By John Egan, EAA 336835, EAA Sr. Manager, Chapters
As far as many aviators think, Wisconsin is often considered the center of the aviation universe for at least one week per year. So much aviation is in one place, and the place is the town of Oshkosh. As it turns out, there is a location in Wisconsin, about 85 nautical miles northwest of Oshkosh, that literally is the center of the northern half of the western hemisphere. This is the point where the 90th meridian of longitude intersects the 45th parallel of latitude, and you can fly there.
People often enjoy visiting the exact spots where historical events happened, natural wonders exist, and places with interesting trivia or facts. The 45 degrees north, 90 degrees west point may be an aviators “go-to” place if you enjoy pilotage, dead reckoning, or simply following a magenta line. The 45×90 point in Wisconsin is one of four points on Earth that are halfway between the geographical north and south poles and the equator, and halfway between the prime meridian and the 180th meridian, which is the opposite north-south line halfway around the globe.
So what’s so unique about Wisconsin’s 45×90 point? A person can actually walk to or fly to this point. It is the only 45×90 point on Earth that is relatively easy to visit. The 45 degrees south, 90 degrees east point is located at the bottom of the Indian Ocean. The 45 degrees south, 90 degrees west point is located at the bottom of the Pacific Ocean. Finally, the 45 degrees north, 90 degrees east is located in a desolate region of China somewhere in the mountains. No markers exist depicting these points except the Wisconsin location.
On a recent flight in central Wisconsin, my passenger friend Mitch and I decided to find the 45×90 point, fly over, and around it. With the sectional chart on the screen, and an eye on the airplane’s GPS coordinates, we approached from the north, intersecting the 45-degree north latitude line, where we turned to the east about 10 miles west of our target. Not being instrument-rated, I likened our approach closer to a bomb run than an approach for landing. I had 10 miles to practice flying the imaginary line halfway between the equator and the north pole. At three miles out, we slowed, forcing us to again correct for the 17-knot north crosswind. Our target was a small brass geographical marker embedded in a 10-foot diameter concrete circle. This was going to be a milk run. As we got closer to our target (the 90-degree west latitude line), it seemed as though things started happening quicker, as the GPS coordinates on our glass flight deck ticked down to W 090-00-000. I was doing a pretty good job flying the line and then suddenly in my mind’s eye I envisioned the swinging of a needle on a VOR instrument, as Mitch said, “we just passed it.” We knew the marker was in a farm field (this year in corn), however we did not know the marker is located along a tree line, resulting in obstructing our view from the air when approaching from the west. “We’ll need to make another run.” With a clear view from the east, and clearing turns, we easily found our target and circled a few times. The person down there laying on the marker doing what appeared to be a snow angel must have been a little curious.
I self-proclaimed myself (John Egan, EAA 336835, and Mitch Rassman, EAA 786346) members of the fictitious “45×90 Aviators Club” which I thought of on the “spot.” For walk-ins, there really is a “45×90 Club.” In years past, a local Wisconsin tavern near the ground location held the registration book for 45×90 ground visitors to sign and join the club. Today, visitors sign the book at the Wausau/Central Wisconsin Convention & Visitors Center in Wausau, located about 20 miles to the east of the marker.
Our little adventure was fun, and I encourage you as a pilot to consider flying to points of interest. Perhaps someday, we will even fly together.