Kili flew to Oshkosh for the annual EAA Air Venture, the world's greatest aviation event. I have been flying for over 9 years but have not yet had the pleasure of going to Oshkosh. Before owning my own plane, I never felt right going in a rental. Since acquiring my plane, for a few years I felt too novice to be able to undertake the arrival procedure into the world's busiest airport (during the event). But, with greater experience and my trusty copilot, I decided that it was time to make the pilgrimage to Oshkosh.
I brought Kili, my 6 year old Senegal Parrot, along for the ride. It was out of the question to take all of my birds but I definitely wanted to bring one. Kili is both my smallest and most trusted so I knew she'd be the right one to take for the journey. On the other hand, Truman and Santina each got a room to themselves while we were gone. On our way there, we battled fierce headwinds and took close to 6 hours to get there.
I expected all hell to break loose on the busy FISK arrival. It was busy but surprisingly manageable. Not nearly as bad as New York Approach on a Friday night. In fact, the air traffic controllers at Oshkosh were extremely courteous and understanding. These controllers realize that they are dealing with amateur pilots of varying levels of experience. Someone previously mentioned to me that they thought the Oshkosh arrival isn't as hectic as flying the Hudson river and I think they were right.
Kili was a big help. She just hung on without causing any trouble or distraction. I think she too enjoys flying! We landed in Oshkosh and after what seemed like an eternity taxiing all over the airport, we arrived at our camp site. We set up camp next to the plane and headed over to the main fairgrounds for the best part. Air Venture is like Disney World for aviators! It was incredible! Airplanes come from all over the United States and the world for this event. Around 15,000 aircraft and a quarter million people participate.
Since I own and fly a Mooney airplane, it was exciting to see Mooney back from bankruptcy at the event. They demonstrated the first Mooney Acclaim off the production line in 5 years and held a press conference. Kili whispered in my ear to ask the CEO about what safety and style improvements they had made to the airplane since changing the company motto from Speed Speed Speed to Safety Speed and Style. I don't think Kili was impressed with Jerry Chen's roundabout answer that the plane has always had those elements and that they were simply beginning to emphasize them better. Nonetheless, the Mooney acclaim is still to this day the world's fastest four seat single engine production airplane.
For 3 days we watched air shows, visited vendor displays, and met loads of pilots. Funny how it's a small world, we bumped into many people we know. Also many people I don't but know me were able to recognize me with Kili. It was a splendid trip and Kili enjoyed all the attention and travel as well. Here are some photos and video from our 2014 Oshkosh Air Venture adventure.
I flew to Phoenix Arizona to present the Parrot Wizard Bird Show & Seminar (which you'll get to hear more about later). Airline travel would have been too restrictive, expensive, and difficult so I opted to make the 2 day trip to Arizona myself by airplane. I loaded Truman into his travel cage and Kili into her carrier and we were on our way with over 250 pounds of merchandise for the event.
Jamie, my girlfriend, accompanied us for the first day. We spent the night with her in St Louis but continued to Phoenix without her (but picked her up on the way back). In the beginning of the trip flights were short. Because of the weight of all the baggage and two people, I was restricted on how much fuel I could bring. It was just a 3 hour flight from NJ to OH and then another 3 to St Louis.
I realized that I forgot the food bowls for the travel cages at home when it came time to feed the birds. Worse yet, I realized that I forgot their pellets in the airplane as well. I had to scramble and find people foods to feed them instead to get them through the night. I got a hold of some corn, bread, and grapes. Kili pigged out and had no problem with this arrangement. Truman on the other hand had a few bites but eventually boycotted. He refused to eat anything but his pellets but they were not available till the next day. Here's a great example why it's important that birds be accustomed to people food as well as bird food so that they could still be fed in a pinch.
After spending the night in St Louis, the long part of the journey began. I flew 3.5 hours to Oklahoma and took advantage of some of the cheapest gas in the country. Then it was a long 5.5 hour flight to Phoenix over inhospitable terrain. I diverted around thunderstorms and flew high to stay over the mountains. I had to use an oxygen system for part of the flight due to altitude. The birds were alright but it sure made them sleepy. It was so cute to see Kili & Truman fall asleep on the same perch together. Getting high is a great way to mellow out the little buggers.
Finally I had to perform a steep descent into Phoenix after clearing the mountains and was greeted by a dust storm blowing through the area. It was difficult to find the airport in low visibility and I had to close the air vents cause it felt like my face was being sandblasted.
