USA V – Oshkosh 2023
Once again, we visited the Mecca of aviation, the largest air show in the world, the EAA AirVenture at Wittman Regional Airport – Oshkosh.
On Friday 21 and Saturday 22 July, a group of nine aviation enthusiasts made their way from a variety of European countries and Australia heading for Chicago airport.
Once we met up, passed through customs, collected our bags and rental van for the week, we made our way to the hotel for the first night, just a short drive away south of Milwaukee. Unfortunately, our rooms weren’t ready and we were told that they wouldn’t be available for at least three hours, even though it was 19.30, so the usual 4Aviation flexibility kicked in and, after a couple of false starts, we booked an alternative hotel for the night.
Why were we here? For Airventure 2023 at Oshkosh of course; billed as the world’s biggest gathering of aircraft.
Sunday 23 July began with a full American-diner breakfast-experience followed by a quick visit to Piggy Wiggly’s for some supplies for the day. After collecting our entry wristbands we made our way into the show.
Some of the group made straight for the vintage and classic aircraft, whilst the remainder went to Warbird Alley. Some interesting aircraft were photographed but rumours of a Super Guppy and a Boeing Dreamlifter arriving meant that we moved location to the side of the main runway instead.
This proved to be a good choice as we witnessed quite a few warbirds landing along with rarities such as a C-1 Trader, T-2 Buckeye and HU-16 Albatross. F-16s and A-10s had added to the complement of modern aircraft whilst plenty of Mustangs and Corsairs increased the fun level. However all of this was eclipsed by the appearance of a Dauntless in gorgeous afternoon light. But wait, what’s that landing in the distance? Yes, it’s the Super Guppy. Cue huge smiles as it graced our camera sensors.
We had decided to have an early departure from the show today in order to settle in a relaxed manner into our hotel for the week. The friendly staff recommended an excellent restaurant for our evening meal, and with that devoured, we went to bed for a well earned night of rest.
We set off early from the hotel as we knew that Monday entry into the show is usually slow. This proved to be the case but by using shuttle buses from the car park, we were soon ahead of the crowd. Again, the group went its separate ways mainly focusing on the Boeing Plaza and vintage aircraft areas.
The Dreamlifter had arrived overnight and made for an impressive sight alongside the Super Guppy. Colourful F-16s, T-38s and a T-6 added to the modern aircraft on show in the main arena. We then explored the incredible classic and vintage aircraft areas, taking many photos of the beautifully maintained and restored airframes.
By now, the weather was getting hot and very hazy which made photography difficult, so it was time to select a spot next to the main runway and await the start of the main flying display, passing the time chatting amongst ourselves. The inevitable aerobatics acts passed slowly before the take-off of four A-10s livened up proceedings, and then came two very low passes from a Beale-based U-2.
A Super Pitts Special display preceded an airfield attack by the A-10s and a spectacular performance by the USAF F-22. By now the group were getting tired due to the high humidity, so we began heading back to our van.
A nice evening meal followed before we headed off to bed satisfied with our day out.
Again we set off early to the show on Tuesday 25 July which was fortunate as the main exit ramp off the freeway was blocked. After a brief detour, we arrived safely at the gates, more or less at the time planned.
The warbirds area was tightly packed and the many P-51s, T-6s, T-34s, T-28s plus other more individual airframes such as the P-47C provided plenty of photo opportunities for the group.
The extreme heat and humidity had continued into today, so it was a good chance to take the school bus to the EAA Seaplane Base on the shore of Lake Winnebago. The cool and relaxed atmosphere was very welcome away from the hustle and bustle of the main showground. Some wonderful images were captured before returning to the main show, immediately being treated to a MiG-23 flypast and landing.
Sitting at the crowd line, we witnessed the air display of 28 T-6s forming the number 85 in the sky commemorating the 85th anniversary of the first Texan flight. Sadly it took so long to arrange after the previous pass, it was nearly 86 by the time it reached us! Such is the often slow pace of American air shows.
P-51C Thunderbird and P-51D Quick Silver provided a brief interlude from the endless aerobatics, which were actually amazing to see, just with overly long displays.
With dark storm clouds looming, it was time to head for the hotel and a nice evening meal but not before photographing the US Navy legacy flight from the bus stop.
The weather forecast was predicting thunder, lightning and lots of rain on the morning of Wednesday 26 July in Oshkosh, so we quickly came up with an alternative plan to visit Appleton Airport to see if we could photograph B-17 Yankee Lady and B-29 Doc that were operating from there.
