Oshkosh 2011 – Day 2 – Rockford Bonanza

Our ride from Chicago Executive to Rockford

After doing some essential shopping for local equipment (mobile phone & data access, cables, batteries & so on) it was time for team PCDU to split up and take different paths to Oshkosh. Steve was staying in Chicago to continue preparing the camping & production equipment required to set up our base camp while Bas & Grant were heading to Rockford to meet up with the Bonanzas to Oshkosh group. Normally a 2 hour drive or more from their location in Chicago, Bas & Grant were able to avail themselves of a ride over with Rob Mark in a Cirrus.

Taking a short drive from Rob’s place over to Chicago Executive Airport (KPWK), we encountered two “We’re not in Australia” aviation reminders:

  • A B17 landing and taxiing past
  • Lots of bizjets taking off & landing – way more than you’d see at Essendon, Parafield or Sydney

Rob tells us that aside from the B17 this is pretty normal traffic levels at Chicago Executive. Wow!

Three brand new Beachcraft

We manage to load ourselves & our gear into the Cirrus SR20 without too much hassle, get clearance & then taxi out to RWY34, launching into the humid air & turning left to track out towards Rockford. The flight was short but surprisingly free of turbulence despite the heat & clouds forming. The TCAS was kept busy showing us traffic going in & out of O’Hare and the many other airports around us. For such a short flight it was amazing the number of airports we passed that were around the sizes of Camden & Lillydale as well as some strips similar in size to Tooradin or Coldstream. Bas made the comment there were possibly more ILS approaches at airports around Chicago than in the whole of Australia :)

It’s amazing to see the level of GA activity here in the USA and yet the locals are saying they’re not flying as much as they used to thanks to the GFC and increases in the price of fuel. Most pilots in the USA are stunned when they hear how much we have to pay to fly in Australia, especially when you tell them about “discount” rates of $40 a go to shoot an ILS (without landing), landing fees and even “touch & go” fees. We don’t even have to mention airways fees and the price of avgas as they’re normally in a state of shock trying to comprehend the concept of paying to shoot an ILS!

New Bonanza TRA

Our arrival into Rockford (KFRD) is handled with a minimum of fuss, eventually being asked by the controller to “follow the Baron,” prompting Rob to respond with “I dream I could go that fast” :) After landing we get another reminder of the vast differences between flying GA aircraft in the USA and Australia: We are going to the Emery Aviation FBO to meet the rest of the Bonanzas to Oshkosh group and on our arrival, we’re greeted by ramp staff who marshal us to a parking spot & then ask us if we need fuel or anything while we’re here. Amazing! Try getting that level of support in Australia in anything smaller than a bizjet, let alone the cars & other support given to GA at FBOs all over the USA. It really hammered in the experience of arriving at an airport in Australia to refuel at self-serve bowsers then using your mobile to try & call a taxi. Yet another item of difference to let the Yanks know about.

Hangar Party at Rockford

The Bonanzas to Oshkosh group were starting their hangar party as we walked up to say “Hi” and aside from some good natured hassling about turning up in a Cirrus, we were made welcome & run through the sign-in process. Rob headed back to Chicago Executive after a couple of hot-start hassles thanks to vapour in the fuel lines (no, it wasn’t an Aussie Curse, Rob!!! :) ) while Bas & Grant headed to their hotel to check in & freshen up before returning to dinner & drinks at the hangar party.

Grant talking to some Bonanza pilots

We’ll talk more about the Bonanzas to Oshkosh event and this year’s group in tomorrow’s update. For now it was simply a chance to get to know some of the people involved and meet the pilots Bas & Grant would be flying with in the formation. As you might expect with an important flight the next day, the party was winding up by 8pm with people lining up for the shuttle buses back to their hotels.

In an effort to show that the adventures in this trip aren’t all about flying, Bas & Grant decided not to wait for a shuttle & set off on a 2 mile walk to their hotel through the still-warm, humid evening air. Despite a complete lack of footpaths, a detour around a freight train parked across a level-crossing and some odd looks from passing vehicles, they made it back to the welcoming air conditioning of their hotel rooms and a good night’s sleep.

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