The flying-to-Oshkosh part of flying to Oshkosh

I am back from EAA AirVenture (“Oshkosh”) in the Cirrus SR20. It took only 4 days to get from Wisconsin to South Florida by air, a trip that would have taken 22 hours by minivan. The route as mapped by SkyVector:

With forecast winds, this should be 16 hours of round-trip flight time according to SkyVector. How long did it actually take? 18.3 hours in the air, according to the meter in the plane.

Amazingly, the 2.5-week trip was done entirely VFR and proceeded almost precisely on the originally planned schedule. A student pilot could have flown all of the legs that we did and been challenged only by a 25-knot crosswind landing at Appleton, Wisconsin (simultaneous landings on two intersecting runways for maximum capacity) and a 25-knot crosswind landing in Cedar Rapids, Iowa (no runway there is oriented into the wind that we encountered). We delayed our departure from Indianapolis up to Appleton (one airport north of actual Oshkosh (KOSH)) due to a line of thunderstorms, but our friend who came in via Southwest to Chicago was delayed over 3 hours due to the same weather. Our family had a good time at the Indiana State Museum while hoping to avoid a long detour around the cells (we ended up adding about 20 minutes of meandering). Instrument flying skills would have been unhelpful to us, just as they were to Southwest, because flying through a thunderstorm isn’t a practical transportation strategy.

Most of the trip happened between 7,500′ and 11,500′ due to trying to stay over the bumpy cumulus clouds and avoid roasting to death in the unairconditioned Cirrus.

KDNL in Augusta, Georgia is a great stop due to the Morris Museum of Southern art. If you follow Science and are from Massachusetts or California, you’ll like KMWA in Illinois. According to the FBO, the on-field marijuana shop was open every day that the Chicago Public Schools were closed.

I had a 10:30 am brisket breakfast at Rob’s Pit BBQ, which was superb.

The stops that are not self-explanatory are KPDC (Effigy Mounds National Monument; an afternoon hike accessed via the crew car) and KCID (the Amana Colonies; two nights and one full day to tour).

I’ll write more about Indianapolis. There are a lot of great museums, especially for kids. We spent two nights there.

Pilot friends will appreciate that the cheapest fuel purchased was from Signature(!) in Cedar Rapids, Iowa where leaded dinosaur blood was dispensed at $6.90 per gallon with the “Oshkosh discount”. On the third hand, though I had reserved a “car” at Cedar Rapids, Hertz delivered a Ford Expedition Max:

What I saved on 100LL I paid out at the local BP station to feed this uncomfortably bumpy monster.

Thanks to all of the jet charter companies having their best years ever (they and their clients all standing under a shower of federal cash), the level of staffing and service at FBOs is high anywhere that a Gulfstream might land. Air Traffic Control was operating smoothly and provided VFR advisories for the entire trip except for the last 40 miles into the Oshkosh area. The rental car crisis seems to have abated as long as you’re willing to pay 100 Bidies per day for a car that used to be $50 per day. Ubers, too, were plentiful (Indianapolis and Chattanooga).

The view out the front approaching our home airport of Stuart, Florida:

Best views on the trip: Mississippi River climbing out of KPDC; crossing the Appalachian Mountains; approaching to land at Chattanooga; the marshes around Amelia Island, Florida (KFHB).

13 thoughts on “The flying-to-Oshkosh part of flying to Oshkosh

  1. I’m looking forward to hearing about Indianapolis. I spent quite a bit of time there, in another life (actually twice, in two different lives, sometimes I don’t even know which one I’m living in) and I liked the place a lot. I visited a lot of restaurants (all of which were good to very good, I was entertaining someone and spent a lot of money to make sure we went to nice places) and I also visited the Butler University campus a few times. Saw the Cowboy Junkies in concert there, too. AC in the SR22 must cost a great deal of money; why can’t they make it less expensive?

    This is about the saddest song in the world, inextricably connected in my mind to Indianapolis and probably unfairly, but that’s how it is. I’m glad you’re back and it all worked out well, I’m looking forward to the pics and the descriptions.

    • A/C was not available in the old SR20s like ours. It is a $30,000 option for the SR22 right now: https://cirrusaircraft.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/11/2022-SR22-Domestic-v3.pdf (robs you of 55 lbs. of payload and reduces airspeed for any given flight because the plane will fly slightly slower with 55 lbs. of extra weight; Cirrus cruise speed numbers are based on a fantasy weight of 2600 lbs. in an airplane whose max gross weight is 3000 lbs. and that is nearly always operated close to max gross).

