Sunday, May 29, 2016

Oshkosh - Dayton for Aviation

For only the second time since 2001, I didn't attend the Dayton Hamvention this year.  Unlike the first time I missed, when I almost immediately regretted not being there, this time I was at peace with my decision.  There are several reasons for this, but the most important one is that I plan to attend the EAA Airventure instead.

Better known to aircraft enthusiasts simply as Oshkosh, much as Hamvention is better known to radio enthusiasts simply as Dayton, the EAA Airventure is the premier event of its kind in the United States.  Pilots fly their private planes into Oshkosh from all over and, for one week in July, Wittman Regional Airport is transformed into the busiest airport in the world.

Oshkosh is a city on the shore of Lake Winnebago in Wisconsin, about a two hour drive from my home near Janesville.  Home to the University of Wisconsin - Oshkosh, its population is less than half of Dayton's.  One significant difference is the quality of the facilities where each event is held.  Wittman Regional Airport is a nicely maintained facility and Hara Arena is, well, Hara Arena.  I know that much of the Dayton experience is trying to avoid breaking an ankle in the potholes in the flea market and surviving a visit to the restroom, but I've always thought how unfortunate it is that ham radio's premier event is held in perhaps the worst facility I've ever visited.

I first attended Oshkosh a couple of years ago with my XYL as part of a daylong bus trip.  We only spent about 6 hours there but I was hooked!  Row after row of every type of plane imaginable, from warbirds to homebuilt experimentals and everything in between.  There's a seaplane base on the lake and a radio controlled aircraft facility.  Forums and hands-on classes on everything imaginable that one might need to know to build or maintain an airplane.  Throw in a daily air show and an excellent aviation museum and, as you can imagine, I only scratched the surface of things to see and do.  I knew I needed to go back and seriously attend before retiring and moving to Tennessee.

So, I'm trading Dayton for Oshkosh this year and I'm very pleased with that decision.  And I'll even try to mix in a little ham radio while I'm there.  I'll be packing a 40m RockMite given to me by my good friend Dave N9GQ and I'll see if I can throw a wire up in a tree and make a contact or two.  I'll be back to Dayton again in the future, trying once again to avoid the perils of Hara Arena, but this year it's Oshkosh instead and I couldn't be more excited.