Chicago
31 min read

This was the year that I decided to finally attend EAA AirVenture for the first time, in our 1962 Cessna 182E. The planning began in May with me studying all I could to make a trip like this go smoothly. Lots of pre-trip preparations were made, including composing equipment lists and investigating flight itineraries and en route stops. Being the sole pilot and alone, I wanted to ensure I had everything covered for most any situation.

Several tools were selected and packed for almost any eventuality; the plane was freshly inspected for any mechanical issues during the annual and had fresh oil for the trip; all the cross-border preparations were investigated and made; the camping gear was decided on, weighed, and test packed into the plane.

Father and son

A father-son trip to top any that came before it.

One of the best pieces of news I received during all of this planning was that my 17-year-old son Peter wanted to come along for the adventure. It was going to be a father-son trip to top any that came before it. Just getting to Wisconsin was going to be an adventure, and this was Peter’s longest trip in our plane with me. Our plane has no autopilot, so this was going to be a hand-flown adventure.

The eAPIS was filed and a flight plan cleared into the US with Customs. Finally we were all set to fly. We left Nova Scotia, Canada, on Wednesday, July 20—bright and early.

We chose the Cessnas2Oshkosh mass arrival set for July 23, 2022, as a way to fly there in a managed and safe way. This compared to what I assume is a challenging flight on the Fisk/Ripon arrival. Being a first time Oshkosh pilot, I felt this was an insurance policy to hopefully make our arrival go smoothly. Now all we needed was good weather and no mechanical snags to get there in three days.

Day of departure

Cross border flying is smooth and simple for Canadian pilots. Just set up an eAPIS account online ahead of your travel day, plan your trip, log into your eAPIS account and enter in crew and passenger information, and file a flight plan. You also need to have a US Customs decal on the plane, which can be purchased online ahead of time. On the day of our departure we called the CBP office in Bangor, Maine, before we took off and verbally confirmed our landing time. The Customs agents met us at the plane and allowed us in and to continue our trip; we were now able to fly and land at any US airport in our Canadian registered plane.

I had spent a lot of time studying US radio procedures and airspace regulations, and learned all that I could to make my flying in the US ATC system as smooth as possible for me and the controllers. The differences between Canada and the US are mostly slight, but the most important seems to be to always include the first letter of your registration “Charlie.” Once I got to talk to Boston Center, I sounded like I was a seasoned pro—at least to my non-pilot passenger’s ears. Not too sure what my impression was with the air traffic controllers was.

182

A 182 with no autopilot means long legs aren’t too fun.

Our first planned fuel stop was Bethel, Maine (0B1), to take advantage of great self serve gas prices, and to see our favorite snowboard hill, Sunday River, from the air in summer. After a quick stop and a Leidos weather briefing, we were off again on our next leg. We circled Sunday River for a few photos, then we were on our way westward to our planned overnight stop of Meadville, Pennsylvania (GKJ). The mountains in Maine and New Hampshire were beautiful in all the green of summer, and we picked out some new snowboarding hills to maybe check out this winter. Flying past places like Franconia and Mt. Washington was a teaser of the sights to come. The weather was cooperating but it was starting to get bumpy in the heat of the afternoon under some puffy cumulus clouds.

As with most things in aviation, plans made beforehand need to be fluid and malleable. We decided that we had had enough of the day just before Penn Yan, New York. We made a quick check of ForeFlight for fuel prices and accommodation information to make sure this place was worth a stop. It looked good and soon we were on the ground at PEO, being taken care of by the excellent staff at Seneca Flight Operations. They even drove us to our hotel in town and picked us up in the morning. Great service and super friendly hospitality.

The next day had us planning to make some serious miles and get as close as we could to the Cessnas2Oshkosh meet-up point for the big event. The weather had other plans for us, and we had to wait on the ground for some low clouds to clear before we could leave. After an hour we thought it looked good enough to launch, so after consulting a weather briefer we were off again for day two in the skies. We decided that the long legs that I planned at home were not that fun so we re-planned to make a few more stops along the way. This was a good lesson, to realize that a trip is supposed to be not just about the destination but the journey. We had the time so why not make it more enjoyable?

