Around the Airport

Saturday, July 19, 2014

The Oshkosh Obligation

Last year, about this same time, I wrote a blog post to describe my feelings about driving to Oshkosh.  To me, it was just an open discussion on the way I see it; not the way I thought you should see it.  But boy was I surprised by the reaction.  It really got people worked up.
On one particular evening during Oshkosh, I even ended up at a large round table explaining myself to people I had apparently insulted.  Yet, I have to say, that evening was still great fun.  Why?  Because I knew it would be the only time that year I would see most of the people there.  And that’s one of the reasons we’re driving this year; to see people we never see otherwise.
There is another reason we’re going though.  That’s the obligation.
In late June, as Oshkosh approached, reasons to not go kept creeping into my head.  It looked as if I would not be flying and, as I said last year (click here to read it), when I don’t fly I don’t get as much out of it.  The whole participating vs. attending thing was really encouraging me to stay home.  Then a buddy asked if I was going.  My answer to him was “Yes”, but it was followed immediately by a qualifier that came out with no contemplation; “I’m afraid if I don’t go, I’ll never go back”.
Standing there thinking about what I had just said, I realized that’s exactly what had been nagging at me.  It was as if I had admitted taking a cookie from a cookie jar.  It cleared my conscience, and helped square my decision to go.
So how in the world would that make me feel better about going?  Because I realized there’s an unspoken obligation, something most do not realize, and few ever talk about.  It’s an obligation to go; because without Oshkosh, aviation is sunk.
It’s true.  I know a lot of people will not understand that, and some may not like it, but Oshkosh is the aviation sex that keeps the marriage together.  It gives a boost to the sport, makes everyone want more, and it certainly drives the renting of hotel rooms.
Imagine the county fair of the old days where everyone would get cleaned up, come out of the hills, and party together for a week in order to rebuild a sense of community, get drunk, and make more citizens.   That’s what Oshkosh is to aviation.  And, as I’ve often said, to the dismay of many who believe asking questions means I have it in for EAA, it must survive and thrive if aviation is to do the same.   Therefore, as a pilot, I feel I bear some obligation to go, have a great time, point out the ways it could be better, talk about all the things that are great, and basically do my part.
Yes, like I said last year, when I drive to Oshkosh I still don’t get as much out of it.  But, when I make the effort to attend, I have at least upheld my obligation as a member of aviation, and as someone who, despite all the possible reasons, hasn’t given up on it.
A potential pitfall.  Please keep that in mind EAA.