The Controlled Chaotic World of Area 51

Wim VanMalcot, a Flight Line Safety volunteer from Belgium, directs a departing plane to turn right off the P1 taxiway and onto the R36 parallel taxiway while an arriving RV holds in the “Penalty Box” and awaits an opportunity to taxi the opposite direction on the narrow runway.
Wim VanMalcot, a Flight Line Safety volunteer from Belgium, directs a departing plane to turn right off the P1 taxiway and onto the R36 parallel taxiway while an arriving RV holds in the “Penalty Box” and awaits an opportunity to taxi the opposite direction on the narrow runway.

The Homebuilt Parking and Camping crew out in Area 51 must be contenders for the hardest working volunteers at AirVenture and this year stretched them further than ever before. Record-breaking homebuilt aircraft attendance, challenging weather, and the addition of a couple dozen refugee spam cans added to their workload.

By field closure on Monday, they had safely shepherded and parked a record 932 homebuilt airplanes. Pilots and parking volunteers agree that Sunday was the most challenging arrival day in any one’s memory. Poor weather on Saturday prevented almost anyone but the Canadian (from the north) coming into KOSH. Sunday morning brought a heavy storm and IFR conditions. Scud-running arrivals started trickling in by late morning. Once the ceilings rose above 1000’ AGL, massive numbers of planes that had been waiting for their opportunity all came in the afternoon. Veterans of dozens of previous Oshkosh unanimously agreed that it was the most hectic arrival day ever. And, ultimately, it is the hardworking souls at homebuilt parking and camping that have to close the deal on our community’s arrivals.

Daily tally board in the Homebuilt Aircraft Parking building.
Daily tally board in the Homebuilt Aircraft Parking building.

EAA Homebuilt volunteers report that pilots are typically staying longer than a few years ago. Five years ago, the homebuilt parking and camping started to look deserted by Thursday morning. By early Friday morning of this year, only about one-quarter of the homebuilts had left, which meant hundreds intended to leave on Friday. And, dozens (or more) folks wanted to come in for a long weekend visit. Adding to the challenges, the weather was IFR until late morning. Once the tower beacon was turned off, it seemed everyone scrambled to find a place in line. Homebuilts, Cessnas, Mustangs, and the two Ford Tri-Motors jockeyed for position on taxiway P1, which long-time Area 51 volunteer Jeff Point calls “the world’s busiest taxiway.” Kit manufacturers scrambled to give demonstration flights their potential customers by joining the mix. The fluid operation of the fine folks volunteering with Flight Line Safety is truly impressive and well-worth taking some time to watch. Look for a longer article on this area of operation in an upcoming issue of KITPLANES.

Parking conga line
Parking conga line

Louise Hose

Louise Hose is an instrument-rated, commercial pilot who regularly flies her RV-6, her husband’s RV-8, and an RV-3B and a Dream Tundra, which they built together. They live in Dayton Valley Airpark in Nevada. She also edits the monthly, free digital newsletter, The Homebuilder’s Portal by KITPLANES®.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *