Stories of Oshkosh — Gregg Erickson

By Gregg Erickson, EAA 56579

To celebrate 50 consecutive years of fly-in conventions in Oshkosh, we’re featuring Stories of Oshkosh told by attendees remembering their special moments at EAA’s long-standing home. If you or someone you know would like to share your own Story of Oshkosh, email

first EAA fly-in convention was at Rockford in 1967. I was a recently
certificated private pilot. My eyes were wide, wide open. I just had to build
one of these sleek little speedsters, but I had just finished helping restore
an Ercoupe and — since it was paid for — it would have to do for a couple of

I based the Ercoupe at Roselle, Illinois, airport (now Schaumburg Airport). Upstairs, the FBO was Little Johns Bar, which is where I met John and Betty Monnett. John had recently finished restoring an Aeronca Defender when he was bitten by the homebuilder bug and started building a Jeanie’s Teenie, which he highly modified to a taildragger. We flew a lot of formation with my Ercoupe to various fly-ins.

Fast forward a couple years to the first EAA convention in Oshkosh. John had his Teenie there and I had my Ercoupe. We both won awards. While at the convention we attended a forum by Steve Wittman on a new class of pylon racing to be called the Formula V class. This was designed to be a low-cost entry into pylon racing. We gathered all the information and rules available. After the forum, we discussed what we just heard and decided we should get in on this Formula V class at the beginning. John was a high school art teacher and before we went home from the 1970 convention, he had 3-view drawings all made up.

returning home, construction of a Formula V racer began. We actually started
building two planes as we had a couple of friends who were really interested.
We had both airframes completed in time for the 1971 convention, but only got
one there. We were young then and did not realize it was supposed to take four
to five years to build a plane, especially if it were a new design. The problem
we ran into was we bought the Volkswagen engines from a commercial seller and
they just would not run as delivered. It took some time to fix them and this led
to the various components that came to make up the AeroVee engines currently
being sold by Sonex Aircraft.

an effort to make this long story shorter, we got one plane to the ’71 convention
and Wittman hadn’t yet completed his V-Witt racer, which he had partially
completed at the ’70 convention. Our Formula V racer was named Sonerai. The
plane was well liked by EAAers and requests started coming in for plans and
components. Without planning to, we got involved in a part-time business
building and selling components for the Sonerai. We both eventually quit our
jobs and developed Monnett Experimental Aircraft into a full-time business and
eventually produced a series of homebuilt aircraft and powered sailplane kits.
Keep in mind at the time we both had young families. Ah, to be young, foolish,
and carefree!

1967 to the present I have never missed an EAA convention. It is just amazing
the friends and aviation people I have met. Many have become lifelong friends.
The first couple of years we camped in a tent, then we got rooms in the
university dorms. After that we got rooms at the Motel 6. For the last 10 or so
years we stayed in various private homes. Now we are at the Super 8 in Fond du

the years went along I became more involved in volunteering for EAA. When
Monnett Experimental Aircraft moved to Oshkosh in the early 1980s, my wife did
not want to relocate. I was lucky enough to get a job with Lycoming in its air
safety department. In this position I met many FAA and NTSB officials and
participated on several safety committees. As such I worked with Earl Voltz on
ways to reduce homebuilt accidents, a hot topic with the NTSB. I was on a team
that developed the flight advisor programs. I also developed an FAA TSI
training academy class called Homebuilt Accident Investigation to give FAA and
NTSB inspectors more understanding of homebuilts and some of the common
construction problems.

Both of my children, born in 1978 and 1982 have been to EAA conventions every year of their lives and have pursued jobs in aviation. Jeff is a pilot for Southwest Airlines, and Laura is senior manager of flight operations for United Airlines. They continue to attend AirVenture with their families and continue with friendships they developed at Oshkosh. Jeff went to an EAA Air Academy when he was a teenager and met new friends there. As they have grown they still all camp together at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, now with their families. EAA has cemented aviation in my life and my family’s life. It is the best organization I have ever joined.

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