Initial planning for our Oshkosh 2019 adventure started at the 2018 Cascade Warbirds Christmas party. I was able to convince Justin Drafts to make the trek to OSH '19 with me in his Nanchang CJ-6, to really give the Chang some long cross-country exercise. Dave Desmon committed to flying his Navion, and over the next few months, Dave 'Guso' Osgood in his Navion, Vic and Kirstan Norris in their IAR-823 and Bob and Robin Hill in their IAR rounded out the 5-ship cross-country team.
Justin and I departed Paine Field as #4 in a 4-ship on Friday late morning, 19 July, with Bob and Robin Hill following a few hours later. We climbed to 11,000' to clear buildups over the Cascades, then cruised into clear skies over eastern Washington en route to Coeur d'Alene, ID. The Nanchang had the shortest legs of the flight members, still allowing for comfortable legs of 2 to 2.5 hours between refueling. Our first day provided gorgeous views of the Cascades and Rockies, with a further stop in Bozeman, MT on our way to an overnight in Billings, where the Hills joined us. Edwards Jet Center coordinated a great stay in the Northern hotel, with easy access to Jake's restaurant.
Our Cascade Warbirds 5-ship continued east under partly cloudy skies, with stops in Gillette, WY en route to Pierre, SD. I jumped into Dave Desmon's right seat to get some gorgeous photos of the flight as we passed Devil's Tower in Wyoming, then Mt. Rushmore and the Badlands in South Dakota. Pierre hosted us at the Ramkota Inn, with great rates courtesy of the Mustang Aviation FBO.
The Oshkosh weather on Friday and Saturday had been quite miserable, with periods of heavy rain and wind, leaving muddy parking conditions and restrictions on arrivals. On Sunday morning, we decided to press as far east as possible. Just after departing Pierre, we vectored Guso in his Navion to a precautionary landing at a paved crop duster strip in Highmore, SD due to a canopy issue. After discussions with the extended Navion community over the phone, we resolved the issue, enough to get Guso's Navion safely to Oshkosh. We continued east for refueling stops at Redwood Falls, MN and Mauston New Lisbon, WI, then decided to go for it before Oshkosh closed. Nearing Fond du Loc, we switched to a strangely quiet North tower frequency, and were immediately cleared to Warbird Island and runway 27, taking the 5-ship smartly up initial with the clearance to 'land on any dot'! After waiting 30 minutes to park due to 'Cessnas to Oshkosh' landing on runway 36, we shut down safely in warbird parking for a wonderful week at Air Venture!
The weather for the remainder of the Oshkosh week was excellent, and the daily air shows highlighted the 'Year of the Fighter', with outstanding (and noisy) F-22 and F-35 performances happening daily, with heritage flights of classic WWII fighters joining the formations. The Cascade Warbirds flew a few times during the week, and I was able to join 'Guso' Osgood for an enjoyable 7-ship formation photo mission mid-week. Oshkosh did not disappoint, with hundreds of aviation vendors and seminars, in addition to the impressive warbird exhibits and nearly constant flight demonstrations.
Justin Drafts, Bob Hill and I had commitments requiring a Friday departure, so we left in a 2-ship on Friday morning westbound, stopping in Albert Lea, MN, Pierre, SD, and Gillette, WY en route to Billings, MT. The route provided another flyby opportunity, so I jumped in with Bob Hill for some IAR-823 stick time and photos of the Nanchang over Devil's Tower. Saturday had us fly through the first real weather of the trip near Helena, MT, but we then had good conditions into Missoula, MT, Ephrata, WA, then smoothly through Snoqualmie Pass into Paine Field. 30 hours of warbird flying sure makes for a great month! If you haven't been to Oshkosh yet, hitch a flight with the Cascade Warbirds. We had open seats for more to experience Oshkosh!