Fly Girl in Training: Visiting Oshkosh as a student pilot

Team Aerodynamix (formerly Team RV) performing aerobatics in Vans RVs during the Oshkosh Airshow.

I admit it. In my previous two trips to Oshkosh, my primary interests centered on the famous EAA donuts, taking pictures of as many planes as possible and hanging out with friends. This year as a student pilot, I’m seeing Oshkosh from a whole new perspective.

“Dusty” the crop duster from Disney’s new movie “Planes.”

Turns out, a huge part of AirVenture revolves around education and training. Included-in-the-ticket-price workshops and forums range from flying 101 levels to advanced engine management to hands-on projects like painting and welding to lectures on aviation history and more. Suffice to say, there’s something for everyone and classes run all day long, every day of Oshkosh.

In the past five-six weeks since I started my primary flight training, I’ve focused on the fun parts of learning to fly—the actual flying business. Since I’m doing self-paced ground school (aka reading books), it’s been lower on my to-do list (read: boring) so I’m relishing the opportunity to sit in a classroom and learn with other people. (You already knew I was a nerd, ahem.)

Warbirds! A B-25 bomber, a Corsair, two P-51 Mustangs, a P-40 and a
real Zero. My favorite aspect of Osh remains my daily dose of warbirds
flying around. I feel so grateful to see history overhead.

What’s astounding to me is that even with such a limited knowledge base, I’m actually taking in a ton of information. And not just from the forum leaders. Being surrounded by other pilots at various levels, and especially listening to their questions, is really helpful to gauge where I’m at and see where I need to focus more.

In the last few days, I’ve participated in forums on the most common pilot errors, how to pass the check ride, engine/fuel flow management, dealing with emergencies, approaches/landings, stalls/spins and FAA regulations. What I found really helpful was taking in information from a variety of key players in the aviation industry—Federal Aviation Administration representatives, Air Traffic Controllers, Certified Flight Instructors—and discerning differences in the way they approached similar topics. I’m almost, almost excited to get back into my training manuals.

When asked about the most frequent student pilot mistakes, the Air
Traffic Controllers said it is focusing on correct phraseology instead of
pertinent information. The woman in the middle joked, “We understand
plain language, too, you know.”

With all that said, I encourage student pilots especially to take advantage of the huge knowledge base available at Oshkosh. Although it’s really difficult to sit indoors with the sounds of the B-17, B-29 and T-6s overhead (and many other cool aircraft), the payoff in learning is more than worth it to be a better pilot, I think.

After five days of amazing weather, thrilling flying, and stellar social time at OSH, we’re heading home tomorrow. It’s been a fantastic week and although we’re facing headwinds and the promise of turbulence the entire way home, I’m kind of excited that the fun isn’t over yet. More on that (and lots of non-cell phone pictures) later!

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