      Why an old-tech A/C for an airplane costs more than a beautiful new car with a much better A/C is a great question and the same question as for anything else in aviation. Blaming the FAA is popular, but the light sport aircraft that are only lightly regulated for certification are just as expensive. So I think it comes down to the low volume produced.

    • That’s a lot of cold cash for a cooler cabin and a significantly slower plane.

      You’re right about the Ford Expedition in my experience also. I have a friend who owns a newish one and despite the appearance of relatively long-travel suspension, it’s a road car. The stiff low-profile tires, large wheels, spring rates, and the rest of the suspension tuning mean that it’s a big SUV that is happy on smooth, well-paved, well-maintained roads. When you venture onto unimproved roads or some of the deeply cracked and cratered side roads near where I live, it’s a surprisingly bumpy ride. It’s set up for trips to Whole Foods, Soccer Practice and Craft Cannabis Shoppes. The one you had was a MAX LIMITED with the 20″ wheels and you can go clear up to 22″. Around $75k depending on options.

    • Alex: The roads in Iowa were almost perfectly smooth and yet the pavement-melting Ford was still extremely uncomfortable compared to our rented Toyota Camry in Oshkosh.

    • @philg: I believe it. I was surprised how harshly Ford tuned the suspension, mostly for looks in my opinion. I’m probably used to a little bit bumpier rides but after the trip in my friend’s Expedition (IIRC a 2021 King Ranch) even my lowly 2010 Escape Hybrid felt more compliant over most roads. You spend $75 grand for a huge thing that beats you up? The Hybrid has also averaged 32.4 MPG over last ~450 miles (down from 33.5 a month ago, but I’ve done more highway driving) even with the “real summer” warm-to-hot weather here in MA recently. It was 92 today.

    • I’m just off the phone with the local maintenance shop. The seat belts in the Cirrus are 17 years old so it seems like a good time for a re-web and overhaul (of the inertia reels). What if we wanted just to replace the belts with new? For a car, this is $77 per seat (see https://www.seatbeltsplus.com/product/WSCH201P.html ). A similar belt (four points, but just one inertia reel) on the Cirrus? $2,600.

    • Re: harsh ride of Expedition

      It has a payload capacity of about 1670 lbs, so it has to have stiffer suspension than a Camry. Stiffer springs = harsher ride until you load it down.

  2. After trying 4 flights on standby for a connection in ATL, rented a pretty nice VW sedan and drove to Winston-Salem in about 6 hours. On reflection, the trip would have been more comfortable in our own car with 6 hours to ATL, an overnight sleepover with our daughter in ATL, and 6 hours to Winston. Airport travel is deplorable.

    • Ryan: the arrivals into KOSH were severely backed up at the time that we arrived, partly due to several landing incidents (mostly taildragger ground loops in the gusty winds) and traffic was being diverted to other airports. Fortunately, we diverted ourselves to Appleton (KATW) months earlier. I didn’t feel the need to subject the family to the uncertainty of holding, not being able to land at all, etc. So we had a rental car reservation at ATW and drove the luxurious Enterprise Toyota Camry (delivered with about 198 miles on the odometer!) to our hotel in Oshkosh. Landing at KOSH should, in my opinion, be reserved for those who are camping or those whose planes are worth looking at. Getting into ATW was not as simple as I had planned/hoped. The controllers were making people hold outside the airspace. There are three “recommended” ATW arrival points in the NOTAM, but no suggestions regarding altitudes, holds, etc. The idea of a backed-up ATW and an overwhelmed tower controller there does not seem to have been contemplated. We were coming from the southeast, which meant that we couldn’t get to one of the recommended points without crossing the final approach course for the runways that were in use. This seemed to irritate and confuse the tower controller, who apparently felt that the arrival points were mandatory and not simply recommended. After a few turns over the northern edge of Lake Winnebago I said “I’m going to have to declare minimum fuel soon” and then we were cleared to land on the bad runway (the one with the 25-knot crosswind; the good runway was straight into the wind).

  3. Mooney took 5.2 hours to get from Boston area to Green Bay airport (avoiding weather by flying around lake up north) with plenty of ramp parking, very friendly FBO, cheap fuel, and only 45 min ride on a car to OSH. Return trip at high altitude was 3.5 hours non stop.

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