Saturday, August 1, 2009
Wingwalking acts have thrilled airshow fans for decades. Yesterday Gene Soucy and his wingwalker performed for onlookers at the big Experimental Aircraft Association extravaganza at Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Click for screensaver-sized version.
Oshkosh is not Obama country, but what the hell.
Last week I attended the Experimental Aircraft Association's "Airventure," the marketing guys' idea of what the organization should call the huge yearly fly-in of thousands of airplanes, homebuilt or not, warbirds ancient and not so ancient, new commercial aircraft and many hundreds of thousands of aviators and flying fans. Everybody still calls it "Oshkosh" for the Wisconsin city where the event has been held for decades.
It is overwhelmingly white. Finding African-American, Asian or Latino faces in that crowd -- much of it elderly -- is an exercise in "Where's Waldo?"
This should not be surprising. Aviation in America has always been largely Southern good-old-boy, deeply conservative, worshipful of the military, avidly nostalgic and patriotic almost to a fault -- much like the NASCAR crowd. In fact, pilots and plane fans are simply an upscale offshoot of the old Gasoline Alley culture.
These folks do change, but they change slowly -- it was not until 2002, for instance, that the Confederate Air Force, the world's largest warbird restoration club, finally changed its name (born as a joke, not a statement) to "Commemorative Air Force," a bit harder to say but more accurate about its mission.
Airmen may not be evangelistic about diversity, but, these days, neither are they exclusionary. If you have the money (it takes lots of that) and the desire, they'll welcome you into the fold. Except for a few clueless louts, I've always felt accepted as a pilot who happens to be deaf. So in the main have the other "no-radio" pilots who with me attended Oshkosh last week during our little fly-in at Manitowoc, Wisconsin.
I had a splendid time talking tech stuff with kitplane builders, admiring the elephantine Airbus 380 and walking past and under big old military aircraft, including a World War II Avenger torpedo bomber like the one whose cockpit my naval officer father seated me in when I was all of three years old. That was when my yen to fly was born.
And, of course, rubbernecking at the air show -- an amateur photographer's dream. In days to come I'll be posting my best shots on the Whodunit Photographer.