EAA Oshkosh 2012: The good, the airsick, the awesome

They say there’s a first time for everything. And apparently–unfortunately–that includes throwing up in an airplane.

With give or take 150 hours as Mr. T’s passenger in various light aircraft and hundreds of commercial flight hours, I look upon airsick bags with some disdain. Although I get queased from time to time while flying with T (see here, for instance), I take a couple Bonine and muddle through. In life on the ground, I’m no fan of the vomit experience and go years and years in between bouts, doing whatever I can to avoid throwing up. (I’m like Jerry Seinfeld with a non-vomit streak.) So it came as something of a shock when 11,500 feet over the northern Rockies, I’m screeching to T to hand me a Sic-Sac

You see, we’d left on our trek towards EAA Airventure at Oshkosh and I was so focused on not having to pee before our first gas stop (see here for that very romantic anniversary conversation) that I neglected drinking enough water over the high country. And then during our stop, a very kind family shared their lunch with us and later, I really wanted to believe the sandwiches were poisoned. Because why else would I get so sick? Surely not because of dehydration, monster turbulence and lack of recent flying experience. Surely not that, no.

Somehow I managed not to lose my lunch en route, despite perpetually bouncing turbulence, but instead waited until final descent into Longmont, Colorado where we stopped for cheap(er) gas. Oh. My. 

I’ll spare you the details except to say that I’m proud of myself because sympathetic-vomiter and pilot, T, had no idea I’d gotten sick until after we parked, AND I kept the sick contained to the sack. Yay me. But I felt so embarrassed by the whole episode that every time someone asked me how the outbound trek was, I fibbed and deflected. Until now, of course.


Mr. T (aka “Tank”) and the West Coast Ravens make up the “four.” We
practiced en route from Colorado to get it looking good.

Thankfully, I seem to have found my air legs now, and have more or less enjoyed the last few flights*. Especially because we got to practice formation with nine other pilots! (More on that soon.) And if that isn’t all, we’ll be flying formation with another 39 (yes 3-9) pilots tomorrow as we navigate over to Oshkosh and honor Dick Van Grunsven, founder of the Vans RV kit aircraft, who is celebrating the 40th anniversary of his first home built airplane.

The leading delta is Falcon Flight, followed by the West Coast Ravens as
the number four, and then a mix of people in the zero, with Team RV
bringing up the rear. (There are 12 Team RV guys total, but only four
are pictured here.)

Now this 40-ship formation is no mean feat. In fact, we’ve been hanging out in Rock Falls, IL for the last couple days where most of the pilots have been practicing together to perfect a configuration of planes that spell out 4-0. We’ll take that show over to Oshkosh tomorrow and do a formation pass in front of thousands of people!

What makes the formation business exciting for me is not just the cool planes, intricate flying or precise formations, but the communication before, during, and after the flying. I got to observe several pilot “briefings” over the last couple days (which should really be called “longings” because they take forever). I found it fascinating that so many people could collaborate in a relatively short period of time to put together and execute safely such a complicated routine. And do you know how they did it? Lots of talking and questioning and practicing and hashing things out. And then actually flying. And then lots more talking and questioning and practicing and hashing things out. As a young communication scholar, I’m intrigued by the many variables working together and will probably put together a book about the culture of formation flying pilots. Fascinating birds, they are.

Until then, I’ve gratefully enjoyed the hospitality of the “Warbirds Over Whiteside” volunteers including a wonderful dinner featuring World War II veteran, LT. Herb Wood. I look forward to watching Team RV practice tomorrow morning before we all head over to Oshkosh. Your well-wishes for safe traveling mercies will be appreciated!

More soon!

shawna, aka “Tankerbelle”

* Itinerary so far: Day 1- T and I flew Sacramento to Evanston, WY, fueled, then Evanston to Longmont, CO, fueled, then full stop in Broomfield, CO outside of Denver. Day 2- We hooked up with 9 other RV pilots and flew formation from Broomfield to York, NE, fueled, then flew from York to Rock Falls, IL where we’ve been for the last couple days. Tomorrow we all head to Oshkosh.

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