How Oshkosh Showed Me a Climb Attitude

Christen Eagle biplane taking offAfter 17 years flying the Amazon jungle and Andes mountains, I came to my first AirVenture at Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Before first day opening, I flashed my Exhibitor badge at the dutiful guards and walked through the AirVenture gate. Thirty years of professional aviation experience provided no preparation for what I beheld. Without turning my head I saw three times more aircraft than occupied the entire civil registry of the country where I served.

As a pilot and air ops manager, who knew I needed an aviation fix? Like a starving man no longer feeling hunger pangs, I didn’t know what I needed until I immersed myself into the world of cold 2024 aluminum skin, taut cotton wings, red hydraulic fluid, flashing glass panels, spinning propellors, and clouds of 100 octane exhaust fumes—ambrosia and incense.

Intent on my assignment I proceeded to our site. Lots to do. Position display aircraft. String banners. Set up tables. Run cables. Boot computers. Display literature. By the end of the day I once again accepted as normal, electricity on demand, potable water, clean porta-potties, and abundant safe street food. But each day of the entire week, the breadth and depth of raw creativity and entrepreneurship dazzled me. Every aeronautical idea—conservative or crazy—found its venue. Every business plan—profitable or fanciful—plied the market.

Like suddenly becoming aware of air, what did I now see that I’d missed before? What was different? First thought suggested economy of scale. When entire countries are the size of Arizona, infrastructure investment can be hard to find, markets minuscule, opportunity nonexistent.

James Rush Manley - Aviation & Space Writer shows this Cessna 206 propeller against clear blue skyBut I saw something more. Bumping shoulders with hundreds, even thousands I found a multitude of fiery spirited adventurers—people of every gender, race, size, and age who dreaded no risk, nor feared any dream. It made me very thankful for the gift of country and culture that not only offers freedom and opportunity but also rewards diligence and innovation. With that attitude, I could climb anywhere.

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