We picked a lunch stop at Carroll County-Tollson, Ohio (TSO), with good fuel prices and a nice restaurant just outside the fence. We filled up on grilled cheese for Pete, and a Philly cheesesteak for me. We were too full to sample their famed pies so we’ll have to return someday for those. Rested and full of both food and fuel, we picked our next destination. I chose Starke County, Indiana (OXI), mostly for its grass runway and its good reported fuel prices. We missed the donuts and hotdogs they give out to arriving pilots and passengers by one day (we found out after we landed that they provide lots of food and drinks to get Oshkosh fliers to stop in and buy fuel).

Spitfire on ramp

The sights you see on the way to Oshkosh.

This was Peter’s first grass landing, which was a greaser. A great FBO and the manager was friendly, helpful, and welcoming to us two two tired fliers. Not finding accommodations locally, as advised by the manager, we hit the skies to another great airport close by in Valparaiso, Indiana (VPZ), for some well-deserved rest and a dinner. Crew car in hand, we set out for our hotel. Along the way we had a cool sighting of a flying Supermarine Spitfire—my favorite WWII aircraft. It had me excited for sights to come. We visited lake Michigan and got to go for a swim—a beautiful sunset capped off a large day.

The next morning in the crew car we got to see a lot of Indiana’s corn fields, as we had a Google Maps operator input error. We ended up at the wrong airport at first, but then entered in the right location to where the plane actually was and headed that way. As a pilot from a small province in Canada, the selection of airfields to land at in the US was simply stunning. Maybe I was just wanting to check a few more out in person. Mistakes are part of any trip and this one was an unexpected but interesting sightseeing drive in a big circle. We fueled the car again before returning it.

Once the weather was checked and we were briefed, the flight plan filed, we were headed to Juneau, Wisconsin (UNU), to meet all the other Cessna pilots headed to AirVenture the next afternoon. But before that, a VFR corridor flight past Chicago under the Class B was in order. The Chicago controllers were fast-talking but very accommodating to our little 182 and gave us clearance under the airspace. We could hear on the radio all the GA traffic around us, presumably headed to OSH and some to our destination too. The skyline of the city with the tall buildings made for some incredible photos.

Landing in Juneau, we were in for a sight. There were at least 75 Cessna aircraft on the field already and a bunch waiting to be fuelled up in preparation for the big flight the next day. Several more came in after us and soon there were over 100 Cessnas tied down for the flight on Saturday.

Chicago

A must for any pilot in the Midwest.

The Cessnas2Oshkosh event is volunteer run and in my opinion, a super safe, organized way for a newbie like myself to get into Oshkosh. They provide the mandatory training courses, arrange for meals, provide maps, and get clearance to OSH. They even pre-delivered gear to the campsite to lighten up some of the heavier arriving planes. Most importantly, they provide branded T-shirts for us to wear to look presentable. When on the ground at AirVenture, they even have a large tent to gather in.

We were marshalled to our parking spot with all the other 182s on a taxiway. We set up our tent under the wing for the first time on our trip. We were excited to be there and satisfied with our accomplishments over the last two days of travel. We met our neighbors, talked airplanes, and generally relaxed for a few hours. A catered buffet supper filled us up and sent us to bed.

Cessnas2Oshkosh Formation

The formation flight day started early with a breakfast then we eased into a briefing of how this operation would unfold. Every pilot there had attended a mandatory formation flight clinic the organizers put on in several locations in the US and Canada beforehand, so we all knew what to expect. Most pilots here had been doing this for awhile, although we first timers were a fairly large contingent this year—I believe I was one of 36 brand new attendees, their largest first timer group yet. That morning we newbies blended in though, as we were all wearing our matching shirts and sporting the swag that was provided to us by the sponsors. I believe there were almost 110 aircraft registered and on the ground for our briefing

We were assigned our flights and position in the elements of three. I was Chalk 3 in element Mike. We then sat a table to meet the other pilots in our chalk. Then after some chatting, some pizza, and a scramble to our aircraft, it was time to get flying to the real destination of this trip: AirVenture!

The two other planes in our chalk were experienced pilot attendees and also had passengers onboard. We asked for them to get some air-to-air photos of our plane. They certainly did that! We did the same for them and traded photos when we landed. The planes were preflighted, radio checks were completed, and we started engines to taxi as a flight as the elements ahead of us cleared out. Having all the same types and elements parked together made this look really impressive. The slower 172s took off first in their elements of three or “Chalks,” with a five second pause between aircraft and a 15 second delay between each element.

