Text & Photos by Budd Davisson, Exclusively for Airbum.com

AirVenture? It's Still Oshkosh to Us!


Put in simple terms: it was either raining, had just rained, or was getting ready to rain. The two most precious commodities at Oshkosh (we refuse to recognize the marketese name, AirVenture) this year were shelter and sun shine and you could pack only one of these in your travel bag.

Although the skies were consistently gray and threatening, the only people that seemed to bother were us photographers. From that point of view, Oshkosh sucked! But, it still didn't dampen the spirit of the event and didn't seem to slow down attendees. We still had a ton of airplanes, although it was hard to judge how many because of major changes in the parking areas that spread them out differently than in year's past.

We had plenty of frustrations this year, mostly having to do with weather: so many airplanes to fly and shoot, so little good weather to do it in. At the same time there were some stand out experiences and airplanes that made up for the frustrations. Among other things, we got to fly the Lionheart, composite 450 hp biplane and the Bearhawk 260 prototype.

The super-theme for the event was "Speed", which we always thought was a subtitle to most of aviation anyway. Even the low and slow guys like speed, they just like trundling along looking at the landscape more. The upside to the theme was that it was an excuse to bring together a few of the Reno guys and put them back to back with the Golden Age racers, always a worthwhile goal. The West Ramp had a couple of racing Sea Furies, Leeward's well known clipped Mustang, Cloud Dancer and Bob Odegaards truly awesome F2G Corncob Corsair.

What was much neater, however, was that a new Laird Super Solution replica was contrasted next to one of the Sea Furies.

One other stand out feature this year was probably skipped over by many of the crowd. Actually, I'll bet most missed it. There was a pair of F-4 Phantoms parked side by side, one of them in the relatively new gray scheme belonging to the last full scale Phantom operation in the US at Holloman AFB. The other one was done up in Vietnam era "Triple Nickle" squadron markings. I passed by the airplane twice thinking it was nice of the Air Force to paint one of their airplane's in the markings of their only Viet Nam ace, Steve Ritchy. Then I got to thinking, "The Air Force isn't known for this type of thing, so I'd better investigate further."

Then I saw the "N" number under the tail. THIS WAS A CIVILIAN PHANTOM! The airplane is owned and operated by the Collings Foundation, which also operates the B-17 "909" and a B-24.

What was an absolute mind blower, besides the fact that it was a civilian Phantom, was the fact that it was being flown by Gen. Steve Ritchie himself. 30 years after becoming an ace in the airplane, he's still flying them. On top of that, he stood around the airplane longer than most pilots would to answer questions and sign autographs. Very, very cool.

We were hoping to come away from Oshkosh with a ton of film to put up on Airbum, but between weather and a frantic schedule, our efforts were frustrated. Still, what we show below will give some idea of what was going on at the big show.

Next year, you'll just have to be there yourself.