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Monday, July 03, 2006

The EAA Museum

As a kid growing up in New York, I recall that when people wanted to refer to a place that was so far out that nobody had ever heard of it, they would call it Oshkosh. As in, "yeah, keep going down that road until you hit Oshkosh." I had always thought it was an imaginary place, like Yehupitz.

Well, it turns out Oshkosh is indeed a real place, and home to one of the coolest Museums in the world. Oshkosh, Wisconsin is the home of the EAA, the Experimental Aircraft Association, and its museum, the Airventure Museum. We've been members of the museum ever since our kids got tired of dinosaurs, and we try to make it out there at least once a year.

Every year, the EAA hosts Airventure, in which hundreds of planes fly in from around the world. We don't go that week. It's too crowded and too expensive for us. We usually go out a week before or after and wander around the museum and soak in the coolness. So here are some pictures from this weekend. For more of the PT "Airventure", check out Camp Mommy.

First of all, you need to understand one thing: This is a serious museum. This isn't some little hick place out in the middle of Yehupitz. When they say "No Smoking, Food, Gum," they mean it!

Get with the program!

Anyway, once you spit out your gum, you enter the lobby and look up and see not one, not two, but three full-sized aircraft suspended above your head. Good thing Wisconsin isn't in an earthquake zone. There's a nice little gift shop with shirts and models and books and videos, or you can pay admission (very affordable by big-city standards) and go into the main hall.

Before we got too far in, we did notice signs for an exhibit on Spaceship One. Spaceship One is the privately built craft that won the Ansari X prize for flying 100 km above the Earth twice in a two-week period in 2004, and was a guest fly-in to Oshkosh last year. Unfortunately, the exhibit was not yet completed, but the work area was easily accessible and we were able to get a nice view of the mock-up under construction.

The work area is off of the main hall, which features a variety of different private and experimental planes, as well as historic craft like The Spirit of St. Louis. The main hall is fun to wander around in. It even has one of those vomit machines flight simulators (but you have to pay extra for that).

The area is also pretty nice for kids, as there seems to be an airplane for every sized person.

From here we decided to go upstairs, where they actually did have an exhibit (and a film) about dinosaurs, but I mean, that's like, sooo 1993, so we didn't spend much time trying to figure out why it was there. We instead moved to the kids' area, which was unbelievably amazing.

The first thing we saw was an almost full-sized mock-up of an F-22 Raptor. Oh, don't know what that is? Time to start playing more videogames, suXXorz, because it's only the most awesomest stealth fighter ever to come out of Lockheed-Martin. I've been, like, flying Raptors since 1995. They handle sooo much better than F-15s.


You can walk around to the front of the plane and climb up the access stairs and sit in the cockpit. Now, it is a little smaller than the real thing, so it is for kids only. No, you won't see a picture of me sitting in it; the cockpit is clearly labeled "Kids Only." I vehemently deny the existence of any such image, and should it be discovered at any later date, I'd have to say that it could only have been produced using the most sophisticated computer magic available.

Notice how none of the boys are sitting in the cockpit.


From there we went into an area that's specially set up for kids and schools and contains numerous interactive displays on physics, thrust, airplane and helicopter controls, etc.

The museum directors apparently understand something very important about kids today, and that is that given a choice of almost any imaginable activity, kids would much rather be playing videogames. It's true; there's no use in denying it. Most kids would rather stick themselves in front of a computer or a TV all day than go swimming, horseback riding, hang-gliding, ballooning, etc. So the directors, in their wisdom, set up a whole bank of computers with big screens, force-feedback joysticks, cockpits, and Microsoft Flight Simulators. They also set up computerized simulations of, you guessed it, hang-gliding and ballooning, with enormous panoramic surround-screens and mock-up contollers. You have to pull a rope to let air out of the balloon, or move your body in the suspended seat to steer the glider. Awesome!

Here is a little video of Fudge attempting to use one of the remote controlled robot arms.

After dragging our kids out of this area, we went to look at the military planes in the Eagle Hanger.

There are many historic WWII planes here, including P-51s, a Spitfire, a P-38, and some bombers.

On the upper deck, there is a briefing room where you can watch a video about the war and read some interesting period-specific signs:

The lower level has most of the airplane collection, including a display on Naval Aviation with very cool models and dioramas.

I don't care what anyone says, but to me this looks like the middle part of a TIE fighter.

All in all, it was a fun afternoon and highly recommended for anyone who has kids, or was once a kid.


Jack's Shack said...

It does look like a Tie fighter. Beware the 7 foot tall Sith lord standing nearby.

cruisin-mom said...

wow, Mr. Cruisin would go crazy there...looks like a great museum.

Rhea said...

FYI: I heard East Bumfuck has a similar, really great museum.

PsychoToddler said...

Really? You sound like you must spend a lot of time there.

kasamba said...

Looks like you guys had a fab time!!!

Another meshugannah mommy said...

That museum looks AMAZING!!! I've never been to Oshkosh, although my kids have worn the overalls!

Kiwi the Geek said...

Is anybody else having trouble seeing the video?

PsychoToddler said...

Kasamba: Yes, quite smashing.

AMM: It's about an hour north of Milwaukee. It's a nice Sunday trip from Chicago.

Kiwi: Works for me.

Shira Salamone said...

Neat photos! My son would have loved that place!

For your amusement and entertainment, here are other names I’ve heard used for remote and obscure places:

Yenimvelt, or Yenavelt (Yiddish)—I’ve been told that this also refers to the next world (the life-after-death version, not the sci fi version :))

The middle of nowhere





And then, of course, there’s the old saying, “Will it play in Peoria?” Um, I don’t know, Mark—tell us how your concert tomorrow goes over with your audience. :)

Rock the house!

Kiwi the Geek said...

PT, it magically works now. Must have heard us talking about it. ;o)

Sweettooth120 said...

I never heard of using the expression Oshkosh, but definitely what Rhea said.

This museum looks awesome. Sure beats the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum, which is sooooo BORING!

socialworker/frustrated mom said...

Awesome pics of the kids. Looks like they had a great time.

PsychoToddler said...

Like I said, we had to peel them off of their computers to get them to go, but fortunately, there were computers at the museum.

Soccer Dad said...

Despite the objection above, I was going to write (still am) that you'd probably like the Air and Space museum. And now its new annex if you ever get down to this part of the country.

PsychoToddler said...

David: We were at Air and Space in 2004 and loved it. This museum is a little different--you can go on a real airplane or helicopter ride if you want (to pay for it).

Also, the computer stuff they just added at EAA totally blows away the Smithsonian. And most of the year it is NOT crowded (even on a sunday) and you can play as much as you like.

parcequilfaut said...

If you ever venture this far into the benighted South, you might like the Museum of Science and Energy in Oak Ridge.

We have fun there.

But right now I want the cash to go see the Egyptian exhibit at the Frist....