Rediscovering Grassroots Aviation

It started with a model kit I saw while shopping. I started to move on but that smell of model glue and a whiff of paint stopped me dead in my tracks. I scanned the boxes and there it was. A spitfire, RS-T 29 Stanford Tuck’s plane, the RAF flying ace from World War II.

I held the box and forgot what I was shopping for, on to paint and glue and straight home. I hadn’t done this in forty years and I had the excitement of a six year old at Christmas. As I put the model together I drifted back to the days when I’d save my pennies to buy the next model. I remembered the destruction of my rubber band powered Hindenburg on the neighbor’s rose bush.

All those weekends spent attending air shows. As teenagers we’d drive miles across the countryside just to follow a single hot air balloon. A harrowing six weeks as the guinea pig for a friend who was learning to be a flight instructor. I ate drank and slept aviation. Where did that dream go to?

On the wings of discovery so to speak I found a world of grassroots aviation that has expanded to include more than the rudder and stick. Experimental aircraft, hot air balloons and vintage airplanes a paradise of flight.

Air shows abound from March to October all over the United States. EAA or the Experimental Aircraft Association’s website listed shows somewhere pretty much every weekend.

Museums had popped up all over as people had retired planes but just couldn’t bear to bury them on the scrap heap. But the place to begin was Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Home to the EAA. The heart of grass roots aviation.

Aviation camps for twelve to seventeen year olds. Flying lessons for adults. Gliders, sport planes, aerobatics lessons. Airventure Museum an interactive dream comes true.

The best was AirVenture 2007, a fly-in of over 10,000 planes. Vintage aircraft, military planes of all kinds, experimental aircraft and balloons everyone was sky high. Unbelievable I mean unbelievable. The show ran for six days and is held on an annual basis. Test fly a build it yourself concept plane. Watch flying demos every afternoon. Hundreds of vendors selling everything you can think of. I took the credit card out of my wallet because it was like being hungry at the grocery store.

I’m saving my money now for next year at Farnborough, England where they will be celebrating the 100th anniversary of Samuel Franklin Cody’s first sustained flight from Farnborough. Maybe Paris in 2009. I’m off to a welding workshop so when I buy that kit I’ll have the skills to put it together. Hope the husband won’t notice that we have a plane in the garage.