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At the Oshkosh Area School District board meeting on Wednesday, May 14, Wittman Regional Airport Director Peter Moll recognized and rewarded the silver and gold aviation essays in the third annual Airport Writing Contest. Open to elementary, middle, and high school students in Winnebago County, it challenges students to write about the aviation experiences that made a difference in their lives.


In this post we share the winning essays from elementary school students; in subsequent posts we’ll share the winning middle school and high school essays. All of this year’s winning writers are students at Oshkosh, and Moll thanked the district for working with the airport, with special thanks to Julie Mosher for her coordination efforts.

Most of the winning writers are present at the meeting, and before Moll recognized them with a certificate and gift card, $50 for gold and $35 for silver, he surprised the packed meeting room by noting that Wittman is the third busiest airport in the state of Wisconsin, that it contributes to the surrounding economy 365 days a year, not just during EAA AirVenture. Airport businesses provide 548 jobs that pay $23.6 million in annual wages. When these workers do business in the community, the resulting economic impact is $40.7 million and 805 jobs.

4th Grade First—The Flight, by Matthew Kraase—Oakwood Elementary

It was a beautiful summer day at Wittman Airport. I was at the airport for the Young Eagles flight program; I was going to fly in an old yellow Piper J-3 Cub airplane. The plane could only fit two people.

The pilot had to start the airplane from the outside, by spinning the propeller. I was in the front seat when he started the plane. When the plane got started, he sat in the back seat.

Finally we got to our runway and the plane started to go faster and faster and then we had lift off!!! I got to fly the plane all by myself when my pilot got out of his seat, to close the side door that was open when we took off. In front of me were on 3 or 4 gauges and a joystick.

While we were in the sky it was extremely windy in the airplane. It smelled like exhaust. The smell was yucky.

I could see for miles, I felt like a giant because I saw tiny cars, houses, trees, roads and people I also saw a HUGE body of water (it was Lake Winnebago).

While we were in the air, the pilot and I communicated with headsets because the airplane was very loud. We needed to talk extra loud (which was difficult). The pilot kept saying “all right” through the headset.

After flying 0.4 hours with my pilot Max, we landed with a thud on the landing strip. I was as happy as could be!!!

My first airplane ride was spectacular!!!

4th Grade Second—The Experience, by Carson Johnson—Oakwood Elementary

In the 3rd grade I learned about aviation; it was my favorite subject in school. This was also the year I rode on my first airplane. My family and I went to Disney World in Florida. Our flight was from Milwaukee to Orlando.

We arrived at the airport and had to wait in the long line for the security check. When it was my turn to go through, the security guards told me to take off my shoes and put my suitcase through the X-ray. My dad had to take off his shoes, empty his pockets and step into a cylinder-shaped machine. A security guard pushed a button and a metal detector spun around like a rocket inside the machine.

My sister and I were starting, so we found a place to sit down. Then my dad and I took a walk around to find somewhere to get food. The airport was super busy, just like I imagined it. People were everywhere eating at restaurants and shopping at shops. We found a store that had everything. We got four cans of yogurt, two cups of coffee, two water bottles, and a Gatorade for me. My dad and I brought it all back to where my mom and sister were sitting.

We sat down and passed out the yogurt and drinks. Everybody dug in right as the yogurt slipped into their hands. My whole family finished their yogurt lickety-split. We finished our beverages about 15 minutes before we boarded the plane.

At that time, the flight attendant was calling out rows. When our row was called my family and I gathered up all of our stuff and handed the flight attendant our tickets. He said, “Okay, go ahead.” We walked down the jet way connected to the plane.

I dragged my heavy suitcase onto the plane. My family walked down the aisle until we found our seats. We put our luggage up in the overhead compartments and sat down. When everybody was boarded, the pilot’s voice boomed through the loud speakers. “Please stay seated during the flight, thank you.”

Unfortunately, the plane was frosted over so they had to defrost it, which took about thirty minutes. Once they were finished we took off, racing down the runway getting faster every second. I thought I was going to die! But when we lifted off the ground I was having the time of my life. I yelled out “woo-hoo” with a big smile on my face.

