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Feature Article 1

FEATURE ARTICLE

Matt Debski, Aircraft Owner WVFC tdebber@alum.mit.edu

EAA Airventure - Oshkosh - Planes, Plane Stuff, and Plane People

I love to write the August newsletter article.  I get to recall the fun of being in Wisconsin in July, seeing planes, cool aviation stuff, and being around thousands of people who love aviation. 

First, let's talk about the cool planes that were at Oshkosh this year.  Airventure has themes for each day, each part of the airshows, the week itself.  This year one of the themes was Bombers, as in military aircraft bombers.  This was no doubt inspired by the return of Doc, a B-29 that last flew in 1956.  After over 16 years of restoration efforts, Doc joined Fifi as one of only two B-29s flying today.  Airventure featured the B-1, B-2, B-52, B-17, B-25, and A-20.  The Doolittle Raid was honored throughout the week.  The Bombers were on static display during the week and also flew in both formation and demonstration flights.  Airventure and air shows often feature some of these incredible aircraft, but it's rare to see both so many models as well as so many instances of each aircraft, especially in the air.

One of my favorite parts of Airventure is just walking among the rows and rows of aircraft flown in for the show.  One of my favorites from the week was a homebuilt Pietenpol Air Camper.  While the designs date back to the 1930s, this Air Camper was built in 2010.  It has a Ford Model A engine, the radiator of which sticks up pretty well in the pilot's vision.  The inside had beautiful wood inlays and the super-simple controls of the original design.  What a neat aircraft.  It is not built for speed, but is capable of doing a low and slow cross-country.

Another design that has been around for a while and was on display at the Fun Fly Zone is the Air Cam.  The Fun Fly Zone is a short grass strip with bleachers on the side for folks to watch as ultralights, powered parachutes, and light sport aircraft do patterns.  The Air Cam is a twin-engine kit built plane designed for National Geographic.  The design puts a passenger way out in front of the wing with the twin pusher engines well behind.  It gives unparalleled visibility.  The twin-engine design improved reliability while flying over the Congo.  While I'd seen the plane on the ground before, it was doing laps around the field.  It would be a blast to fly!

Every year, GA manufacturers announce innovative products at Airventure.  Last year debuted several products released under the STC process, designed to enhance safety and reduce regulatory burden.  This year featured three autopilots.  Prior to these newly approved products, an autopilot would usually cost around $20,000 plus installation.  The new autopilots available under the STC process range from $5000 to $9000.  The functionality varies substantially between the $5000 and $9000 product.  But, the $9000 product is pretty close to the top-of-the-line $20,000.  While this is still a pretty big chunk of change, it's at least now worth considering replacing the original 1975 autopilots in some aging aircraft with more modern equipment.

The first year I visited Airventure was 2009, when I flew myself out there, met my father-in-law at the event, then another buddy flew in commercially and we flew back to California together.  Since then, I meet up with a few WVFC folks each year for dinner, lunch, to take in an airshow or what not.  This year, I went with a friend, student pilot, and fellow WVFC member.  It was fun to take in the show from the perspective of someone seeing it for the first time.  We also went to dinner with several WVFC pilots one evening.  Three hours later, as things were beginning to wind down, my friend said, "Hey, this is Hangar Flying, isn't it!"  Sharing the show and unabashedly talking about aviation for the evening and the week were definitely highlights of the event.

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