First though came a delicious home-made breakfast at a local restaurant. Hunting the bombers was semi-successful as we managed to picture them on the ground, but they frustratingly landed on alternative runways to where we were positioned for photos.
After dropping-off some of the group at the hotel as they didn’t want to stay late at the air show for firework night, the remainder of the group made its way back via van and trams to our chosen spot by the side of the runway, ready for some photography in beautiful post-storm clear light.
First up were four A-10s performing an airfield attack followed by aerobatics acts and Quick Silver again. This gave us the chance to update our images in better light than previous days.
Very soon it was time to go and find our preferred photo spots for the evening show, which was opened by the US Navy Legacy flight. Some impressively illuminated demonstrations followed before the main event; the fireworks and three huge walls of flame. Once they were finished, we met up and walked back to our van, thus avoiding a very long wait in line for a shuttle bus. We were quickly out of the car park and home just before midnight, well satisfied with our rearranged day.
Thursday 27 July began with a visit to the fence of Basler Aviation to see the storage area and two beautiful DC-3 turbo conversions in wonderful morning light. The group also managed to relieve the receptionist of a number of T-shirts and caps that were for sale.
After viewing more local DC-3 wrecks we made our way into the show, which today promised far more warbird flying than previous days. However, it was a frustrating few hours until the flying display began as the aircraft we wanted to photograph landed in opposite directions or took off on the other runways. We had a 100% miss rate on F-15s, the B-29, a C-130, a C-5 and the B-17. Is this possibly a new world record?
Once the many departing general aviation aircraft had left, an interesting sight in itself, the show began with six F4U Corsairs and an F-18 performing passes. Multiple L-39s and an L-29 were next giving us many ‘Kodak Moments’. All of this was before the arrival of the Polaris MiG-29, Alpha Jets and L-39s.
Then in the distance, we saw the beautiful shape of the Constellation approaching for a fast low pass before breaking to land gracefully.
Aerobatics acts and two US Navy F-35Cs kept the action going into the late afternoon. With the routine of the P-47C, the day was simply getting better and better. Gone was the haze from earlier in the week and now we had sunshine and small clouds, a perfect combination for excellent photos.
The day finished with a USAF heritage flight consisting of the F-22 and P-51, and we then made our way to a local restaurant for another excellent evening meal.
With the crowds easing on Friday 28 July, we made our way into the show in order to get those last few vital photos and to see the remaining areas that we hadn’t covered during the week.
After cruising the Boeing Plaza to get the latest additions such as the Constellation, F/A-18 VF-32 boss-bird and camouflaged T-38, rumours of a MiG-23 take off meant that we rapidly made our way to the crowd line. It proved to be well worth the effort to witness the sheer brute force of the lift off.
The air display for the day began with B-52 fly-by and various float planes performing genteel passes before our lenses, before seriously hotting up with a huge line-up of warbirds, including P-51s, B-25s, a C-1, C-47s, a Corsair and one for the Brits, an ex-RAF Tucano! These were all led off by Team Polaris in their MiG-29, Alpha Jets and L-39s.
45 minutes later came an airfield assault by the Wisconsin ANG using eight UH-60s, a KC-135 and two F-35s. The very loud and gregarious commentator made for a great spectacle in a way that only American air shows know how.
A brief interlude by aerobatics acts slowed the momentum but this was revived by a frantic US Navy F-35C display. Once this had finished, we made for our shuttle bus back to the car park and another fun meal at a local burger joint, frozen custard being the pudding of choice.
We entered the show on the morning of Saturday 29 July prior to making for our final hotel of the tour. With lots of aircraft leaving, there were opportunities to capture some images for the last time. The smaller crowds also meant that it was a good time to visit the EAA museum on site. The colourful collection of home-build and racing aeroplanes made for some interesting pictures but sadly the queue for the Bell 47 flights was still too long for many.
With the need for a long journey to our next hotel, we left the show early, thus giving us time for a good clean-up and relaxed evening meal at a local Japanese restaurant.
Sadly Sunday 30 July was our last day in the USA. We drove to the airport and handed our trusty van back to the rental company, all in good time for our flights home. After checking in, we wished each other bon voyage.
This tour had given us plenty of opportunities for photographing a huge variety of different aircraft types, and left us wanting more from the show next year. See y’all there!