Wisconsin air circus begins

The big aviation fly-in in Oshkosh opened this morning over in Oshkosh, Wis.

For one week each year, the airport becomes the busiest airport in the world.

Getting tens of thousands of airplanes in safely isn’t easy and it’s more than a bit harrowing.

Take a look at the scene at 7:13 this morning (NSFW). FlightAware isn’t even showing all of the aircraft in the vicinity as the pilots are supposed to shut off transponders and data. (Listen to the action here)

Good grief!

Posted by Robert Brian Collins on Monday, July 23, 2018

Here’s what’s happening: All the planes coming from around the country meet at Ripon (just southeast of Green Lake) and sort themselves out. I’ve flown it; it’s like aerial combat out there.

They then follow railroad tracks, self-separating by less than a half mile to keep from hitting each other.

Air traffic controllers sit in a field. Using binoculars, they identify the type of aircraft and radio them to either turn left (toward one runway) or go straight (toward another runway).

Traffic is so thick, the pilots aren’t supposed to radio back. Instead, they rock their wings to acknowledge they received their instruction.

On this opening morning, it was chaos, with controllers sending everyone back to Ripon to start over.

“Never in our 6 years flying in here has it been this bad,” a friend who flew in on Sunday told me.

Amazingly, I can’t recall a single midair accident in this area in the 10 years I’ve been visiting Oshkosh, although there may well have been one.

Once they get to the airport, the planes land two or three at a time on the runways (colored dots are painted on the runway and each plane is assigned a color to land on), aided by the hand-picked best air traffic controllers in the business.

  • Jim in RF

    I stayed at the Oshkosh Hilton Garden Inn, with a patio overlooking the runways, a couple of months ago for $89 a night. Wonder what it goes for now?

    • You can’t get in. It’s booked by EAA for the airshow bigwhigs.

  • >>the hand-picked best air traffic controllers <<

    Bull…my brother isn't in Oshkosh right now…


  • The Oshkosh air show has always been on my bucket list. Can’t ever seem to make room for it each summer because of one thing or another. ::: sigh :::

    Some day … but until then, I greatly appreciate Bob’s reporting both near and far.

    • I had planned to go this year but unfortunately will not. I was going to do some work (volunteer) for EAA Radio — the kids from St. Cloud State University run it — reporting on an effort to build an airplane there in one week.

      But life is just moving too fast right now.

  • emersonpie

    Thanks. Now I a better idea where the five little identical blue planes were going as they headed east over me and my grandkids yesterday. Still can’t find them on the AirVenture website, but the three-year old never had more fun counting to five!

      • emersonpie

        I don’t think so. My recollection is wings above fuselage, and short, stubby-looking. The ends were basically rounded, otherwise the wings were straight. All planes were a uniform dark blue, with no visible decoration. About the size of a classic Cessna, I suppose. Very simple, looked almost like toy planes. With 5 of them, plus a sixth trailing the others, of a silver-white color but a little different in shape, I’d expect them to be an acrobatic team.

  • S_

    I’ve been there twice with close family friends. Amazing expo for any aviation lovers. Watched a harrier do a vertical takeoff and got to see spaceship one all in the same day.

  • Al

    I’ve never been so glad to be a desk jockey. Holy sh*t, you guys.

  • boB from WA

    Definitely not for the faint of heart. If it was me I’d fly in to Fond du Lac or Appleton and drive from there

  • Been to this a few times, but only once actually rented a Cessna and flew in. My friend Joe and I were both licensed, and it took two of us to manage it…! Thank heaven for Joe.

  • Jack

    First video clip sounded like they were calling a square dance. Was waiting for allemende left and swing your partner.