Formation

Flying in formation to OSH is a thrill.

Soon enough it was our element’s time to go. Mike one lead, a count to five then Mike two, another five count and us, Mike three. Flying in formation was an experience that I have not really had other than a brief flight at the preparation clinic. It was an amazing feeling to be part of such a large formation of aircraft—I don’t think there are 100 active flying GA aircraft in my province of Nova Scotia. Our lead plane was rock solid in heading and altitude, which made it easy to try to keep station on his right wing.

We had a great tight group all the way to landing. Chalk one and two landed in tandem on runway 36, the main runway, and chalk three (me) landed on the parallel taxiway, which was called 36 Right for the arrival. I kinda felt like Harrison Ford. We then taxied for what seemed like forever, following the ground marshals to our designated site for the week of AirVenture. It was a blur of concentration, exhilaration, and seriousness to fly this way. I don’t think I took my eyes off the leader for more than a few seconds at a time. Peter was impressed and was snapping photos the whole time. He said he could see a lot of the formation stretched out in front and behind us at times.

The organizers of the Cessna mass arrival have a designated camping location reserved for us to stay together as a group. They have a large event tent, a generator, tables, coolers, barbecues, and everything else a group of over 100 people would need for a week’s stay. It was all set up waiting for us to arrive. They provided us breakfast most every day, a few dinners, and coolers constantly full of water, juice, and sodas. The organizers, Rodney Swanson, Craig Chipley, and Gil Valdez, are a well organized, managed, and motivated group of people who put a ton of effort and love into this event. Arranging for, shepherding, and feeding over 100 pilots and 90-some passengers takes a lot of logistical effort. We attendees also pitched in wherever needed, with some of us taking turns helping out with prepping fruit, making breakfast, cleaning up the dishes, and anything else that needed to be done.

The first order of business was to tie the plane down, take an arrival photo of Peter and I, then set up our campsite. We were successful in all three tasks. We then went to the group tent for some snacks and a drink, only to hear of a broadcasted weather warning over the PA of high winds and thunderstorms quickly approaching. They advised everyone to seek shelter and beware of the high winds. What happened next was something that I had not planned for.

Tent

Tent set up successfully—but not for long.

While we all crowded into the big tent, the wind was playing havoc on our tents and aircraft. Our tent was flattened and beyond repair. The wind had pushed it over flat, breaking the aluminum poles. If I had set it up facing into the prevailing wind maybe it would have fared better, but side-on it was no match for Mother Nature’s Oshkosh welcome. Sheltering in the bathroom buildings to stay out of the storm, I thought our trip was ruined. Time to adapt and make a new plan. A quick Google search came up fruitful and we ended up making a few calls around to some local camping supply shops. We found a North Face outlet that was close by that had some really nice tents: another chance to roll with and overcome the changes thrown at us. Thankfully the organizers had a van and they gave us a ride to the mall, saving our night and our week of camping. No aircraft in our group were damaged but a few of the tents were not so lucky.

With our new tent procured and its setup figured out, we settled in for our weeklong stay. There were planes with us from all over the US. I think Texas had the largest number of attendees, but there were only three planes from Canada: Alberta, Ontario, and our Nova Scotia plane. There were 32 C182s, 32 C177s, 24 C172s and 8 C210s. There may have been a few twins and maybe a Corvalis to round out the numbers as well. I tried to see them all but I may have missed a few along the way or counted some that were not part of the arrival. The amount of aircraft of the attendees camping was unlike anything I have ever witnessed.

Oshkosh Week—July 2022

While I have seen the videos and read articles on the event, I was not prepared for the immensity or the variety of things to see and do. EAA runs a huge machine to make this event amazing every year. It is almost totally volunteer run and staffed. They go out of their way to help you out, and they move everyone around very efficiently. Busses, trams, and roving golf carts will stop, pick you up—and in some cases deliver you to—exactly where you want to go to. We had the Sunday before the show opened to wander the grounds, ride the trams, and generally get an idea of the scope of this event before it was packed with attendees.

After a long day of walking, bussing, and riding trams, we felt we were at least familiar with the grounds and how to get from our campsite to almost anywhere else. EAA has programs and maps to hand out plus an easy-to-use app that has every event listed along with sponsor and display locations and schedules. It is like drinking from a firehose. You cannot simply take in all the classes, forums, build sessions, and the airshow all at once. I tried to attend too many sessions my first day and ended up running myself ragged just trying to get between sessions.

