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EAA AirVenture Oshkosh RSS FeedA river rat from Cincinnati and the airpark resident from Oregon
By Jack Hodgson, EAA AirVenture Today


Photos by Jack Hodgson
John Thocker of Cincinnati with his sixth RV.

Denny Jackson of Independence, Oregon, and his RV-8.

August 1, 2009 - Oshkosh, Wisconsin - The sun and blue skies have returned to Oshkosh on Friday morning. There’s a lot of activity in the airplane parking areas this morning, as many of the early arrivers pack up their tents for the journey home.

John Thocker is untying the ropes on his red RV-8, getting ready to head out. But he’s happy to pause to talk more about flying.

John is from Cincinnati, and he’s been here almost a full week this year.

John and his RV were part of the spectacular 36-ship formation RV flyover early in the week. A lot of preparation goes into those kinds of demonstrations.

John has been flying formation for a few years, but he still had to train down in the Cincinnati area before coming out here.

“We trained with a bunch of guys for the last year, and then went to a clinic this spring with a 19-ship formation, and then culminating the first weekend before Oshkosh where we practiced as a 36-ship formation.

“We did lots of training for the weekend, Saturday, Sunday prior to Oshkosh, and then we did the show”

The 36 ships are made up of many smaller groups from around the country. John’s group calls itself the “Cincinnati River Rats.”

John first came to the Oshkosh fly-in many years ago. Among his most vivid memories are of the years that the Concorde visited.

“The Concorde was here, and a buddy said, ‘c’mon let’s go ride it, they’ve lowered the price to 300 bucks.’

“But I was buying parts for my RV, and I thought 300 bucks should go more towards something like an exhaust system, so I didn’t take him up on it.

“He went and I didn’t. Now he’s got the story to tell that he rode the Concorde and I don’t. So that’s a regret that I have. I shoulda rode the Concorde when I had the chance.”

John’s RV-8 is the sixth RV he’s built. He started in 1983 building an RV-4.

He’s built two RV-4s, an RV-6A and three RV-8s. They’ve taken as long as seven years, and a little as eight months to complete.

The plane he has here at Wittman is one of two that he built simultaneously. He sold one and kept the other.

John has been flying since 1978. He started in civilian training, worked his way through the ratings, and eventually ended up a DC-8 captain for a cargo firm.

Also here in the expansive Van’s RV parking area is Denny Jackson from Independence, Oregon.

This is Denny’s third time to the flyin. His first time was in 1997, and then he didn’t return a second time until three years ago.

His yellow-and-blue RV-8 is parked beside a yellow-and-blue RV-4—one he also built. It was flown here by its current owner.

He finished the -8 in 2005. It took him “a couple of years” to build using the quick build kits.

That’s a lot quicker than his RV-4. “My first one took me 10 years to build.”

He really likes the Van’s aircraft.

“It’s the all-around utility of the thing. They’re good at just about everything: aerobatic, little short grass fields, long hauls. We’ve been camping in it. We can take all of our gear in it. It’s just an all-around good airplane.”

He designed the paint schemes on both these RVs. Inspiration for the earlier paint job came from a very practical place.

“That one was actually kind of an accident. The canopy had just a slight gap up at the end, and so I thought, ‘maybe I better paint that part blue so it doesn’t show the little dark crack.’

“Then I came up with the zig-zag on that, and the blue and yellow, and I thought that I liked the back and front contrast, so I did this new one like that, but with a different theme.”

What was the toughest part of building the planes?

“Oh, I don’t know. Just staying at it I think. I mean there’s so much help that you have now. Of course the EAA people, the chapters, there are chapters everywhere.

“Everyone’s building Van’s so there’s just no shortage of people to help you out if you get stuck.”

Denny lives in a residential airpark back in Oregon. The lifestyle suits him.

“Yeah I love it. I fly weekends and during the week. Any time you feel like taking a little hop you just go out and open the hangar and go.“

“It is a really nice neighborhood, because everyone has a common interest. You get real friendly with a lot of people. It’s very nice.”

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