Do you have any idea how many of your customers are attending this year’s EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wisconsin? If not, you probably have no idea how many might have benefited from a little refresher training before heading up to the Big Show.
The Experimental Aircraft Association, the FAA, the other sponsors (including AOPA), and the individual participants all do an extraordinary job of keeping aircraft separated and their shiny sides up. But with so many aircraft converging into such a tiny volume of airspace, some mix-ups and conflicts are inevitable. Over the past 20 years, nearly 90 percent of all accidents at Oshkosh have occurred in late July or early August—including five collisions between airplanes taking off, landing, or taxiing, two of them fatal. That’s not entirely a surprise given that during that one week each year, Wittman Regional Airport is the world’s busiest. Then again, it doesn’t seem likely that AirVenture accounts for 90 percent of its total traffic.
What sorts of skills might a conscientious pilot be encouraged to sharpen before performing in front of aviation’s largest audience? Spot landings would certainly be a good place to start—preferably with a meaningful crosswind. With multiple simultaneous landings at different points on the same runway, the commercial standard of minus zero/plus 200 feet should be considered the minimum threshold of competence for landing at OSH during the festivities—and no one wants to be seen touching down wide of the centerline, or, worse, making a ground loop. Intensive practice on landing accuracy on a narrow runway in the wind is a good idea any time, but ought to be de rigeur for anyone thinking of performing on the main stage.
The intensity of the arrival flow and the unusual one-way communications protocol make brushing up on one’s radio work—in particular, the skill of listening—another good idea. So is paying attention to task management, dividing attention, and spotting traffic in an environment of workload so high it verges on saturation. And pilots who fly an aircraft near the upper end of the “slow traffic” speed range would be well advised to put in extra time improving their facility at maneuvering during slow flight. Nothing kills the party spirit like an unexpected stall while attempting S-turns for spacing.
A few ground school sessions to decode, dissect, and explain the notice to airmen detailing the arrival and departure procedures might also help prevent embarrassment or worse.
Summer should be a busy time, but if customer vacations leave too many open blocks on your instructors’ schedules, perhaps advertising an “Oshkosh special” might help fill some up. Let’s face it, lots of pilots are incorrigible cheapskates. The prospect of $5 or $10 off an hour of dual might just tempt a few of them not to trust in hope by going in unprepared. A low-cost procedures briefing just might draw a crowd on what would otherwise be a quiet night at the hangar. It could be worth a try—and implemented widely, it might help trim that excess of accidents around the time of AirVenture from nine to one to something more reasonable. Five to one, maybe?