After landing I was met by Ginger who helped run the event and played host to the birds. Luckily because the dust storm blocked out the sun and moved the air around it wasn't too hot and we were able to unload the plane quickly. We headed back to her house and got the birds situated and fed. Here is a video of the flight there. More videos and stories from the trip coming soon.
This was a really fun and exciting weekend. The parrots came on a flying and camping trip to Maine. We set out not too early. Shortly after takeoff, air traffic control had me fly right over the Empire State Building and cross La Guardia airport. I let the birds out and they would go from sitting on me to atop Truman's travel cage. This was the first time I have ever taken them flying together in my airplane. Prior to this it was just one at a time and on occasion. But lately I have been testing things out and making preparations for our cross country flight to Arizona in June to present our live seminar.
Cartoon depiction of Kili & Truman on their camping outing
Kili copiloting the airplane
Truman giving flying advice from my shoulder
Kili & Truman perch atop Truman's travel cage while he tries to put a shoe on
We climbed to 13,500 feet to practice high elevation flying in preparation for our upcoming trip to Arizona to present a seminar. The birds got sleepy and dozed off. Kili was out like a log in her carrier in the full turned around sleeping position. Truman took longer to fall asleep but fell into a light slumber as well. However, the birds held up just fine and I'm no longer worried about flying over the rockies with them without supplemental oxygen. My airplane isn't pressurized, so although flying lower than jetliners, the actual cabin pressure is far lower.
Truman falls asleep in his travel cage because of the low pressure but shows no discomfort
After two and a half hours flight, we arrived in Belfast, Maine. We took a quick fly over the town and landed at the municipal airport. I harnessed up the parrots in the airplane and then we walked to town. It was only a few miles each way so not a big deal. Fresh air, sun, and entertainment for the birds. Kili & Truman took turns riding my hand or shoulder.
We went to a seafood place by the water and enjoyed some Maine lobster and seafood. Although pets aren't allowed into the restaurant, Kili and Truman earned special permission for their cuteness. We took a table at the furthest end to avoid disturbing anyone. The parrots sat on a nearby fence and earned scraps of french fries and veggies from the masters' table.
Airport and town of Belfast Maine
After a tasty seafood meal, we go to check out the marina in Belfast Maine
Kili and Truman find the airplane's propeller an ideal place to perch and drop a poo before the next flight
We walked back to the airport and climbed in the plane for a very short flight over to the island of Islesboro. The airport there was quite short and desolated. One other airplane was parked there but otherwise it did not appear as though anyone had been through there in weeks. I parked the plane near a grassy patch and then proceeded to unload. I put the parrots out in their carriers to watch the tent set up process. They were just in awe how all that tent fit in such a small bag. After everything was set up, we took a walk and watched the sun set.
Upon return to the camping area, we broke out the cooler and sat down for a picnic dinner. I brought a parrot training perch for the birds to share when they were out. The two of them jealously watched the picnic set up but were treated to some bread and parrot food. It was getting dark so I put the birds into their travel cages and wrapped them with their sheet so they could have their own tent within the tent to stay warm at night. I specifically opted to cover them with one big sheet rather than separate ones so they could share their trapped heat under it.
The parrots were awakened by the calls of wild birds that they had never heard before. So they joined in with their own chatter, shrieks, and whistles. I took the parrots outside wearing their harnesses and practiced some flight recalls with them for treats. They did some but were mostly busy looking around so I didn't push it much. I let them climb around in the tree near our tent and they were thrilled. It was a lot bigger than their tree at home!
Parrots go camping in a tent by the airplane in Islesboro Maine
Kili and Truman decorate the airport sign by doing their own run up
The parrots enjoy some morning sunshine in the tent atop Truman's travel cage
Kili and Truman had a thrill climbing around a tree by the tent
We packed up the tent and loaded the plane. Before long we were airborne and enroute to Hyannis in Cape Cod Massachussets. We flew right over top Boston Logan Airport enroute and Kili got a bird's eye view of Boston.
We arrived in an hour and a half, parked the plane, and headed into town for lunch. After a pleasant walk, we found my favorite raw bar called The Raw Bar. This place is home of the biggest Lobster Roll I have ever seen. For $25 you get a Lobster Roll the size of a Cape Parrot. It's gotta have at least 3-4 lobsters worth of meat piled on it. It is virtually impossible to eat this much lobster by yourself so it's good to have someone to share it with.