Brown arch

It’s easy to run yourself ragged at AirVenture. Better to just soak it in.

The next few days we decided to just hang out and spend the time wandering to see what we could see. We attended some more classes and presentations, but mainly we wandered the rest of the week and took in all the displays, vendor booths, and aircraft on display. The museum on site hosts the pilot proficiency center, which offered some real life simulator scenario training for registered attending pilots.

An airshow is almost always operational, with aircraft in the air over the field, airplanes full of attendees arriving, and some even departing all day. The airshow proper starts at 2 pm and would run every day till after 6 pm.

There were performances from historic warbirds, operational military aircraft, airshow performers, and this year a huge formation of Vans experimental aircraft celebrating their 50th anniversary. It was incredible seeing one of only two flying B-29 Superfortresses overhead. Other highlights through the week were the U-2 and the F-35 flight with two warbirds in formation. It was also the celebration of the 75th anniversary of the US Air Force. The Wednesday night show was a spectacular night time airshow with the biggest fireworks display I have ever seen—with an aerobatic plane as part of it for good measure. I had never attended a night show before. It was excellent and fun.

The grounds of this airfield are immaculate and not a piece of trash seems to remain on the ground for long. Even after the night show, which was packed with people, there was no mess that I saw at all. The volunteers start arriving months before to prepare the site, and the amount of effort must be incredible. It shows in everything that goes on from admission to gate check to trams to ordering lunch. The only chaos is us, the attendees, who are everywhere.

The show really is about homebuilders of experimental aircraft and many attend and camp out beside them for the week. Proud of their work, it was easy to talk planes with the owners and builders. Many were popular kits but there were some far-out self-designed planes too. The builders of all these aircraft are true artists. Each plane is a one off and are as individual as the owners who build them. The craftsmanship and hours involved show in the fit, finish, and cleanliness of these aircraft. Wandering the experimental parking areas was as interesting and fun as any of the static displays.

Also the vintage camping was a true experience. The diversity of aircraft and owners, crew, and passengers is amazing to see. Everyone was talking about their planes, their trip in, and as I have come to find out the weather is always discussed. Warbird alley was stunning: seeing several P-51 Mustangs, Texans, Navions, an ME109, and plenty of privately owned military jets like L-39s, T-33s, and F-5s was a plane junkie’s dream come true. We never made it as far as the seaplane site; we wanted to but couldn’t find the time.

U-2

You never know what you’ll see at OSH.

I can see why people come year after year. There is something for everyone to see, participate, engage, learn, shop, and collect a ton of swag and T-shirts. The NASA pavilion was a highlight for my son and me as well. There are so many static displays and manufacturers’ booths to visit your day could be filled just browsing. My legs were sore from the walking to and fro. We found that sharing a table having lunch we would strike up a conversation with a total stranger and be off chatting about flying, aircraft, what we saw, and of course the weather. A friendlier group of people you would never meet. You just needed to speak Aviation.

After seven days of camping under the wing, we packed up and left on Saturday, as the grounds were starting to empty out. The procedure is to pull your plane from the campsite, have it all preflighted, start up, and taxi to the end of your row to do a run-up. There are marshals there to direct you forward to the departure line—be ready with your VFR sign visible at all times, as they will be looking for it. Be prepared to roll onto the runway and depart quickly to make room for the other two dozen or so planes behind you. It is definitely an experience to be witnessed in person. It was almost runway heading to our next destination: west then north.

Departing for Alberta

Not content with just a 1200 nm trip out and back, we decided to head to Alberta to visit some friends. Leaving OSH, we headed northwest to Aberdeen, South Dakota (ABR). We chose this stop as they had a free food giveaway and a nice crew car at Aberdeen Flying Service. The EAA website had lots of locations in several states to pick from that offered discounts and such perks. They took care of us and sent us into town full of water, Cokes, and pulled pork sandwiches.

The next morning we altered our route and decided to fly south and check out Mount Rushmore by overflying it at 8500 feet. The mountain scenery is like nothing I have ever seen, but this was extra impressive seeing it from above.

