Last Friday, I drove up to Oshkosh for the 2008 EAA AirVenture air show.

As you may or may not remember, I was on my way up to Oshkosh for the 2007 AirVenture when the Avalon was rear-ended, so just getting there was an accomplishment this year. Once I got there, it was the usual drill of dealing with the crowds, unrelenting sun, and the heat. I usually travel up there on a weekday, which keeps the crowds a bit more manageable, and this year I got lucky because much of the day was overcast which helped with the heat.

Unlike previous years, I tried to spend more time attending forums this year, and spent less time wandering among the aircraft. The forums give you a chance to hear interesting and notable speakers (Burt Rutan, for instance) in a small and relatively intimate gathering. By far the best forum I attended was given by a pair of veteran air traffic controllers who had worked several AirVentures. They were full of interesting insights and funny stories.

Even though I enjoyed the forums, the air show and the airplanes are a big reason to attend. The highlights of the air show this year were the V-22 Osprey and the F-22 Raptor.

The V-22 Osprey is the new tilt-rotor aircraft used by the Marines and Air Force. I had never seen one in person, much less in flight, so it was really fascinating to watch the plane come in with its gigantic propellors turning before rotating its engines and landing on the runway much like a helicopter would.

The V-22 Osprey was whisper quiet compared to the F-22 Raptor. That plane is an absolute screamer, even when it isn’t really trying. The F-22 flew over the pair of parallel runways for roughly ten minutes and the crowd loved every minute of it. Easily its most impressive maneuver was when it demonstrated its incredibly (almost unbelievably) tight turn radius. In the end, however, it was rather like watching an extremely high performance automobile being driven around a parking lot or a cheetah in a zoo. You just knew that it was capable of so much more than was on display and it was rather sad to watch it in such constrained circumstances.

There were some other interesting planes on hand this year. I enjoyed a tour of a Wisconsin Air National Guard KC-135. I didn’t realize that there were a large number of seats and cargo space on top of the fuel tanks in the plane’s cargo area. A KC-10 also made an appearance. A Navy SH-60 Sea Hawk was an interesting counterpoint to all the jets and planes on hand and its crew worked the crowd quite intensely.

Will I go back next year? Almost every year I say that I’m going take a year off and then the next year rolls around and I get the urge to go again. So, I’m thinking that next year I’ll take a year off. We’ll just have to see what happens when July rolls around again.

In the interim, there are some photos of the air show in the photo gallery.