May 29, 2016

Chelsea’s First Oshkosh – Day 8

Oshkosh Comes to a Close

Sunday, August 3, 2008


We’d come to the end of the flying for Team Oracle and The Collaborators but that didn’t mean that we were quite finished with our responsibilities. Although we did get to sleep in for a bit and could take our time getting over to the show from the Weeks Hangar, we did have one family coming as Oracle Guests. Once we arrived Sean had some autographs to sign, so I hopped into his car with him and off we went.

Today was different than the other days. Sean was able to relax a bit, as much as he can ever relax.  Although still moving at a million miles a minute, he got to walk around a bit. And of course we got to talk about life and work and I soaked in all the words of wisdom he had to offer.

From sponsor to sponsor and tent to tent we zipped around with exuberant Sean leaving everyone in his wake with a smile. I have so much to learn from Sean and all of my coaches and mentors that it is unbelievable. From flying to business to interacting with current sponsors, potential sponsors and fans, the opportunities are endless.

The show was great, as is expected of Oshkosh, yet there was almost a touch of sadness looming over the entire airport. It was the last day of Oshkosh. Airplanes had begun departing a day or two before and as we drove through the warbird area it looked bare and lonely. Tents began to come down and people were packing their things.

Could it be that it had gone by that fast? Absolutely! They say that time flies when you’re having fun, no pun intended. I guess they’re right!

As we hurried back across the airport towards the hangar after the show, the sky began to get darker and darker. After doing some things we raced back over to the show side to drop off the golf cart and it was a good thing we went when we went. No sooner had Ian hopped in the car that I drove over than the sky opened up and thunder began to clap. It rained pretty much non-stop with thunderstorms rolling through off and on the rest of the night.

We all headed back to the house for an amazing dinner prepared by Kureha, Ben’s girlfriend. And let me tell you, this girl can cook! I’m not just saying that…it was an awesome dinner and a perfect ending to a long hard week of work and fun. After a night of laughter and camaraderie it was time for bed. Then next morning we would all be heading home; different places for each us of, but only for a little while. The airshow schedule will be calling everyone back together  soon enough.

My final thoughts on Oshkosh…it is a MUST for anyone who loves flying or just loves a good time. I could never have imagined that my first Oshkosh experience would be so amazing. From making new friends, seeing old ones to growing as a member of my new flying family, it is something for which I will be forever grateful. It just supports my belief that you should always dream big and never stop working hard for what you want. You never know what might come of it!

Chelsea’s First Oshkosh – Day 6

Oshkosh 2008

Friday August 1, 2008


Friday morning  … the Collaborators’ last day to perform this year at Oshkosh. It was a beautiful morning and we were all ready for another great day and a crowd-pleasing performance.

Before the airshow started the guys had lots to do which included Ian and me heading to the Ford Tent to help them out with an autograph session. It is so much fun to see all of the different people who show up for these events. You see everyone from hardcore fans who know everything about each pilot and plane to Oshkosh newbies who saw these guys fly for the first time this year. Kids and ol’ timers, everyone who comes through the line gets a personal one-on-one experience with Ben, Bill, Eric and Sean. It is something that I think sets the team apart, as they take such outstanding care of each and every fan. I can’t even guess how many kids will become pilots just because of the experience they have meeting these guys; they truly are an awe-inspiring bunch.

After the autographs it was time for the guys to get ready to rock. Here are a few pictures from the flight line of getting ready (luckily I can sneak in some shots while I’m working, capturing memories I  I will always treasure.

Before the show ended Ian and I (with John in tow) headed to their hotel to get packets together for our Oracle guests who would be joining us the next day. Once we were finished we headed back to the hangar and grabbed the golf cart and Seamus to go over to the Charlie Hillard Building for a post-wedding party with a large group of their airshow family. Of course there was food being provided for the performers at the hangar so John and Seamus couldn’t wait.  Guys are always hungry.

The party was fun and we had a great time relaxing and enjoying a gorgeous evening on the side of the runway with lots of wonderful friends. It was a great way to close the day and we even got to “sleep in” the next morning before heading back out to the airport for Sean’s last performance at Oshkosh 2008.



Chelsea’s First Oshkosh – Day 4

Oshkosh Behind the Scenes

Wednesday July 30, 2008


Today was the Collaborators’ day to fly again which means we had all four planes out and lots of work to be done.  We had two media flights in the morning so that meant that the planes were pulled and warmed up before the pilots arrived. Next came a briefing for the flight and passengers on what to expect, and how to handle any unforeseen emergencies including use of the parachute. Then it was time to get going!

Some of the amazing Oshkosh Controllers.

Of course, Oshkosh doesn’t have the normal ground control/ tower routine that most pilots are used to. Here, at least during the show, ground control is not done by radio but hand signals provided by all of the wonderful volunteers along the taxiways. Because of this when we have a formation flight going out that will be taking off together we have to head out ahead of them in a vehicle to let the volunteers know that they are all together.

Now, getting to the runway doesn’t necessarily mean it’s time to call up tower.  Again, to declutter the radio they have another mode of communication. There is a makeshift “mini tower” just along the runway with actual controllers communicating directly to the tower telling them who they have ready to take-off and help keep eyes on the arrivals at the same time. Thus, we had to scurry out to them in the golf cart so they made sure to have the right spacing for all 5 aircraft to take off. When your time comes for departure there is a mad dash as one of the controllers on the ground waves frantically at you indicating it’s your time to get rolling and that means move!