We also decided to hit up another state and stop for our lunch. We chose Mondell Field in Newcastle, Wyoming (ECS), for a destination. At 4178 ft. MSL and close to 100 degrees, it made for a good lesson in density altitude. Our takeoff was a long ground roll and a slow climb to altitude. Peter commented that our takeoff altitude was the height that we normally fly at while cruising in Nova Scotia.

Mt Rushmore from air

Just a quick detour from Oshkosh.

Tuff, the owner of the FBO set us up with some fuel, a car and a recommendation for food at a diner close by. The crew car was so hot from sitting in the sun I burned my arm on the metal door getting in. Not used to that on the east coast of Canada.

Our next destination was Billings, Montana (BIL), for the night. The staff at Edwards Jet Center were helpful in lending us a car for a few hours and booking us a good rate on a local hotel (one with a pool to cool off in). They also made a recommendation for a restaurant and made arrangements for a shuttle to pick us up after we brought the car back to the FBO.

That night, our last in the USA, we filed our eAPIS departure information, downloaded the ArriveCan app, notified Canadian Customs of our arrival time and place, and filed for our flight back into Canada. But before we crossed the border, we decided to fly through the mountains of Glacier National Park. It was the highlight of the flying part of the trip so far for sure. Peter had never been in a plane in the mountains and I had only once before. I spent some time that evening planning our route. I called for a thorough briefing early that morning and I was prepped—we planned an out if the weather or conditions were not favorable. We climbed to 10,500 ft. and were in awe of the peaks and the valleys: glacial lakes hanging at 9000 ft. and of course the glaciers themselves.

We exited and were promptly spit out to the flats of Northern Montana/Southern Alberta. We were informed en route that our planned destination to clear customs in Alberta, Lethbridge (CYQL), was NOTAM’d closed for an airshow, so we had to do some in-flight rerouting to Del Bonita, Montana (CEQ4), which sits on the US/Canada border. A grass strip that is basically in no man’s land between the border posts, if you want to clear into Canada you park the plane facing Canada, and facing the US if you plan on entering the US. We had to call customs as the posts were both closed for the weekend. Cell service was basically non-existent for my carrier, but Peter’s cell worked, thankfully. We cleared with no problems and were off to a new unplanned stop: Drumheller, Alberta (CEG4), for fuel as we were getting too low to make our destination. Another unexpected change to the plan that we had to roll with.

Glacier

The views in the northern Rockies are simply stunning.

CEG4’s airport manager was mowing the grass and came over to greet us and get us set for fuel. He also provided the crew car for a well-deserved late lunch stop. Then it was off to our final destination of Stettler (CEG3) for a few days. I called the town well in advance of my trip for planning purposes. They put me onto a local pilot, Cam, who graciously let me put the plane in his hangar while I was staying. This was a welcome bonus because the weather changed overnight and a major hail storm crossed through the area. It caused considerable damage to a line of cars driving on a highway, smashing windows and injuring people who were caught inside the cars. The aviation community is amazing and pilots are a special breed, willing to go the extra mile to help out another flier in need. This is where Peter left me to fly home commercial from Calgary. I was sad to see my traveling companion leave.

From Stettler, I took a good friend and his family for a flight over their hometown and the local area. We also planned then flew a trip through the Rockies past Banff National Park to Golden, BC (CYGE). I had flown the VFR route through the Rockies before but it was still awe inspiring seeing the peaks with snow on them soaring above the height we were flying. We had lunch in Golden, and again we used the crew car to get around on the ground. We then had a speedy flight back to Stettler with a 10kt tail wind. Flying the same route back was just as special; we each got to see both sides of the valleys we flew through.

Cross-Canada Back to Nova Scotia

After a week, it came time to leave Alberta. I was intending to retrace my flight from 2020, when my other son and I brought our new plane home to Nova Scotia from BC. The route we flew in 2020 had a good selection of legs and places to stop for the night. My first stop was Yorkton, Saskatchewan (CYQV). This a great place to stop for fuel and lunch. The people at Leading Edge Aviation always have a car and friendly staff to greet you on landing.

A quick fast food lunch, a tank fill, and off to Dryden, Ontario (CYHD). Morgan Fuels have a great setup for travelers and also a crew car to use. Finding a hotel room was a bit tricky with all the larger chains full—another challenge the trip offered. It took some driving around to find a motel that had any vacancy. This was totally my fault, as I had not booked any of my rooms in advance (I did this so I would not press on or make a flight to get somewhere if I was tired or the weather was not cooperating).

