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Feature Article

FEATURE ARTICLE

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

Exciting Times

I visited EAA's Airventure - Oshkosh - this year, my fifth visit since my first trip there in 2009.  It's a highlight of my year: - Adult Summer Camp for Pilots.  This year, the energy and buzz at Oshkosh was the greatest I've experienced.  I thought I'd share some of the things that made this year's Oshkosh standout.

Release of the Icon A5

Icon Aircraft was founded in 2006 and achieved a flying prototype of an amphibious Light Sport Aircraft (LSA) in 2008.  This year at Airventure, it delivered its first production model.  All of the press and marketing literature put out by the company described how this is an airplane to bring fun and adventure back to aviation.  Combined with the company's plan to develop a flight instruction curriculum around the aircraft, Icon is attempting to expand the market for GA aircraft to power sports and adventure aficionados.  

The styling of the airplane is more like a Tesla than a Cirrus.  The performance numbers make it clear that it's not a cross-country flying machine.  The purpose of the Icon is purely to have fun.  AOPA and EAA have been pursuing initiatives over the past few years to stop the declining numbers of the pilot population.  If the A5 and Icon Aircraft end up successful, perhaps more companies may spring up to attract new market segments to GA.

Simulators

On the opposite end of the spectrum from the release of the A5 in terms of stodginess, one of the neatest experiences I had at Oshkosh was flying three simulated IFR approaches with live ATC and other aircraft in the airspace.  The Pilot Proficiency Center had two rooms setup with simulators, one each for VFR and IFR.  I've flown simulators at WVFC before and appreciate the value they offer.  Adding "real" clearances from ATC and hearing other pilots interacting with the controllers (and making mistakes) upped the realism factor substantially.  PilotEdge provided the coverage at the Proficiency Center.  The cost of the service seems reasonable as well, especially when laid aside all the other outlets aviation demands.

Drones

News articles about drones abound in both the popular and aviation press.  While both EAA and AOPA have been working to ensure a safe integration of drones into the national airspace, Oshkosh made an effort to showcase various technologies and vendors this year.  They setup a drone cage near the Innovation Pavilion.  Many vendors were on hand from toy stores selling tiny "drones" to development companies showcasing the applications of their larger platforms.

Both EAA and AOPA have moved into a stage of acceptance that drone operators will be flying in the national airspace.  The general aviation community can engage with them in productive dialog about sharing the airspace.  Drone operation as a hobbyist may also be a gateway into thinking about a pilot certificate and eventually joining the larger General Aviation community.

PBOR 2

The Pilots Bill of Rights 2, hot on the heels of the Pilots Bill of Rights 1, passed in 2012, is gaining some momentum.  The biggest benefit in PBOR 2 is eliminating the requirement for a medical certificate for non-commercial VFR and IFR flights with up to five passengers, below 14,000 feet and at fewer than 250 knots.  This was the biggest political issue present at Oshkosh, replacing the furor over User Fees a few years ago.  It's not clear yet when or if the bill will pass, but as this will again help prevent decline in the pilot population and may even help to expand it, it's exciting to see it moving forward.

It's an exciting time to be a pilot with new technologies emerging constantly. 

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