July 29th, 2007

airplane

oshkosh, the industry, chicago and the future

the man and I are in Chicago. get how much this sucks: we get to o'hare knowing we have a four hour(!) layover until our flight takes off to take us home to Wichita. So we decide to kill two of those hours by riding the l downtown. unfortunately, there are infinity stops to get to downtown, so after one hour of riding we've made it about 1/3 of the way, so we get off and go back to the airport to make our "arrive two hours before departure" time. THEN we get here and learn that our flight is delayed two hours. it's not leaving until 10... there's a gigantic storm in Wichita that probably has something to do with this. hoover dam.

so I paid the $7 for internet access so I could check e-mail and, well, catch up on lj.

oshkosh was INCREDIBLE! I won't lie to you, after the first day there I thought I was going to die if I had to see another airplane. I was tired and had a bad bad headache from being in the sun all day. We'd left the hotel at 7:30 and got back at 10. But the second day, I drank a lot more water early in the morning. I got more confident about picking my own stuff to see instead of following my boss around all day. I treated myself to some ice cream in the afternoon. I adjusted. And by day four, my bosses left and I was there by myself and could leave whenever i wanted and chose to close the place... I watched the airshows, went to another forum, sat in more airplanes, talked to more vendors.

oshkosh is hard to describe. it's an airshow, fly-in, conference, expo, street fair, family reunion, airplane celebration, all wrapped into one. There are hundreds of airplanes that everyone flys in. Little homebuilts, giant military jets (there was a C5 on display), vintage stuff, ultralights, helecopters. There are four huge hangars of people selling good products for experimental airplanes. After the second day I felt confident enough to tell them who I was and what I was doing there, ask some questions about timelines, data bus structures, interface possibilities. I could plant ideas with people whose products I liked and politely walk away from those I knew wouldn't interest us. I took tons of notes and pictures. When I wasn't doing that, I was either in forums listening to lectures or I was scoping out competition airplanes. People were surprisingly cool letting me crawl around stuff and ask questions.

The overall, very cool feeling I got from oshkosh is this: everyone thinks airplanes are cool. everyone who works on airplanes thinks they're cool. and we value that more than we value other things... wall street buys our stock asking who we'd like to try to put out of business, but it's not about that, it's about building cooler airplanes. we're all working towards the same light, so to speak. and sure we have to make new companies all the time because there are debates about the best design or manufacturing process or business plan, but deep down inside, whenever a new company starts up and does well, it's awesome. whenever some random family decides to make a homebuilt ultralight in their garage, it's a contribution. we need as many people involved as possible, and we need awareness about issues in general aviation and the challenges faced by it.

every conference in the world conveys some sort of "this is why we're holding hands this week" sort of feeling. I went to defcon and learned how many people hack computers to learn how to improve security, and it was a surprising big idea that I can't sum up in a sentence but it's stayed with me. and that's how I feel about oshkosh... terribly optimistic, because there are 800,000 people or so on the same side. same goal. different ways of going about it. we'll all get there faster, and it'll be that much more fun... again, democracy.