Leaving CYHD the next day had me changing my flight plan due to IFR conditions in Ottawa, where I planned to spend the next night. I had to remain north and chose an airport in remote northern Ontario, south of Timmons: Earltown (CYXR). The weather was worsening and I could not complete my flight at my planned altitude of 7500 ft. I dodged rain showers and lowering ceilings all the while flying over some of the most remote parts of North America. No cell service for miles on the ground, with long stretches of trees, lakes, and muskeg. It was beautiful but sobering to think of an off airfield landing—I did not see many roads or much sign of habitation. I did enjoy some Bluetooth tunes, with the radios mostly silent, and had some leftover sandwiches packed from Alberta kept me happy.

Clouds

The vast Canadian wilderness and changing weather made the last legs interesting.

The weather at CYXR had me worried: because of IFR weather, I could not go due south to my planned destination of Ottawa. I called for a weather briefing and ended up choosing a direct four-hour leg to Rivière-du-Loup, Quebec (CYRI). Another long flight over the vast Canadian wilderness with next to no landing spots or any civilization to name made me pause and think. Added to the stress, it was now raining and low clouds had appeared. The Nav Canada briefer assured me it was localized and I would encounter lifting ceilings as I went east.

I decided to launch and if I had any deteriorating conditions or frights or nerves along the way, I would return to my destination. Maybe that choice was a mistake. The ceilings stayed around 3000-3500 feet and it rained almost the whole four-hour leg. I have never really flew in solid rain and I don’t plan on doing it again anytime soon. Visibility due to the water on the windscreen made forward vision hard, to say the least. By the time I decided to maybe I should turn back I was unwilling to go through the weather again I just passed. It was not MVFR but it was as close as I think I want to get to it.

The skies did lift and the rain stopped about 3.5 hours into this leg and I then started to enjoy the view out the front of the aircraft again. I climbed to 7500 feet and cruised along happy. Tired but happy.

Landing in CYRI was easy, with mostly high overcast and wind directly down the runway. The folks there stayed a half hour past closing so I could get situated, tied down, and most importantly a room for the night. They called three motels and found me the last room available in town I think. Not being a French speaker, this was super helpful for me. The FBO employee who pumped my gas took me to the hotel and made sure I had arrangements to get back to the plane in the morning.

I ended up being stuck in Quebec for an extra day, as the weather was overcast and TCU between there and my home in Nova Scotia. This was my first weather delay for the whole trip. The owner sourced me a rental car; again the last one available within 60 miles. It was my first day that I had to get a rental car and also delay flying for the whole trip. Flying VFR-only, I plan for weather delays so a day to hang out, fill in logs, and give the plane a nice cleaning inside and out was a welcome break from moving at 130 kts for hours at a time. The blasting of the rain made removal of the bug splatters almost easy.

My final leg home to NS was another weather-filled, cloud-dodging flight at different altitudes. All in all, I managed to get home with another solid wall of rain that I had to divert around in northern Nova Scotia. This weather thing is making me want to complete my IFR training.

I learned a lot on this trip. Every leg was filed with flight services in both countries, and I received flight following. It gave me the confidence to make the lonely flights over remote places, knowing I had someone watching my progress on a radar screen. The most touching thing was the camaraderie and helpfulness of all the people along the way. This included pilots with weather tips on what was ahead of us, ATC, the briefers, all the FBO staff, the volunteers at AirVenture, and even pilots in the Cessna tent with tips on where to stop for fuel and lodging heading west. Everyone we met was genuinely interested in us and where were were coming from and headed next, even the Nav Canada and Leidos briefers who go that extra bit to help a pilot far from home. I also learned that it is hard finding accommodations for the same night in Canada this year, and rental cars are just as scarce. Also, after doing the conversion back to Canadian dollars, fuel is still almost half the cost in the US as it is in Canada. Beware American fliers coming to Canada!

The plane worked perfectly and never once had a hiccup or let me down, on the ground or in the air. I had vigorously pre-planned most of my legs, routes, and stops before leaving home, but had to change it literally sometimes on the fly and it all worked out just fine. The digital aids to pilots today are amazing: planning and filing are simple and it’s worth the effort to set up profiles online beforehand. I had both Nav Canada and Leidos set up so it made my filing easy and fast.

