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EAA AirVenture Oshkosh RSS FeedEnjoying a beautiful morning in the Vintage aircraft campground
By Jack Hodgson, EAA AirVenture Today

Photo by Jack Hodgson
Bob & Norma Petersen, from Cameron Park, California, enjoying a beautiful morning in the Vintage aircraft campground at AirVenture Oshkosh 2009.

July 29, 2009 - Oshkosh, Wisconsin  - Bob and Norma Petersen are relaxing in their folding lawn chairs. They’re sitting beside their tent, and their beautiful Cessna 180, in the Vintage campground just south of the Theater in the Woods. Bob and Norma have lived for 16 years at the Cameron Park residential airfield in California. They arrived at AirVenture this year on Saturday afternoon before the show opened.

“We went pretty much direct from Cameron Park, a fuel stop at Wendover, (Utah) spent the night at Douglas, Wyoming, fuel at Mankato (Minnesota), and direct into here.”

This is their fifth time to the fly-in. The first was in 1996.

When asked what changes they’ve seen that they like, Norma instantly says, “Flush toilets.” 

he’s apparently so enamored with the new plumbing that instead of using the facilities nearest their campsite, she hikes over to the distant ones.

“She likes them,” says Bob.

As with so many AirVenture attendees, their earliest memories involve new friends.

“We met some people at Sun ’n Fun in 1995,” explains Bob. “They had a ’53 180, and we camped next to each other. We’ve become good friends.

“They live in Rockford, Illinois, and he said, ‘You want to go to Oshkosh, you call (and) I’ll go up and stake out our sites.’ So that’s what we like every time we come here.”

The Petersens’ airplane is a 1954 model Cessna 180, which they bought in 1992.

“I’m a horsepower nut,” says Bob, “and so we’ve done various things to it. I had a big engine put in it.”

Ownership of the plane hasn’t been without some adventures.

“We had a seat track slip and ground looped it on our home airport. I had it all fixed up and painted, and I ran one tank dry as I was coming into Tucumcari, landed on a dirt road, caught a branch, broke it again. Took it to Greeley, Colorado, which is the best repair shop in the country.”

They had the plane rebuilt, the paint touched up, and brought it to AirVenture in 2003, and it won the custom classic award.

“It is nicely put together, as the judges will attest.”

One of Bob’s uses for the plane is to keep his family close.

“My daughter and two granddaughters live in South Lake Tahoe, so I hop up there to get them. They like that.”

Bob started taking flying lessons in 1954. “I took one every couple of months. I got my private pilot’s license in March of 1959.”

Bob and Norma have an inspiring attitude about life.

“We’re happy. She’s 72, I’m 74. We’ve been married for 49-plus years, and every day’s a good day. We don’t worry about our age; we just keep going.”

Norma is not a certificated pilot, but she took ground school once, and she’s soaked up a lot of aeronautical knowledge through the years of flying right seat.

“She’s just a wonderful copilot,” says Bob. “She watches everything I do. If I’m doing anything wrong, wrong altitude, wrong heading, wrong anything, she’ll notice it and tell me. And so it’s a lot of fun.”

Also enjoying the morning in the Vintage camp is Dick Poppe who is sitting with some friends under the wing of his polished Cessna 140.

Dick and his good friend John Hickman arrived in Oshkosh on Friday morning from his home airport, Waverly Municipal (C25) in Iowa. Although he’s been coming to the fly-in for several years, this is his first time flying in.

He jokes about how much preparation he did to be ready for the visual flight rules arrival, only to discover almost no one else arriving that early.

“I arrived at the airport, and they just asked me what runway I’d like to land on. There was no one else around.”

Dick is the proud owner of this beautiful, recently restored, highly polished 1947 Cessna 140. It has the stock C-85 Continental engine.

Even though he became the plane’s owner in 2000, he says, “I’ve been polishing on it since the middle ’80s.”

He recently took it out of service for a year to completely restore the interior.

We all love our airplanes, but Dick’s 140 has had a particularly touching role in his life.

He bought this plane from longtime dear friend Harold White. Harold was the plane’s first civilian owner, buying it in 1952.

In 1958 White gave Dick, who was then a high school student, his first airplane ride in this very aircraft.

Then in 2000 Dick became its proud owner.

Harold passed away in 2004, and here at AirVenture Dick has under his wing an album displaying historical documents from the plane’s past, along with pictures of his departed friend.

“Little did I know that I would ever, ever own this airplane. So this restoration is all about this guy.”

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