Oshkosh AirVenture 2023 Sunday - Day Zero

By Jaco Pitout


I felt very privileged when Juri Keyter and Willie Bodenstein approached me to cover EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2023. After months of waiting our departure day finally arrived as 19 other aviation enthusiasts and I set out to Chicago on Friday 21 July 2023.

This also demonstrates the flexibility of Neil Bowden and his AirAdventures team. We travelled on Qatar Airlines where the balance of the group travelled on a multitude of other airlines. A significant part of the group was also on a Turkish Airlines flight on the Friday evening.

Setting sail out of Johannesburg bound for Doha, Qatar Airlines brought a 3-year-old Airbus A350-900 which always surprises with its quiet and smooth flying experience. The crew had their work cut out for them later in the flight when a first-time passenger suffered a severe panic attack due to turbulence that the flight encountered. It was wonderful to see how the flight attendants attended to the lady in distress assuring her that the aircraft was not in danger and that she did not have to feel afraid of the temporary bumps at all. Well done QR1364 crew!

The eight-hour flight passed in a flash and we started our approach into Doha's impressive Hamad International Airport. There is a lot of construction happening at the airport and the passengers on our flight had to take a bus to the terminal. Emerging from the A350's cool cabin was a stark contrast to the 36 degrees heat we encountered when disembarking at around 11pm. I was taken aback with how many people were inside the terminal building at that time of night. It was somewhat crowded and dare I say slightly chaotic. However, we managed to find our way to a lounge for the long layover we had.

The Al Maha lounge facilities are great with clean bathrooms and shower facilities, a drink as well as food selection to still the hunger. We called it a day on what was a bit of a whirlwind travel day.

Departing Hamad on Saturday morning 22 July 2023 would see us taking a seven-year-old Qatar Airlines 777-300ER across the "pond" to Chicago O'Hare international airport. This flight would be a test of endurance as it was nearly 15 hours from chock to chock. It was a largely uneventful flight traversing the Mediterranean Sea from east to west and eventually exiting the European continent near the city of Porto in Portugal. Our trans-Atlantic leg was a pleasure with the Qatar Airlines crew going out of their way to ensure that all passengers were kept happy.

Good winds meant that our arrival into O'Hare was about 40 minutes early. With our luggage collected and the group having negotiated TSA we boarded the Lamers Coach that would take us up along the Western shores of the beautiful lake Michigan past Milwaukee towards our final destination, Camp Scholler at Wittman Regional Airfield in Oshkosh Wisconsin. The home of EAA AirVenture.

We arrived to handshakes and high-fives all around. All smiles from both Neil and his team and the tired bodies that came on the adventure. Upon arrival all guests were shown to their allocated tents which would be their home for the next seven nights. The AirAdventures team had already prepared a wonderful meal that was enjoyed by all the travellers. Time to retire for some rest, tomorrow, Sunday is a busy day!

As Sunday dawned breakfast was already being prepared and the group had made themselves comfortable around the benches under the marquee. First order of business today was to visit the EAA AirVenture Media Centre to collect my media accreditation. This process is easy and simple and very efficient considering the number of media attending the show. Thereafter it was a quick drive back to camp to collect a camping chair, some water and a hat to capture some arrivals. Tomorrow the real action starts. I cannot wait to share it with you!

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