|The Tiedown Guys, Gene Van Boxtel and Dave Haase from EAA Chapter 444. (photo by Jack Hodgson)
|Mark and Beth Pullen sitting in the grass and watching the airplanes. (photo by Jack Hodgson)
By Jack Hodgson
July 31, 2013 - Gene Van Boxtel and Dave Haase are members of EAA Chapter 444 in Appleton, Wisconsin. Here at AirVenture, Chapter 444 serves the mission of providing tie-down stakes to visiting aircraft owners who have arrived unprepared.
Gene and Dave are two of the volunteers who drive up and down the rows selling the stakes. They sell them for $25. They can be returned at the end of the week for a $10 refund.
Gene's been coming to the fly-in for 10 years and Dave for eight.
The money that Chapter 444 raises through the tiedown sales are used to provide scholarships to local kids to attend the EAA Air Academy. This past season they provided a 50 percent scholarship to three Air Academy students.
Mark and Beth Pullen are from Kansas City. They've been coming to the fly-in since 2007.
Why do they return each year? "I mainly come to Oshkosh to do exactly what I'm doing now," Mark says. "Sitting in the grass and stare at airplanes. I think most of my friends think Oshkosh is weird, because they're not pilots, and the idea of coming, spending a week in a field in Wisconsin, and that you really love this and wait for it every year, is strange.
"But I just love being around airplanes."
Beth isn't an active pilot, but she soloed some years ago and now attends the fly-in to be with Mark, and to enjoy the vacation time.
They arrived at the fly-in this year on Monday. Although the trip here is only three hours flying, they overnighted in Iowa City.
They pick Iowa City because, a long time ago, there was a hotel that had an aviation theme and offered special service to planes on their way to Oshkosh. That hotel has now changed owners and philosophies, but Mark and Beth still stay there through habit. And "so we have an easy flight in the morning."
Their airplane is a 1977 Cardinal RG. They've had it for "a year and a month." They fly out of Charles B. Wheeler Downtown Airport (MKC) in Kansas City, "where the gas is $1.75 a gallon less than the other places nearby."
The RG is the first plane they've owned. "I've been a renter and flying club member for years and years," Mark says. "I've always wanted to buy something, and I finally did.
"One of the reasons I wanted to own an airplane is so I could just go out and punch holes in the sky for fun, and not worry that much about it."
One of the more notable things Mark's seen this year at AirVenture is the flight of Yves "Jetman" Rossy.
"I think I want one. That kind of thing is what I picture in my head when I'm flying my Cardinal. That somehow I'm doing that. I wouldn't want to travel from here to the West Coast in it. But in terms of just shooting holes in the sky you can't get any better."
As far as this reporter is concerned, Gene Cosklo is living the life.
He owns a Legend Cub, an RV-8, a Cherokee 180, and the Cardinal that he flew into AirVenture this year. He variously bases this flock at a hangar he keeps in Sarasota, Florida, or on the grass strip he maintains in his backyard in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. Oh, and he's shopping for another plane, 'cause the answer to "How many planes should a guy own?" is, "One more."
Gene flew into Oshkosh this year from Pennsylvania. He made a couple stops along the way, including one at Chicago Executive, where he looked a possible next plane. "A Beechcraft Debonair. I was thinking of buying it, but I decided to pass."
He also stopped at Porter County in Illinois, just east of Chicago, a favorite of his.
"They have two old bombers and a P-51 there. The EAA chapter has discounted hot dogs and brats."
His Cardinal is the 1975 model, with fixed gear. "I bought it in Indiana last December, and the paint was terrible and the interior was terrible. I took it to a paint shop and we did some interior work, and you can see the way it looks now."
If all his planes were on the ramp side by side, which one would he fly first? "Oh, it's just like kids. It depends on the time of the day. They're all nice."
This is only Gene's fourth time to the fly-in. He used to fly Hueys for the Army National Guard. And summertime deployments would keep him from coming.
"It just seemed so hard to come out here and sleep in a tent, after sleeping in a tent in the military. But now I wish I came here a long time before.
"I tell people all the time, you don't realize what you're missing here."
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