Oshkosh Arrival

For holding as big an air show as the EAA AirVenture, Whitman Regional (KOSH), is not a big airport. It has just 111 aircraft based at the field, and averaged 177 air traffic control operations per day in 2015 (AirNav). Everything changes during the air show though; during the 2017 AirVenture, KOSH saw more than 10,000 aircraft arrive, and averaged 123 takeoffs and landings per hour, or a total of 17,223 operations total over the course of ten days. (EAA). According to the FAA, this places Oshkosh number 3 in the nation in terms of air traffic operations, behind Atlanta and Chicago but above Los Angeles and Dallas/Fort Worth. What’s even more impressive is that these operations took place over a ten-hour period — the other four airports are open 24 hours (FAA).

So how does this happen? Very, very carefully. A NOTAM is published with specific arrival procedures for VFR and IFR aircraft, as well as specific routes for warbirds, turbine aircraft, ultralights, helicopters, and seaplanes. The runways at Oshkosh feature large, colored circles. These, combined with an FAA waiver allowing for reduced separation of aircraft allow controllers to land multiple planes on one runway, just seconds apart from each other (EAA). To get an idea of just how this all gets accomplished, read through the real AirVenture NOTAM:



That is crazy. I would love to see it in person.

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I flew in VFR the other day it was awesome. Anywhere you looked you saw a plane looked like the battle of Great Britain. The coolest thing to me was you never said a word. You just listened and they would call type of aircraft and color to tell you what to do.


They also set up a mobile ATC ops for those days to, little popup towers pretty cool to see in person. People camp under the wings and it is a blast, highly recommend as a bucket list for a pilot.


I’m jealous! Are the controllers able to identify the aircraft well, or do you have to be aware of who you’re following and kind of expect a radio call to some extent?

They identified our caravan usually if they don’t know they will say like high wing or v tail or like flashing nose light and if they see the color they will include that. For the FISK VFR arrival you you expect a call to rock your wings about .5 miles from FISKE.


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