OSHKOSH (NBC 26) — What brings together a recent college graduate from Tennessee, a mother from northern Illinois, and a professional air writer from New York? It's the EAA!
And Wednesday was the event's first evening air show of the week.
It was an opportunity for networking and thrill-seeking as much as it was a time to sit back and enjoy aviation with thousands of people who share the same passion.
Chris Parrott is an alumnus of Middle Tennessee State University who has, since graduation in December, developed his professional career as a flight instructor and pilot.
He said his alma mater invited him and other alumni to come to the big Oshkosh event for the chance to meet and network with others from all over the country. He said he received good advice from those conversations.
“They basically said, you know, just chase your dreams. All of them are like, 'Oh, we started out thinking oh, I wish I could do that one day; I'll never be able to do it.' And I was like, ‘It's funny. I was the same way.’ When I was seven I took my first flight. I was like, 'I want to be a pilot,' and I'm the first person in my family [to do it],” Parrott said.
EAA volunteer Aymee Zimmerman said stories like Parrott's are common on the grounds of the event, and they are part of what makes EAA so special.
“It's just the best place. It's magical: aviation and everything wonderful. And this is where passion for flight is ignited," Zimmerman said.
One of those passionate pilots is Nathan Hammond, who flew his 1956 Dehaviland Super Chipmunk DHC-1 in the air show's big finale.
He said it's an incredible and thrilling opportunity.
“It is amazing flying this airplane at night with fireworks; it is the best roller coaster ride you can ever experience. And we're, we love doing it here because the crowd is so good. And the city of Oshkosh is so awesome and comes out and supports the air show so well,” Hammond said.
But for someone with such a high-flying career, Hammond has an interesting fear.
“I am terrified of heights. You will never catch me on a ladder. You will never catch me on the second floor looking over the rail. No, no, I don't do heights," Hammond laughed.
"Now. I can strap into the airplane. I can put that seatbelt on and I can hang upside down and look at the runway from 1,000 feet, from 10,000 feet, doesn't bother me a bit. I can go upside down — but no heights,” he said.
And that's just what he did on Wednesday night to a cheering crowd of thousands.