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AirVenture 2021 a Full-Circle Experience for Luftwaffe Pilot

Twenty-three years ago, Peter Lukasczyk, EAA 592651, attended EAA AirVenture Oshkosh for the first time. Growing up with glider-pilot parents, Peter was already a licensed pilot himself in Germany and interning at a company in Allentown, Pennsylvania, for the summer to improve his English skills while attending Aachen University for aeronautical engineering. After hearing about Oshkosh, Peter made the lengthy drive from Pennsylvania to Wisconsin. Although certainly well aware of the general aviation scene, AirVenture 1998 was Peter’s first exposure to experimental amateur-built aircraft. For six days, Peter enjoyed the sights and sounds of Oshkosh, sleeping in his van in Camp Scholler. It was during that week that Peter made a life-changing decision.

“It was actually on the concrete sidewalk, passing by Boeing Plaza, back then I think it was called AeroShell Plaza, where I actually also decided, at Oshkosh, that before I get home and continue my university to get my aeronautical engineering degree, why don’t you try to apply to become a pilot? This was actually what Oshkosh did to me in 1998,” Peter explained. “[It] helped me to make the decision to become a professional pilot and got me into contact with the homebuilt aviation. Back then in 1998, I also said ‘One day in my life, I’m going to fly an aircraft which I built myself.’ And then I went home and I applied for everything, the airlines and the military, and I actually got accepted into the military.”

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Fast-forward to this past summer at AirVenture 2021. Remember that German Luftwaffe A400M that was the buzz of Boeing Plaza for much of the week? Any guesses as to who the pilot was? You guessed it — Peter Lukasczyk, returning for the first time to the event that altered the course of his life. Now an Oberstleutnant in the Luftwaffe, Peter commanded the A400M crew that stayed the majority of the week at Oshkosh.

“My impression coming back to Oshkosh was, at the first glance, ‘unbelievable.’ Second, [it was] like I’ve never been away. And it felt like I’ve been here each and every year, every single year between 1998 and now, which obviously I haven’t,” he said. “So it was instantly a familiar place, and what I like most about it, and this continued, what I like most about the Oshkosh thing, about the entire week, is that you still have the feeling to be part of a family. So it’s not really an air show, it’s still a fly-in. It’s perfectly organized, but it’s still a fly-in. And how the people treated us, and how warm the welcome was from the West Ramp rats, they are just a phenomenal bunch of people, and they treated us so well, and they integrated us into the team from the very second we arrived. This whole family thing was there for the entire week, and this was what I think is the most impressive part of my Oshkosh impression.”

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Joining the Luftwaffe in 1999, Peter has flown cargo ever since, beginning with the Transall C-160, a twin-engine turboprop tactical transport that, in Peter’s opinion, was “heavily underpowered.” Peter flew the C-160 for 15 years before transitioning to the four-engine Airbus A400 Atlas.

“Once I was transferred for the A400, that was a giant leap, to be honest,” Peter explained. “I think the development had gone through three generations of aircraft development. And especially if you compare the cockpits, ergonomics were nothing and nowhere to be found in the C-160, it was just the 1960-engineered cockpit. … This was the first thing I noticed, when you slip in to the A400 cockpit, every [piece of] information is right there at the ready for you, presented in the right way and the right manner, and actually jumps into your face. So at first I was overwhelmed with the information the new aircraft was actually providing me, and then of course, with the heads-up display and all the other displays, because the A400 cockpit is really, really marvelous. I think it’s one of the most modern cockpits in the world there is right now.”

Aside from his career in the Luftwaffe, Peter is heavily involved in the general aviation and experimental amateur-built scene in his down time. In 2011, he ordered the first section of his RV-8 kit and in 2020, he finally finished. While Peter pointed out that his build experience was enjoyable, he admitted there were times over the nine-year process that it tested him.

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“The experience, me building an aircraft, I have to say the quality of the Van’s products of the kit itself, it’s really spectacular,” he said. “I would say it’s a mind-blowing experience that you do, not skill-wise because you develop the skills by building the aircraft. You start with very easy parts to manufacture, and of course, you know how to drill out a bad rivet before you actually can set a good rivet, this is a whole part of it. The experience building an aircraft is quite, I would say, corrector building because you learn how to encounter drawbacks, setbacks, breakdowns. When you screw up a part and you have to reorder it in the United States, and you have to wait for four weeks and pay [high amounts] of shipping, and tons of tax money, to get this part back and continue the process you were just in, like covering the wings up or stuff like that — this forms your character. And this, I think is the most competitive thing about building an aircraft, that you actually have to fight against yourself, your inside, and to every time, get back on your feet, continue going down this road you’ve chosen to go down. This is something I treasure the most now that the aircraft is actually finished.”

Peter’s dream would be to one day land in Oshkosh in the RV-8 he just completed, something he said would top even the experience he had bringing in the A400. Peter’s not quite sure if that will happen. But he does know he wouldn’t be where is today without that AirVenture inspiration, and he made sure to reflect on that when he was in Oshkosh.

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“Well, 23 years after the decision was made that I follow up or try to commit on a professional career into aviation, well apparently this worked out,” he said. “Of course, being at Oshkosh one year after the maiden flight of my homebuilt aircraft, this is a moment, you just stand there. I had this calm moment where I was standing on top of my aircraft checking the upper side, and I needed some time for me alone. And then I was actually looking at the intersection of the taxiway with Boeing Plaza and the walkway, and realizing what is just happening, to be back 23 years after with all the things that happened. This is one of the moments which I will treasure for all my life because those are the things money can’t buy.”

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