Day #6: Last Call for Fun at AirVenture 2016

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SITES AT THE SEAPLANE BASE

Come see what I saw on our last day at AirVenture 2016.  We checked out of our delightful B & B and headed a few miles down the road to the Seaplane Base.  People from all over the world visited the site and marked their hometowns on the map below.

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We found the Seaplane Base to be an idyllic location, one that you could fly to and then camp at if you wanted. Many people took that option, but what was the big draw this year?  What attracted so many, from so far away?

THE MARTIN MARS

Answer:  The Monster of All Flying Boats–The Mighty Martin Mars!  This behemoth, owned by the Coulson Group, is the world’s largest flying boat to be flown operationally. This aircraft, one of five built at the end of the World War II, first served as a troop transport by the U.S. Navy for several years. One of the aircraft was destroyed in a fire, and the other four were then sold in 1959 to a British Columbia forest consortium and converted to fire tankers. Two out of the original four planes had long stints fighting forest fires. The other two had accidents that permanently grounded them.

PRIVATE COLLECTOR KERMIN WEEKS

Kermit Weeks, the owner of Fantasy of Flight Museum in Florida and the largest private collector of aircraft in the world, was part of the crew flying the Martin Mars from Vancouver Island to Oshkosh’s Lake Winnebago.  Weeks felt that the aircraft is so special that he told the local news station that he “. . . believe(d) I’m being part of history” especially since he had his “doubts on whether the airplane will continue flying.” Weeks put his money where his heart is because the local news also reported that he bought his seat on the flight deck by paying the $40,000 fuel bill for the eight-hour flight. Like Weeks, Martin Mars fans came great distances to view this massive machine.

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PROBLEM ON THE LAKE

Some flew close to the aircraft to get an up close and personal view, while others on the shore were artistically inspired. We all looked forward to the promised tours of this historical flying boat.  One problem: Where were the boats taking fans out to the Martin Mars?

Oops! The flight crew had an engine issue when taking off on the lake. They made a cautionary landing in shallow water, which poked a hole in the hull.  No tours today!

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HANDSOME IS IN THE EYE OF THE BEHOLDER

We then found other things to do.  My favorite was the meet and greet session with the  pilots from the Canadian Geese Flying Team. These handsome guys were straight out of central casting:  drop-your-jaw gorgeous.  (Or maybe I was just tired of looking at airplanes all week!)  My husband obviously didn’t share my sentiments about needing a change of scenery because here he is admiring a Searey.

HUMOR AT THE BASE

We noticed we had other options for entertainment too as we strolled by “Naka Beach.” Everyone else strolled on by too, so nothing scandalous to report here.

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I will report that seaplane pilots obviously have a sense of humor.

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WHICH WAY TO GO?

Our time is finished at AirVenture 2016, and in case we hadn’t gotten our aviation fix, the sign post below points to other aviation sites to explore.  We are sated, so we don’t take a detour.  Instead, we are off to Milwaukee to catch our flight home.  We had a fun time playing with airplanes, but that fact didn’t hold true for the trip home. We got stuck in Atlanta overnight, but I am not going to share those details. Why end a happy story with a horrific conclusion?

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EAA AirVenture 2017: Fly with Me to the Happiest Place on Earth

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Members of the Young Eagles program salute the Honda Jet at EAA AirVenture 2015

My husband and I have just flown in to the largest gathering of airplane enthusiasts in the world: EAA AirVenture 2016 in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.  This is a place where industry icons, astronauts, military and civilian pilots, engineers, scientists, entrepreneurs, movie stars, Joe and Joy Homebuilders, and aviation lovers from here and abroad come together for a week of show and tell.

THE HAPPIEST PLACE ON EARTH

During this time, Disney World can no longer claim to be the “Happiest Place on Earth.”  AirVenture is.  I know I will be seeing three-quarters of a million people grinning, laughing, ooo-ing, and ahh-ing in an explosion of happiness.

You doubt what I say because Disney has theme characters, and AirVenture does not? While there is no Mickey here, Kermit is, Kermit Weeks, that is, whom Forbes calls the “most prolific airplane collector in the world.”  Kermit will be taking paying customers on the ultimate thrill ride: a flight in the Martin Mars, a 38-foot-high and 120-foot-long flying boat guaranteed to generate some big smiles.

Now you are thinking that Disney has princesses with special powers, and AirVenture does not.  Wrong again!  Some of the bravest princesses in the universe will be challenging the laws of gravity and thermodynamics by performing loopy looping, twisty tumbling, and tickly treetop maneuvers in their aerobatic airplanes.  Another princess wil take a wild walk on the wing of a Grumman bi-plane.  There will be a score of handsome princes flying too, some in spectacular displays of smoke and pyrotechnics. There will be no sad faces this week.

ATTRACTIONS FOR ALL

Are you still doubting the happiness factor of this event because there are not enough attractions? Consider the following:

  • 10,000 aircraft, including home builts, vintage planes including  the War Birds, sea planes, business aircraft, ultra lights, kit planes, light sport aircraft, lighter than air vehicles, drones, and experimental airplanes no one has ever seen before.  Many are on display, many are in the daily air shows, many are located at the Sea Plane base, and many are the preferred mode of travel for the attendees.  You will see fields full of general aviation aircraft with the pilots and passengers camping under the wings.
  • Two nights of corporate-sponsored fireworks displays that light up the sky in rainbow bursts, bountiful booms, and a heavenly waterfall of fire splashing on the ground below.
  • 700 exhibitors promoting products to please the most discriminating aviator. Lots of free stuff too for the swag shoppers.
  • 500 forums and seminars focusing on designing, building, and inventing the cutting edge technology of the future.
  • The EAA AirVenture Museum with over 200 historic airplanes, galleries, flight simulators, and interactive galleries for kids.
  • The Theater in the Woods and a concert series for evening entertainment.
  • Gourmet dining Wisconsin style.  Feast like the locals on sizzling brats, roasted corn, and got-to-have-them cheese curds.
  • Famous people sightings, such as Harrison Ford who will be flying the two millionth flight with the Young Eagles, a program that gives children ages 8-17 their first free ride in an airplane.

I dare you to come and experience EAA AirVenture and not find it to be the Happiest Place on Earth.  Now it is time for me to go to bed and get a good night’s rest to be ready to explore the festival tomorrow.”Good Night!” I say with a smile.