After the photo flights were over it was back to the flight line for the show. We were constantly busy running around getting airplanes cleaned, fueled, smoked and ready for the next performance. Then there were the autograph signings at different companies’ tents around the grounds, which are always a blast.

By the end of the day we were all beat. Of course I couldn’t stop snapping pictures any chance I got  while riding around

P-40 Warhawk on display.

in the golf cart…but then again, who would be able to resist?! When we arrived to the hangar that evening the lighting was just too perfect to not take a few more pictures. There I was, surrounded by airplanes of the greats, including those of my team, Patty Wagstaff, Kyle Franklin and more.  It was eye candy for anyone, young or old.  Everywhere I looked was another breathtaking sight melding power with pure beauty.

Chelsea’s First Oshkosh – Day 3

Oshkosh From the Sky!




I don’t think that most people realize the amount of work that is put into running an airshow let alone OSHKOSH!! This place is amazing. It truly is its own little city, but more than that it is a community of like-minded people (read aviation nuts). So the routine, at least for me has been to get home around 9pm, eat and work until 11pm or so and then go to bed. Then Ben and I get up in the morning at 6am for a jog then get back shower and leave the house with Bill at 7:30am. Go to the airport, start working and then do it all over again.


Chelsea's first Oshkosh photo flight!


Today, though, was a little different. Today we got to the hangar at 8am for a photo flight and lucky me, Eric’s Extra 300 had an empty seat. So, I went flying. This was, of course, not my first flight with the team but my first photo flight which was very interesting. Flying in formation with the Seneca  setting up for some of The Collaborator’s famous shots for a USA Today photographer all the while maintaining the right set up with the sunlight with Oshkosh in the background was pretty darn cool! After that we broke up and ran through some of the team’s figures and portions of the airshow sequence. There’s nothing like a little negative G to start the morning! After that we broke apart and I got to do some flying with Eric. Loops, slow rolls, REALLY slow rolls, tumbles, barrel roles…we did them all and it was great to be up flying here. The text my mother received after I landed was “Dude, I flew at Oshkosh!”

Today was Sean’s solo day so it was nice for the rest of the guys to get a little time off to do other things like add decals to the airplanes.  I did lots of different things as is how it goes at an airshow. I went to Sean’s autograph signing session at the Lycoming Tent which was fun and then we stopped by the Extra display to say hello and check out the new Extra 330SC. All I can say is…DUDE! Very very cool! I hope I can fly one some day.

This evening was the Lycoming Dinner and a party at Ms. Dorrine Hillard’s house which, as always, was a blast! Lots of air show people descended upon the house on the lake to eat, celebrate and enjoy the gathering of so many longtime friends at Oshkosh 2008. It is also Sean O’Leary’s (better known to everyone as Shamus as we cannot have TWO Sean’s on the team) birthday. He is here with the team for his second year for a few months before heading back to his homeland, Ireland. We absolutely love him! So Kevin Coleman and I went to the store and picked up a cake for him and once everyone gathered together after dinner at both places we had a little surprise waiting for him at the Coleman’s house.

Tomorrow we do it again, it’s the Collaborators’ turn tomorrow. As always it should be fun!

Chelsea’s First Oshkosh – Day 2

Oshkosh Prep

July 27, 2008

Sponsor Decals Complete!

So today was my first full day here in Oshkosh, WI. While the day started off quietly and slowly with everyone resting and relaxing for the most part (other than Ben and Eric going for a practice flight which Bill and I TRIED to watch but to no avail due to the trees in our backyard being in the way) it ended up being a busy one. Ben, Bill and myself piled into our car and headed back to the hangar to start putting on decals for The Collaborators latest sponsor, AirshowBuzz.Com.

Now, decals are not quick, they are not simple and they are not simple, but they sure look cool when you’re finished! While we got about half of them finished by 5pm we had to stop because it was time for the boy to go practice. While they were flying I got my first real look at Oshkosh when Ian and I drove out to the end of the runway to watch landings and listen to the radio. All I have to say is…WOW. I’ve seen the videos and the pictures and heard all of the stories, but this is something you just have to see to really understand. It is unreal. Airplanes all over the place, controllers working a million miles a minute, and anything that is flat near the runway becomes a taxiway if needed. It is absolutely impressive and a sight that every aviator should see.

When the Team returned they had an unveiling of the Icon (and amphibious light sport) and the rest of us pushed the planes back into the hangar and I went right on back to the decals. Now it wasn’t long before my phone rang and the sweet southern accent of Kevin Coleman’s was on the other end. Not more than 30 minutes later he was sitting on the floor next to me under the right with of the Edge helping out with the decals.  Boy do we make a team!

When Ben came back he helped finish up the last of the decals and then we christened Go Inverted officially by placing our decals on the first airshow plane, Bill’s Edge 540.

I’m sure people often think that the life of an airshow pilot is nothing but parties and schmoozing, and it can be. But all I can say is coming home with a big bag of Taco Bell isn’t too shabby either…and that’s just what Ben, Bill and I did!

Tomorrow is the first day of the show and I am absolutely excited beyond belief. This place, this airport, this temporary town is magical. It is hands-down the most incredible thing I have ever seen.