Air Show: Treat Williams and Robert Neubecker, Hyperion, June 2010
It started with a book party for ‘Wow City”. Treat Williams and I live in the same town and our kids go to school together. Treat has been flying airplanes of every description since he was in High School- he flew his first solo flight at seventeen. I’d been drawing airplanes of every description since I was a little kid.
When Treat saw my drawing of “Wow Airplane” The idea for the book was born. It was simple. Treat had an airplane, actually two, and my Dad lived in Oshkosh. Oshkosh Wisconsin hosts the biggest air show in the country every summer, the Experimental Aircraft Association Air Venture. Ten thousand airplanes fly in from all over the world. Every kind of airplane: the latest big military and commercial jets, lovingly restored historic planes, experimental and cutting edge aircraft designs, and every imaginable private plane, large and small. We figured we’d fly out there, write a book, and stay at my dad’s- hotels in Oshkosh are booked years out during the air show.
Treat has a twin engine private plane, Navajo 95 Charlie Lima, and we took some friends along, also pilots. There was Carl Penner, who has been a commercial airline pilot with Delta (heavy metal) but is also an accomplished stunt flyer and aircraft mechanic. He has a hanger full of banged up old planes that he is restoring at our little country airfield. Carl restored and owns a Chinese Mig 17 from the Korean War. Our third pilot was Harry Bibb, also a captain with Delta, who once took off with a load of elephants, while being shelled, in Viet Nam. We took along the pilot’s three teenage sons, and then me with a sketchbook and camera.
We had a full plane and a full house, so we rented a ramshackle old farmhouse near the Oshkosh airport from one of my high school friends. I stayed at my dad’s with the air conditioning. I still hear about that farmhouse….
The Air show was spectacular. Always is, as you can see by the pictures and the book. The flight there and back was terrific fun, being with all the pilots and hearing their chatter and stories. It’s an entire, fascinating world, aviation, with it’s own language, history and legends. Much of the book is pilot speak-the back and forth between pilot, co-pilot and tower. The endpapers are the instrument panel and controls on N95CL. All a kid needs is a cardboard box and the book for many happy hours of flying.
When we got home, Treat took me flying in his T-6 Texan, a World War II combat trainer. We did loops, rolls and other aerobatics so I could get a feel for it. You sit on your parachute as a cushion and get the drill on how to pop the canopy and bail out if things go south. Throwing up is considered bad form. We buzzed the Wasatch Mountains so close you felt like you could reach out and touch the peaks.
We worked on the book with Donna Bray as our editor and Anne Diebel as our art director. Namrata Tripathi, Tamson Weston & Joann Hill also contributed to the final editing and design. We were just so stoked from start to finish that everything about doing this book was nothing but pure fun. Once, while I was drawing the Boeing B-17 and jabbering on and on about the design characteristics, may assistant called out “Bob! don’t geek out on me!” We hope that you and your children enjoy reading it as much as we enjoyed making it.