The trip totals: 5,100 nautical miles, 47.5 hours logged in flight, 53.4 hours total time; 571 gallons of 100LL, eight nights sleeping under the wing beside the plane, 15 unforgettable days with my 17-year-old son, and 22 days away from home. All that made this one of my all-time great adventures. We landed in eight states and six provinces, and flew over many more, covering a loop around two countries in a plane that was built in 1962. From Nova Scotia in the East to Wyoming in the West to British Columbia back to Nova Scotia in a few weeks, it was ambitious to plan but so satisfying to accomplish.

Route map

I also fell in love with flying and traveling in America, where the choice, service, and helpfulness of small airports and FBOs and their staff are the best anywhere in the world. AirVenture was the draw for planning the trip. The C2OSH was the means to get there and the experience with them was better than I could have hoped for and exceeded my expectations. The facilities at Oshkosh were clean, with an efficient system for accommodating the needs of hundreds of thousands of attendees coming and going every day that is stunning. The weather for a 23-leg, 13-day flight was a gift for late July/early August, when it can be dicey and convective for VFR-only flight. I only missed one day where I couldn’t fly. The week at Oshkosh after the first day’s rainstorm was exceptional—not too bad for my first time attending. I hope it wasn’t beginner’s luck because I want to go again in 2023.

See y’all next year!

Bruce Spears
Latest posts by Bruce Spears (see all)
22 replies
  1. Bruce
    Bruce says:

    John.
    Thanks for reading and commenting. It certainly was a trip to be remembered. That was one of reasons I wrote the article. I’ll have a permanent record of it.

    Reply
    • Royce Nix
      Royce Nix says:

      Hello Bruce, wonderful story and a trip I still dream of doing some day. I was able to put myself in the cockpit with you fellas. I have a dream to take my daughters to EAA Venture someday.

      Reply
      • Bruce
        Bruce says:

        Royce

        Thanks for the kind words. I hope you can. It certainly is a spectacle. And lots of stuff for families to do. And there is a whole pavilion for women in aviation. You and your girls would love it

        Reply
  2. Jim Wills
    Jim Wills says:

    About five years ago, I took two friends to Oshkosh in MY 182E. What a great time, and what a great airplane. Got a little real IMC along the way, too. Even got routed over the dead center of Indianapolis International. Man, what a view!

    One thing I did notice, though, was the massive number of windmills along the way – and more importantly, the fact that no more than ten percent were spinning at all. I have a feeling we will regret this “green” experiment, and not too far in the future.

    Reply
    • Bruce
      Bruce says:

      Jim

      I am a fan of this 182. We had a 172 before and the upgrade in speed load and room inside the plane is welcome. Did you camp with your passengers? We were so loaded with gear that I don’t think we could have taken anyone else.

      Reply
    • DH
      DH says:

      Those windmills are a joke. You can thank Barry for those. And you’d be surprised by how little they actually produce and the fallout from expired blades. I think they have a carbon life of like 1 million years. They are burying them in S Dakota, Iowa, and Wyoming in holes as big as buildings. So much for the Green Thing…. Not to mention the $535 Million Barry spent of OUR tax money on Solyndra. A total loss. I think a good portion of that hapless investment paid for his place in Martha’s Vineyard. I just couldn’t let your observation go by without comment.

      I did however enjoy Bruce’s adventure!

      Reply
      • Bruce
        Bruce says:

        DH

        I can’t really speak to the windfarms issue in the USA but i sure am glad my “windmill” on the front of the 182 kept spinning! Some 6 million revolutions on my trip by my quick math!

        Glad you enjoyed the write up.

        Reply
      • Duane Mader
        Duane Mader says:

        Loved this adventure and hate to get political but you are right. Joe just gave $11 BIL for green energy in other countries including India and China. How that relates to flying is that it is paid for by inflating the money supply like everything else is paid for and I’m going to be too broke to fly.

        Reply
    • Phil
      Phil says:

      We have lots of wind farms in Oklahoma and they tend to be still on some days. Definitely not reliable enough for running a nation and keeping families safe and secure

      Reply
  3. Mark Reising
    Mark Reising says:

    That is a great story about a great trip. Reminds me a of a trip to Alberta and NWT several years ago with my son before he had to report to the US Navy. Unfortunately, we were driving rather than flying. Adventures with your children are great.

    Reply
    • Bruce
      Bruce says:

      Mark

      I totally agree I must have done something correct to have a 17 year old non aviation nut agree to embark on a trip like this. It was a great bonding experience for us both. And lifetime memories were made.

      Reply
      • DH
        DH says:

        I’m trying to get my non-aviation 30 yr old son to take a trip to Arkansas from Illinois with me. He’s had motion sickness issues when he’s flow with me before. I think a nice long trip would cure him of that. Loved your story..

        Reply
      • PhilR
        PhilR says:

        I thoroughly enjoyed reading about your trip with your son. What an incredible memory for both of you! So glad you are sharing your passion for flying with everyone. My 23 year old son just got his PPL and is working on his Instrument. I would love to take a trip like that with him!

        Reply
  4. Dave Stark
    Dave Stark says:

    Bruce: You are so fortunate that you decided that a private pilot license was something you wanted when you did. I waited and procrastinated until I was too old to deal with the medical. To be able to share memories such as this with your son is a blessing from God. I am so envious! I wish you many years of blue skies and tons of memories. I am so grateful to all those folks in the US that took care of you. Fly safe

    Reply
    • Bruce
      Bruce says:

      Dave

      I am not sure of the Basic Med requirements in the US but that may be something to look into for your situation. Yes, I feel so lucky to have this opportunity to fly with friends and family. I hope to have many more in the future. My oldest son (mentioned in my previous article) was responsible for getting me into GA. After telling him about my pilot dream when he was 13; he asked me “well why didn’t you?” I didn’t have an answer, so I went and did it. It was great to show noth boys thst you don’t have to be young to achieve a goal. He’s training at University for a commercial license and aims for a career as a pilot.

      And yes I have met the nicest most helpful people at GA airports.

      Thanks for your kind words.

      Reply
    • PhilR
      PhilR says:

      Same here Dave! I wanted to fly so badly from age 6 and all through my life. Various reasons why I never pursued it, but I’m glad my son is taking my advice to seize the moment and not let anyone hold him back from his dreams. Time races by so quickly. I’m 64 now and probably will never get to pursue flying due to the high cost of everything. I’m so happy for Bruce! It’s incredible that he was able to do this!

      Reply
  5. Joe Sener
    Joe Sener says:

    Bruce, what a great trip. I have lived in and around Chicago all my life and have retired to NW Illinois. I was, no doubt, one of those Marshallers and greeters that parked you at OSH. I, too, lost a tent that night and had about a 50 gal of water to bail. I will be getting a more wind worthy ten for next year. Even with my instrument rating I don’t choose to fly those walls of rain. Get your IFR but stick to your current limitations, it’s more fun.

    Reply
    • Bruce
      Bruce says:

      Joe.

      We got a six person North Face tent from the Outlet across the interstate. It was almost 1/2 price and they gave us a discount because we were attending AirVenture. It stood up to the winds that were still gusting all night and on Sunday. I am very interested in seeing about volunteering some year. Do the volunteers camp out? Or is there rental accommodations? While i love tenting i think a few weeks of it would get a bit old.

      Reply
  6. Mike Sheetz
    Mike Sheetz says:

    Like drinking aviation from a fire hose is what I often tell others when asked what AirVenture is like!! I’ve had the privilege to enjoy the show nearly 30 yrs as my older brother lives outside of Appleton, WI and has extra bedrooms that he and his wife share! Make the seaplane base a part of your next visit. A few hours away from the hustle of the main show is a nice break. FWIW, My brother and zi took a beautiful 1958Beech Super 18S to Oshkosh in 2008 where it won a Bronze Lindy. I wrote an article that appeared in the July, 2009 edition of Vintage Airplane Magazine of that trip. Google N90TT for a glimpse of that beautiful plane, and check YouTube for AOPA’s short video of the plane when it was owned by Mike Blackstone in California, being sure to watch till the end after a couple of breaks! I thoroughly enjoyed reading of your adventure. I visited Canada a few times. Was to Montreal for Expo 67, and been to Vancouver, BC, both beautiful! Thank you for sharing your adventure!!

    Reply
  7. J. S. Roberts I, MD
    J. S. Roberts I, MD says:

    Great article! Solid flying and glad to hear everything was awesome. May God continue to bless your flying! I’m looking at purchasing a plane soon, finishing up my PPL Lord willing in the next month or so. That 182E sounds like it is well maintained and sound to travel.

    Reply

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