EAA AirVenture Oshkosh - The World's Greatest Aviation Celebration

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It's never too late to arrive for the World's Greatest Aviation Celebration
Story and photos by JACK HODGSON
Clint and Ross Ray
Clint and Ross Ray with their beautiful 1966 Cessna 150F.
Lowell Finseth
Lowell Finseth and his 1949 Aeronca Champion, one of two Champs he owns.

It’s early Saturday morning, the next-to-last day of the 2011 fly-in. Down at the southern end of the convention grounds the powered parachutes are flying over the ultralight field.

The grass runway is a rich green under a cloudless blue sky.

Early risers are walking along the flight line’s Wittman Road, checking out the airplanes.

There are still a lot of planes here, even though it’s late in the week. But a slow stream is taxiing out after a great week.

Not everyone is leaving though—some EAAers are just arriving.

Clint and Ross Ray arrived after Friday’s air show from their home in Brighton, Michigan.

There are more than 80 planes based at Brighton, which was saved from closure a few years back by a group of local investors, including Clint, who purchased the field.

“It’s a public use airport, but it’s privately owned. There’s about 150 shares. It’s like an LLC.

“The previous owner was an elderly woman, her husband had already passed away, and he wished it to stay an airport. So after a lengthy negotiation we were able to come to an agreement with her, and we bought it. We had a mortgage, but we paid that off a few years ago.

“So we own the place.”

Feels like home

Clint has been coming to the fly-in here in Oshkosh since 1984, but he also attended when it was in Rockford as early as 1963.

His memories of the fly-in all those years ago are of the change in size.

“You could probably have fit it into a quarter or less of this.

“I think some people sort of miss the old days, ’cause there was kind of that close-knit-ness to it. But Oshkosh is big because it’s popular.

“People want to come here.”

Clint’s family goes way back with the EAA. His dad was one of the founders of the Canton, Michigan, local chapter.

They recently celebrated a memorable milestone.

“My Dad was an officer of Chapter 113, and their fiftieth anniversary was earlier this year. He’s passed away, but my mom was still there, and a couple of other original members. Rod [Hightower] came and gave a nice presentation, and talked to my mom for a long time.”

Clint’s plane is a 1966 Cessna 150F built in December of ’65.

“I’ve owned it since ’89. When I got it, it was just kind of ratty. It was barely flyable.

“But after a lot of work myself, and with my dad, we got her back together and painted.

“It’s been down for awhile because of job changes and family things. But we got it going again this year.

“I had it here in ’04 and got “Best Cessna 150” award. I got a plaque for that which was nice.”

It has a Bush STOL conversion, wing fences, drooped tips and a cuffed leading edge.

“It does help the climb,” says Clint. “You get up pretty well, faster than most 150s and 152s.

“Its stall is really like a non-event. You have to force it. Really force it. You can actually get to the point where the airspeed indicator is down at the bottom, not indicating anything, and it’s still flying.

“So it’s pretty cool.”

Clint’s 12-year-old son, Ross, flew right seat in the 150 to this year’s fly-in. He’s been coming to Oshkosh since 2004. We asked if he was planning to learn to fly.

“Hopefully, since the plane is back up and running my dad’s gonna start teaching me how to fly.”

Clint’s makes his living as an A&P-IA. But he might become a CFI so he can teach his boy how to fly.

He also has a Stinson Voyager project.

“I found it in a hangar at the airport. It’d been sitting there for many years, and we went ahead and bought it.

“I thought it would be a retirement project, but now it’s maybe a next-life project.”

We asked Clint what he had been looking forward to at this year’s fly-in.

“Number one was flying here, and number two was to do it with my son.”

Also arriving late on Friday was Lowell Finseth from southeast Minnesota.

He made the 200 mile journey here in his 1949 Aeronca Champion.

“It was a real nice trip. No problems.

“We had to go around Green Lake until they opened the runway last night. But one trip around Green Lake and we were here.”

Home base is Bill Marconi Airport. It’s a small field with about 20 planes. But it’s an interesting mix. “A Cessna 180, a Stearman, brand new Carbon Cub, a couple of old Chiefs.”

The Champ he came with this year is one of two he owns.

The one here at Oshkosh was totally re-covered in 2004.

“It’s a nice airplane; it has a C90 7CCM engine.

“I’ve had this one for three years. And I also have another Champ, with a 65 horse in it, that I’ve had a little longer. “

Back home he uses the Champ mostly for day trips, “and maybe a couple of overnighters during the summer.”

But in the winter he puts skis on it.

Sadly he’s never managed to make the great EAA skiplane fly-in in January.

“Every year the weather…it just doesn’t let us come. Foggy in the morning or something else. Just haven’t been able to make it up here.

“I do make it to about six skiplane fly-ins during the winter time. There’s the Log Cabin skiplane fly-in up in Mondovi. Doug Ward owns the strip. Nice little strip.”

Lowell’s Friday arrival to AirVenture this year was disappointing in one way.

“I would have liked to be here for the Bob Hoover things. But we got here late for that.”

Lowell Finseth and his 1949 Aeronca Champion, one of two Champs he owns.


FUTURE AIRVENTURE DATES: 2014: July 28-Aug. 3; 2015: July 20-26; 2016: July 25-31; 2017: July 24-30
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