I quieted down and looked out the window to see the amazing view. The clouds looked soft and fuzzy as the plane rose above them. The people in front of me started chewing on gum. I heard a pop coming from my year; I yawned and my ear unplugged. I fell asleep and when I woke up I grabbed my bad and hopped off the plane and said “that was awesome.” That was the first time I rode a plane.

5th Grade First—A New Experience, by Emma Bogenhagen—Carl Traeger Elementary

I was just persuading my dad that it was a beautiful, crisp and clear September day, so maybe we could try to fly to Shawano again, so I could try one of the mouthwatering burgers that my mouth was itching to have. So, he checked the weather and said that we were good to go. Butterflies filled my stomach and I had absolutely no patience.

Finally, about thirty minutes later, we packed up the car with our shiny, smooth helmets, the sweet smelling oily gas, the dusty old radio and of course, you have to put on lots of clothes so you don’t get cool. When we arrived at the dead silent airstrip, I stepped out of my dad’s shiny blue car, the cold sharp wind meeting my tender, pale skin. I pulled my gray hoodie over my head, but my dirty blonde hair spilled all over my fact. I wiped the hair away and started trotting down the gravel road. I could hear the gravel crunching behind me, and then I stopped in front of the hangar where my dad was just pushing the airplane outside, into the cool air. I started down at my dirty shoes that appeared to be full of thick dust from the gravel.

My dad handed me my shiny red helmet and I reached out to grab it. As it rested in my hands, I saw my reflection in it. After placing the helmet on my head, I weaved the black strap into the metal loop and climbed into the back of the Challenger. Shortly after, I have my dad a confident thumbs-up, then we were off. As the airplane rose higher and higher, I felt more and more exhilarated. I guess it had been so long that I forgotten what it had felt like.

Later, my dad announced that we were just flying over the airport. I started to get a rush of energy. When we started to drop, foot by foot, we began to land. My dad parked the airplane and we climbed out. We walked down the grass ditch as I stopped for beautiful flowers to make into a bouquet for my dad. I glanced up at the restaurant and automatically look left, right, then left again and bolted across the road, into the restaurant’s parking lot. I opened the door to the restaurant and quietly stepped in. the aroma of juicy burgers and the greasy onion rings, fries and cheese courts filled my nostrils. I was so excited that I could finally try a burger and experience the phenomenal burst of flavors. Afterwards, we paid the bill for the hamburgers and cheese curds that we had bought and left. The hamburger was the best, but the experience was more enjoyable. I will never forget the time I flew to Shawano with my dad for the first time.

5th Grade Second—The Airport Writing Contest, by Emma Phillips—Emmeline Cook Elementary

I was walking up to the airplane. Very slowly. Stopping after every step. All of the sudden my feet stopped.

“I can’t go on!” I told my father. “Oh, honey. Airplanes don’t bite,” my father chuckled. At that point I was sweating, shaking, and about to cry. I’m deathly afraid of airplanes. I’ve never been on one and don’t plan to. So I just stood there. My dad pushed me to the plane’s cockpit. I saw the plane’s throttle and gulped.

“C’mon sweetie, put on the gear!” father pilot said while handing me this jumpsuit that looked like someone in jail would wear. I got the jumpsuit on and sat down in the seat.

“Now buckle up!” cheered my father.

“Here goes nothing,” I thought. There were so many rusty looking levers around me.

“What is this stuff?”

“They are in case of emergencies,” my father replied.

“What kind of emergencies?” I wondered out loud. My dad never answered because he knew I would flip out. My twitching started up again but it was worse. My eyes kept blinking and couldn’t stop until my dad put his hand on my knee. If this is how bad I am sitting in a plane then it’s going to be horrible flying in one. I was staring at my stubby fingers with a 3/4 centimeter of a nail attached to them.

“Honey, please look up.” He grinned. I looked up and was astonished by the sight of the view from the plane. I kept looking without taking a second to blink.

“It’s beautiful!!” I cried. I pressed my palms upon the window with my eyes wide open.

“Is this how you feel every day?” I asked my father.

“How do you feel sweetie?”

“I…I…I feel free!” I replied.

“Exactly,” he revealed.

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