I set the parrots on the chair next to me and fed them oysters. Actually they were just the cracker kind, oyster crackers. But the parrots were in paradise. They love the crunchy chewy goodness of these little baked delights and were begging for more. I gave them a chance to taste some lobster but they opted to stick to the french fries and crackers instead.
Kili gets a "bird's eye view" of Boston as we fly over Boston Logan Airport
Parrots checking out the giant Lobster Roll. And yes, it's all real lobster, no substitute!
Kili and Truman prefer fake seafood like Oyster Crackers instead
After a delightful, and somewhat overfilling, seafood lunch, we strolled around Hyannis. From all directions Kili & Truman received praise from shocked onlookers. We returned to the airport and completed the flight back to New York in record time. With a steady tailwind, I was able to bring the power back to fly at 185mph on a mere 14 gallons of gas in an hour and fifteen minutes. Coming back to New York from the northeast, we turned south and flew down the Hudson to get back home.
Map portraying our trip. Red, green, yellow, then blue. NY - Belfast - Islesboro - Hyannis - NY
Senegal Parrot flying over New York City
The trip proved a huge success and we had a lot of fun. It was a new experience for the parrots but far from overwhelming. By camping, walking, and using personal transportation we were able to avoid all issues surrounding travel with pets. We ate outside and cleaned up our own mess. Thus we were able to make the entire trip with the birds without any question of whether they'd be allowed or not. This broke up the parrots' typical routine and also got them involved in something I would normally leave them at home to do. It's a win/win for everyone. Now check out the video footage from the parrots' camping trip to Maine.
In the four months I've had Truman, I have not had the chance to take him flying with me like I've done with Kili. This mainly has to do with the fact that I was not able to trust him not to fly around the airplane, poop everywhere, and cause trouble. However, in recent months I have worked a lot on socializing Truman. I began taking him on extended car rides, meeting new people, and going to new places. Although not with the same confidence as when I took Kili for her first flight, I was ready to bring Truman up with me before the onset of colder weather.
The hour and a half drive to Braden airport was good carrier practice for Truman. He stayed quiet for most of the ride as it was still early in the morning and he had a meal to eat inside the carrier on the way. He used to scream endlessly during car rides but the more we do it, the more relaxed he is about it. Upon arriving to the airport, I got briefed about the day's weather and preflighted the PA28R-180 Piper Arrow.
As soon as the airplane was ready, I quickly moved Truman in his carrier from the car to the airplane because the weather was brisk. I strapped Truman's carrier into the front seat, let Kathleen into the back and then we were all set to go. The engine took a lot of cranking and didn't want to start. With enough coaxing of the throttle and mixture, it finally lit up and we ready. After just five minutes of taxi and engine run up, we were on the runway taking off. The Arrow lifted effortlessly off the ground both thanks to the light payload and colder air setting in.
At 150mph, the 17 mile flight to Sky Manor was so quick that I had to rush to get Truman some out time. I had just barely leveled off when it was time to descend again, so I popped the lid on the carrier and took Truman out. He was excited and very playful. He even got to fly the airplane for a bit from the right seat. He assisted me flying the plane and gave me suggestions. When he sat on my shoulder he obsessed with my headset, most likely disappointed that he didn't get one like everybody else.
I brought the plane around a tight pattern and made a smooth crosswind landing at Sky Manor airport. Meanwhile, Truman was sitting on my shoulder preening, vocalizing, and finding new exciting ways to be a pain in the butt. We left Truman in his carrier in the plane while we went to have lunch at the airport restaurant. We did not entirely forget about Truman. Upon returning from lunch, we harnessed him up in the plane and took him outside for a little bit. He didn't feel like flying recalls so we just let him explore the park bench for a little while. It was cold and windy so we did not leave him out for too long.
The flight back was just as quick and uneventful. I let Truman out a little sooner and let him stay out for a bit but not again for landing. Braden is pretty much the shortest airport around so it takes a little concentration to put a fast airplane onto the tiny strip. Nonetheless, the crosswind landing was fine and I managed to use only half the runway (about 1000ft).
By exposing Truman to as many different scenarios now, regardless of whether or practical or not, it helps shape him into a less fearful parrot in the long run. He will be more used to change and less stressed out if I ever need to do a lot of car travel or move to a new home with him. Since parrots live so long, changes are inevitable. This is why it is best to begin preparing your parrot from when it is a baby. Socialization is not merely about teaching your parrot specific new objects/situations but also teach it to be accepting of the concept of change in general.
Here is a video of Truman's flight. While it is a bit long, there are cute scenes of Truman throughout the video so I recommend sticking it out and watching the entire thing: