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For such a short trip to AirVenture it
seemed to make sense to plan on flying
VFR. I read up on the NOTAM describing the Fisk arrival procedures. In fact,
EAA Director of Flight Ops Sean Elliott
and I made a video flying the Fisk procedure. The video through the windshield
of my Baron wasn’t as good as Sean and I
hoped because of a reflection off the
nose, but it turned out okay with no propeller chopping up the image. Perhaps
the most useful part of the video was
Sean and I describing what we were
doing, and what is expected on the procedure. Oshkosh tower called a few
times pointing out traffic and confirming
our intentions, which made the video
even more realistic.
The Fisk arrival procedures have
been in use for AirVenture arrivals for
decades. The key is for pilots to be on the
assigned altitude of 1,800 feet and 90
knots when arriving over the town of
Ripon to start the procedure so they can
fall in line behind an airplane ahead. If
you can’t fly safely at 90 knots, the altitude is 2,300 feet and the target speed is
135 knots indicated.
Our video session was an excellent
review of the procedure including a
reminder that both Ripon and Fisk are
stored in most GPS navigator databases.
But you need to remember to dial in
Fiske, with an extra “e” because intersections need five letters and the tiny town
where controllers on the ground
sequence traffic into the the pattern could
only afford four letters for its name.
But, as with most pilots headed for
AirVenture, weather worries started to
set in for me a few days before departure. I wasn’t concerned about being able
to get to Oshkosh, but would it be VFR?
The longer range forecasts were calling
for rain showers and clouds on the
Saturday morning when I needed to
arrive to work on the AirVenture Today
daily newspaper. People were counting
on me to be there on time.
By Thursday before our departure, I
folded up under the weather forecast
gloom and was able to get an IFR reservation into Oshkosh. Demand was pretty
low for the slots on Saturday morning so I
rationalized that it was good insurance.
Plus, who would know that I didn’t fly
VFR like I said I would?
Not long after we were handed off to
Muskegon departure control a pilot on
that frequency recognized my N45FM
number and said, “Hi, Mac.” Nice to be
greeted, but was I busted? Yep.
“You said you were flying VFR to
Oshkosh this year,” the pilot of N310TC
said. At about that time we flew into
light rain showers over Lake Michigan.
Not bad weather, but would it get
worse? Did I really want to be flying
VFR in this stuff?
I decided to come clean and told
N310TC that I had fibbed. The weather
changed my VFR plan to IFR, and at
that moment my decision looked good.
The friendly guy in N310TC agreed
with my excuses and added, “Just
wanted you to know that we’re reading
what you write.”
Once a year an
—a controller in a
pink shirt—is clearing
me . . . to fly what might
otherwise be illegal
Departure from AirVenture was an
entirely different matter. The weather
was VFR, and the departure procedure
off Runway 27 is one of my favorite
flights of the year. The AirVenture procedures NOTAM calls for a heading of
270 through 360 degrees after takeoff
from Runway 27 maintaining an altitude
of 1,300 feet until clear of the airport
That’s not quite 500 feet above the
airport elevation. Once a year an
official FAA representative—a
controller in a pink shirt—is clearing