicago on the east side, private planes often fly just over the water around 1,000-1,500 feet AGL in the VFR flyway to view the Chicago skyline. This was today’s plan. A group of us from Knoxville had joined up at the Lansing Municipal Airport in Illinois and were going to attempt a formation flight through the flyway on the way up to the annual Oshkosh airshow in Wisconsin. Sammy Jones, owner/operator of Meadowlake Airpark here in Knoxville, invited us to accompany him to an airport just north of the annual Airventure show hosted by the Experimental Aircraft Association.
Our group consisted of Sammy, his wife Angie, Troupe Foden-Sparks, James and Tammy Lee, Russ Carvin, John Colton, Mike Fields, Kris and Ian Torgerson, Dan Whorten, Tommy Phelps, and Susan Pfiffner.
Attempting your first formation flight gives one a great appreciation for those who can fly literally a few feet apart with seeming ease. We never achieved a tight formation, but we did have a beautiful view of Chicago’s waterfront. We cleared the flyway and climbed up to cruise altitude and headed north.
I had no idea what to expect from this new location or the people we would meet there, but Troupe, my 15-year-old son, and I were both excited to see a new place and meet some new friends. And from what Sammy had told us, we were in for a real treat.
It doesn’t always work out like you think; sometimes it is way better. The Brennand Airport is owned by Keith and Colleen Mustain. Their two sons, Matt and David, also help around the field. Few times in my life have I been met with such incredible and sincere hospitality. We landed and taxied to our tie-down and within a few minutes it just felt like home. The airfield has both paved and grass runways and is so perfectly kept it looks like a painting. Folks like the Mustains renew my faith in the human spirit. We all gathered up in the late evening and swapped stories in front of the FBO as we watched planes come and go—camaraderie at it’s finest.
The Oshkosh Airventure airshow is always a massive event, and this year’s boosted the largest attendance ever with over 650,000 people and more than 10,000 aircraft visiting the field in just one week. That makes Oshkosh the busiest airspace in the world for a few days.
If you have any interest in aviation at all this is the place to go. From warbirds of every description to the most modern of hover craft, it is all there. You can see almost any type of aircraft ever made, take classes, attend seminars, and of course watch the fabulous aerobatic performances.
Also, if you have the opportunity to visit Airventure next year I highly recommend making your way to the museum. There is more aviation history in that building than literally anywhere on Earth. It is a delight to behold.
One of my favorite parts of the airshow is getting to see the man who taught me to fly—none other than Skip Stewart with his beautiful Pitts Bi-plane, Prometheus. This is one all muscle bi-plane, and Skip’s routine is a high energy, close to the ground thunderbolt of a show.
While sitting waiting to watch Skip fly, his wife Cari asked if I could help out and that is how I found myself on the runway during the Oshkosh Airshow. Talk about front row seats. When Skip comes by full speed just a few feet off the ground, it is absolutely amazing.
Aviation remains the safest, most fun way to travel, but be warned—you might catch the bug and become an enthusiast like me.