The Wizards of Osh

Sept. 8, 2001

The Wizards of Osh

Breathes there a pilot whose heart doesn’t skip a beat at the mere mention of Oshkosh? The word itself conjures up images of perhaps the most awesome event in aviation, the annual pilgrimage of the faithful (and the merely curious) to the mecca of aviation, Oshkosh.

By Ralph Hood

September 2001

It was all there. The airplanes were there; the noises were there (from screaming jets to thumping Portolet doors); the aromas were there (from kerosene and bratwurst to, well, those Portolets again); and the people were there.
At least most of the people were there. The show was down in total attendance, but exhibitors report good results. Exhibitors as diverse as Lancair, AOPA, Sporty’s, Cessna, Rod Machado, and The New Piper reported booth results as good as or better than previous years. Many exhibitors, like Lori Lucion of Cessna and Hal Shevers of Sporty’s, think that attendance was up in quality if a little down in quantity
Originally, I had planned to arrive at Oshkosh on Thursday. Then I received by snail mail an invitation to Eclipse Aviation’s media breakfast on Wednesday. I changed my airline tickets — cost me $100 — just so I could make that breakfast. My June column had expressed doubt that Eclipse can build the world-beating jet they have planned, so I thought it was right sporting of them to invite me.
(When I checked in at the Eclipse tent, the young lady said, "Oh, you’re the guy who wrote that…." Then she caught herself, smiled, and said, "We’re so glad you could come.")
Eclipse put on quite a presentation, bringing us up to date on everything. CEO Vern Raburn moderated, and did a good job. My reaction was somewhat like King Agrippa’s reaction to Paul in the Bible. After hearing Paul’s preaching, the King said, "Almost thou persuadest me." Afterward, Raburn asked, "Well, Ralph, now do you believe we’re going to build it?" I told him the absolute truth: I sincerely hope that they can.
This year at Oshkosh we drew some new exhibitors. Microsoft was there with its simulator. E-Bay, the online auction people, had a booth wherein they announced their new aviation category and a special aviation sale. I am always delighted to see mainstream companies enter the aviation field. We all benefit.
Seems to me that everybody is interested in aviation these days. All of a sudden we are the "in" thing. FORTUNE magazine did a great report on the mess in air traffic, as did the great British magazine, The Economist. USA TODAY prints aviation news even when there is none to print, and every now and then they get it right.

Change of subject: I had a miserable experience at Miami Inter-national Airport recently. I called them, politely reported the mess, and asked if they would like to comment. Almost in passing, I mentioned that the in-terminal hotel also treated me somewhat shabbily. The young lady said she would look into it and get right back to me. I almost immediately got a call — from the hotel, not from the airport. The hotel apologized and refunded half of my money. I still haven’t heard a word back from the airport. It upholds everything I ever believed about the difference between guvmints and private enterprise.