Editor's Log

September 2001 Issue




OSH Till You Drop

AirVenture provides a great deal of opportunity, but many pilots miss out on the best ones

Having just survived another AirVenture at Oshkosh, it’s fairly clear that pilots are both the smartest and the dumbest people on Earth.

Let’s step aside for a moment and try to ignore the pageantry, the forums, the camaraderie and the sheer amazement that comes with watching Sean Tucker fly an airplane. Instead, consider the Stuff for Sale.

There are few other places on the planet where you could spend so much money and still not get one of everything. Headsets, charts, navaids, engine monitors, weather info, parachutes, hangars, traffic alerts, FADEC, airplanes, engines, seats. That just scratches the surface of the wares hawked at the world’s biggest airshow.

Pilots are experts at spending money. This makes them smart when they buy the right things, and dumb when they misplace their priorities. Oshkosh is a place where they can buy just about any piece of aviation hardware available. Pity that it seems too few ask themselves if they ought to.

If you assume that every pilot’s budget has some upper limit, it’s evident at AirVenture that most would prefer hardware to software. They’d rather pack their panels than pack their heads.

A forum on upset training and unusual attitudes boasted perhaps 30 people in the audience. A popular one on engine failures attracted hundreds, true, but even that was a small portion of the masses that streamed through the exhibit hangars. The common mantra seemed to be “buy now, learn later.”

Oshkosh presents a fabulous opportunity to tap into some of the best minds in the business. The forums contain enough wisdom to save your bacon several times over. Unfortunately, they are overshadowed by all the cool stuff there for sale.

A realistic appraisal of the things that can make an average pilot safer has to include learning better aircraft control and practicing instrument flight. Face it, many accidents reflect poor control coordination and VFR into IMC. There was little for sale at OSH that could solve those problems. Fuel flow meters can help reduce the fuel exhaustion accidents, and those were for sale. Engine monitors, seat belts and backup instruments are also important safety items, and all could be found in the cavernous exhibit hangars A, B, C and D.

Still, I can’t help but wonder at the 60-hour-per-year pilots who think a new ANR headset will do more to ensure their continued comfort in this world than four hours of practice instrument approaches or crosswind landings. Yet take out the product displays and you lose the crowds. AirVenture becomes just another Wings Weekend at a rural airport.

Perhaps, for one week per year, they should change the airport designator from OSH to SHOP.


-Ken Ibold