EAA Airventure Day 1

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July 23rd 2012
Published: August 1st 2012
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Dy 1 at EAA Airventure 2012 started off screaming; with Phil making everyone aware that he is awake and ready to start his day.

I had a nice breakfast of toast and two bagels with peanut butter, and a nice cup of tea.

I walked to the main gate and got there at about 6AM, when the gates open, and was informed that online ticket redeemkng was only opening at 7. I thought that this might have been a bit earlier, as even the people who hadnt bought tickets could get theirs by 6.30. It sounds like I'm moaning; I'm not.

At the entrance stood a a stunning Cessna Grand Caravan Floatplane, done up with camouflage stripes; that is the aircraft you need.

A long walk to the warbirds area was rewarded with the sight of at least 8 P-51's,4 P-40's, numerous AT-6 "Harvards", T-28's, T-34's; it was a humbling experience, comparable to none. There were also B-25s, and the lone P-38 "Lightning" Glacier Girl that was recovered from under 265 feet of ice; an incredible story.

On a side note, on the walk up I was passed by a procession of Ford cars; Mustangs, Shelby GT, etc, If i was interested in cars, that would have been an amazing procession to see.

The replica warbirds were also in full force with some clipped wing Mustangs showing up. The C-46 Tinker Bell was also standing on the grass, looking well.

The jets were represented by about 6 L-39s, an F86 Sabre, a Mig-21, F-4 Phantom, and too many other types to mention; This is the only place in the world where you can see these planes together in these numbers.

I walked back to Phillips 66 Plaza and ate a large breakfast consisting of potatoes, bacon, egg, tomato and more for a reasonably low price. I have switched to Dollars in my mind, and am refusing to convert. This place is awesome.

The temperature reached a peak of about 41 C today, so it was an absolutely sweatingly good day. Everyone was suffering.

The next step on my trip was to be one of the most memorable; a tick off the bucket list. I walked to the Commerative Airforce Tent and did my registration for my Flight in the Boeing B-29 "FiFi". They informed me to be back at the stall at 11.30' so I decided to walk around for a little while.

In my brief walk around, the Orbis flying eye hospital DC-10 arrived; doing a beautiful flyby and textbook landing. The size of that machine as it taxied past, the wings almost casting shade over my head; it was massive.

So my walk around was done, and I went back to the CAF stall. We got on a bus and took a 30 minute ride to Appleton. On the journey, it was interesting to learn a few things about the P-51 from another enthusiast on the bus; the initial A model had an Allison engine in, whilst the rest of the models had. Rolls Royce Packard Merlin engine in. This was not the standard Merlin, it was modified by the USAF and the modifications given to the British free of charge. The Americans are very quick to state that this aircraft is more American than anything else. Their patriotism is inspiring, to a certain point; then its not anymore.

We also got a talk on the bus about the History of FiFi and the CAF, and also a safety briefing about the flight.

It is so difficult to describe what I saw, what I thought when I saw, and what I experienced in flight, of the B-29.

Driving up to Appleton, I first saw her from behind, parked alongside a B17. This gave such a great comparison of the size of the two aircraft.

Fifi is smaller than I expected, but still a massive aircraft. Pulling up alongside her, I took a lot of photos and just enjoyed being near to the aircraft that started my love for aviation.

We had a crew brieifing, and then it was time to board. Being the bombardier for the flight, I entered the aircraft first through the nose wheel bay, The first thing I noticed once up the ladder was the immense heat inside. I carefully wound my way around the instrument panel and down onto the bombardiers platform. The cushion on the seat provided some protection from the hot metal all around me.

Looking around I saw all the bomb control switches, various instruments, and the famous Norden Bombsight. None of the equipment works anymore, but it was great to see.

I strapped myself in and prepared for the flight. The flight engineer started the huge engines one at a time, and gave each one a run up to get it running smoothly. The sound was indescribable; the true definition of music to the ears.

