Home of Wasabi Air Racing

Elliot Seguin and Jenn Whaley's Formula One class air race team based out of Mojave, California. Pylon racing at the National Championship Air Races in Reno Nevada. Eight airplanes racing head to head around telephone poles in the desert. Mojave is the best place on the planet to build and modify a race plane, and Wasabi is lucky to have the best support in the business.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Oshkosh Divert

By Elliot Seguin

On the way to 2011 Airventure, Jennifer and I found ourselves inbound to the airport with the airport closed for the day’s airshow.  With two hours to kill, we took the opportunity to explore northern Wisconsin and check out an airport we had not yet visited.  Throughout the week during our trip back east we made it a point to stop at as many airports as possible to get a feel for the health of general aviation in the Midwest; of all the airports we stopped at, Shawano Municipal (KEZS) was a definite standout.

Over the Shewano Lake north of the Shewano Airport (KEZS)
Shawano Municipal airport is located one nautical mile northeast of the central business district of Shawano Wisconsin and fifty nautical miles north of Oshkosh.  Like so many small towns in upstate Wisconsin, Shawano is friendly and approachable.  The airport is located on the banks of Shawano Lake which is home to the airport’s seaplane operations.  The Northwest corner of the airport includes a beach and dock for seaplane parking and for transitioning aircraft to and from water operations.  Apparently the Seaplane operations have tapered off in recent years and the water flying portion of the Shawano Flying Service has recently closed its doors.  That being said, I was very surprised to see the relic of the airport’s float operations, a Do-28 they have as a gate guard.

The Shewano Airport’s Do-28 Skyservant
The Do-28 Skyservant is a twin engine STOL aircraft manufactured by Dornier Flugzeugbau, the first flight of which occurred in 1959.  The most recent version of the airplane was developed in the early 80’s and included a conversion to turbo prop powerplants.  The version on display at the Shawano airport is an A-1 model which was powered by a pair of Lycoming 540s.  This A-1 model includes the curvy aft fuselage reminiscent of a de Havilland Mosquito.  The aft fuselage has direct lineage the airplane’s predecessor the Do-27, a single engine version of a similar mission (looks like a Helio Courier).  These curvy lines were replaced with a box fuselage reminiscent of a de Haviland Beaver in the late 1960’s for the D model of the Skyservant.  The particular Do-28 that is sitting on the Shawano airport is in pretty rough shape, but it was a great surprise full of interesting solutions to the standard airplane problems, most notably the Cri-Cri like twin engine arrangement.  These kinds of design solutions need fried food and good atmosphere to fully process.

The long bar of The Launching Pad in Shewano Wisconsin
There are five places to eat within walking distance of the Shawano airport and one of which is also a bowling alley.  We chose to partake in The Launching Pad, a pub across from the airport gate (yes they have a facebook page).  As seems to be the standard in this part of the country, this bar was not light on character or local flavor and the patrons and barmaids alike were friendly, warm and inviting.  Besides the standard beer signs and stuffed bass with antlers mounted on the walls this bar seemed to have everything you might have come to expect at a bar on your trip north.  Peanuts, popcorn, pickled pork knuckles, deep fried cheese curds or mozzarella sticks, all you can eat spaghetti (not recommended by the staff) and of course blind robins.  Blind robins are smoked herring that has been compared to pickled herring only a lot worse.  When I asked the barmaid to try a blind robin, she literally would not let me.  It says something about a bar when there are multiple items available for sale that the staff vehemently recommends against, but are still kept on the menu regardless.  About the time I was learning about the pickling of fresh water fish to make them inedible, Jennifer was asked to settle a bet.  When she told the young man (on his second beer at 3:00 on this Monday afternoon) that she was in fact not from Illinois (he had bet we were vacationing from Chicago) he slumped his shoulders and scratched his head.  The fact that we were from California clearly didn’t help his puzzlement and he returned to his bottomless spaghetti.  It was at this point I was reminded just how far we were out in the sticks and how awesome of a traveling machine an airplane is.

Deep Fried Cheese Curds

After a few too many cheese curds and a Coca-Cola for each of us, we retreated to the FBO to pay for our gas and launch for our arrival to Oshkosh.  The gas was cheap ($4.55) and there was something about the airport lounge that just felt right.  Airplane pictures everywhere, an old soda machine (the kind that looks like a cooler), stacks of Trade-A-Plane and Sport Aviation called back to a time when these businesses weren’t all grappling for their piece of the biz jet action.  There was no fancy bubbly bottled water or red carpets, this business existed to serve the needs of GA pilots.  It was good to know that places like this still existed and with a bowling alley next door, perhaps this one would be able to stick around.

Elliot and Jennifer at Delta County Airport, Escanaba Michigan (KESC