The two outboard engines were shutdown, and the aircraft taxied to the holding point. This short distance in itself was an experience, seeing the ground move beneath my feet, through the iconic window of the B-29.

At the holding point, the outboard engines were restarted, and we taxied onto the runway. After a 20 second hold at full power, the nose jumped up and we started rolling forward. The increase in velocity was huge. Having watched the B-29 on numerous clips and videos, I didnt expect it to be that fast on the ground; this is most likely due to her size that she seems slow on a video.

The wheels left the ground, and we climbed to 3000 ft. The view from the nose was absolutely amazing, and humbling. To think that so many men flew in these aircraft over Japan, Flak bursting in front of them, but still they sat with their eyes glued to their sights. What truly drove the nail home was the thought that I was sitting where the bombardier of the Enola Gay sat in 1945 when he flicked the small, insignificant seeming, red toggle switch to my left. The atomic bomb then destoyed the city of Hiroshima.

A truly sobering moment, but one of immense satisfaction in knowing that I was flying within history herself.

The flight took us over Wittmann Regional Airport, where Airventure is held, and the sight of all the aircraft on the ground was mind numbing. Te sea of yellow Piper Cubs was like nothing I have ever seen before. Such a large gathering of aircraft does not happen anywhe else in the world.

We then did a few turns of Lake Winnebago, and then back over Airventure, and then back to Appleton. The approach into Appleton was at a high speed, and with a really high throttle setting. The landing was a bit, with the pilot applying too little rudder to compensate for the cross wind approach. The squeal of the rubber on the tarmac and the long run out ended the flight.

We taxied back to out parking bay on the apron, and the engines were shutdown. I was the last one to leave the cockpit. This was one of the biggest ticks that I will ever have to put on my bucket list. The feelings I felt, and the thoughts I thought, only I will ever know; but that is, after all, all thats important. A wise man once told me to not waste my time trying to get the perfect photograph, but to remember things with my eyes, and how they made me feel. That has truly been something I have strived for this trip.

The bus dropped us off at Oshkosh just in time for the afternoon Airshow. It startd with a massive showcase of warbirds. Huge formations of T-6s, T-28s, and Red Star aircraft.

The announcer wanted to make it clear that the pilots flying the Ex-USSR aircraft were in fact true patriots, showing off their trophies from the Cold War. The announcer kept emphasising the fact that the USA won the war? Was there a winner and a loser?

The airshow started with the Liberty Parachute team coming down out of the sky, with a huge American flag they call Mega Glory (Imagine that being said in a broad southern accent). The national anthem was also sung.

Team Aeroshell we the first display of the day. They really are good, but I cant say they were anything mroe spectacular than the Equus Flying Lions in South Africa; we have some serious talent in that team. The sound of the AT-6 propellor tip breaking the siund barrier as it comes past is always such a welcome sound.

What followed next was a mock display of an old man getting into a Piper Cub for his first flying lesson, which turned out to be a solo flight after he taxiied away from the instructor. Obviously it was staged, but that pilot could fly; dragging wingtips on the runway, stalling on takeoff, hard landings, it was really entertaining.

The next display was of P-51C, the razorback P-51 flown by the Tuskegee Airmen. The sound of the Rolls Royce Packard Merlin was beautiful.

The next display was of a twin engined Rockwell Shrike Commander. The pilot did a few rolls and loops in this stock aircraft, and then proceeded to do a loop with both engines off, then a roll, and then turned base and final and landed, engines still off. He taxiied all the way to his parking spot on that initial energy, that was crazy.

The most impressive act of the day was the one that I anticipated would be the most boring. Team RV is a group of 11 homebuilt Vans RV aircraft, and man, can they fly. It was a lot of formation flying and aerobatics, but for such a large group of aircraft to be so coordinated was incredible.

After the show we had an braai back at the camp. We braaied our own steaks, and had a filling meal. I took some time to download my photos from the day, and then went to bed.


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