From the Editor
Eye of the Experimenter
Story and photos by Patrick Panzera, Editor – Experimenter, EAA 555743
The 2011 annual EAA convention, also known as EAA AirVenture, Oshkosh - The World's Greatest Aviation Celebration, was the most exciting I've ever attended. This may not be saying much since I've only been attending for the past decade, but from what I've been told, there were 976 homebuilts present, just a few shy of the all time record. I don’t think we ever cracked 1,000 yet, but we came real close. As promised in my wrap-up featured on the AirVenture website, the following is my full report on AirVenture 2011.
A view of the Homebuilt Parking area, which begins in the foreground and stretches all the way to the center of AirVenture. (upper left)
Arriving the day before the big show, as I usually do, I gauged the attendance by how far the North 40 parking area was filled. I did this from the west end of the property, from the other side of the fence as I arrived at the Hardee's fast food restaurant. This is where I traditionally meet up with the gentleman who stores the CONTACT! Magazine show material each year. The view was a little disturbing. Other than last year, when the campgrounds were too soggy for any form of wheeled vehicles to traverse, I had never seen the attendance this low.
Arriving a day early
Once on the field, everything seemed surreal, nothing like the years past. There were vacant aircraft displays and very little in the way of commotion to fill them, and the same for the exhibitor building I was about to set up in - vacant booths and not a lot of activity. I set up my booth, drove around a bit to see what I could see, and retired to my rented basement room in the home of a local resident, but not before getting a glimpse of what's inside the nacelle of the Pipistrel Taurus 4.
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A totally different outlook
The next morning on my drive into AirVenture 2011, my outlook brightened substantially. Not only had the North 40 filled up after I saw it last, but it had overflowed to the north side of Runway 9/27! It has done that in the past, but nowhere near to the extent that it overflowed this year. And as I drove onto the field, it was like night and day. The Aircraft Display area filled up and vendors were hustling to make everything shine. Inside the buildings the same thing was happening - last minute details, vacuum cleaners buzzing - it was all very reassuring.
Warbirds - sorta
My normal routine is to head to the Ultralight area in the early morning, before the show is open but a great time to fly, but this time I thought I'd change things up a little and head in the opposite direction and check out the warbirds on my first official day at the show. While there, nested near the huge fire-breathing Mustangs, I came across an odd little unmanned airplane that I had only seen in books and on websites - the Beechcraft Model 1001-A Cardinal, the source of the little McCulloch drone engine used by small experimentals and ultralights.
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The highlight of my week, however, was seeing all the canards in attendance, many there to pay tribute to Burt Rutan. In researching the article I was asked to write for AirVenture Today, the daily EAA print publication (which was also published online), I found that no less than 200 Rutan-type aircraft were registered. The majority of them were on the flightline, on display, but an almost equal number were in the Homebuilt Camping area, or peppered throughout aircraft parking.
One canard that I've only seen in photos (save the one in the EAA AirVenture Museum) was present, that being the Rutan Solitaire, a self-launch glider with an electro-hydraulically retractable gasoline engine occupying the space between the pilot's feet and the canard. Unusual for Rutan, this aircraft was offered as a kit.
Burt Rutan signing his biography in the Wicks booth
Of other interest was that Rutan's Catbird was dropped from its nest in the rafters of Scaled Composites’ hangar and returned to service.
|Click all for a larger view|
ah... the proverbial Catbird seat
Click for larger image
It wasn't an easy task, getting the five-seat "Bonanza replacement" back into airworthy condition, as the engine and nose gear had been removed, sacrificed for Burt's favorite design, Boomerang. The instrument panel also needed to be replaced, having vanished several years earlier. The plane was lovingly restored and flown to AirVenture by Zach Reeder, a Scaled project engineer, who couldn't have done it without the help of several volunteers, including Mike Melvill.
The planned fly-over tribute to Burt Rutan was canceled, mostly because an Alabama Air National Guard F-16 overran the end of the runway and lost its nose wheel, snapping the nosecone from the fuselage as it hit the ground. Rumor is that the pilot had issues seeing through a fogged-up canopy. The Air Force wanted to close the field, and the ensuing ruckus caused the scrub of the planned flight. After that, weather became an issue, but all in all, Burt was not upset by the cancellation, but those who came to OSH to participate in the fly-over were naturally disappointed, to put it mildly.
A tribute flight consisting of the Catbird and Boomerang, which doubled as a photoshoot, took place after the F-16 crash, but visibility was marginal VFR.
A Tribute to Chris Heintz
On Wednesday evening, in a large tent located across from the Nature Center, aircraft designer Chris Heintz was greeted by nearly 250 attendees who gathered together for a dinner in his honor. Hosted by Sebastien Heintz, Chris’ son and president of Zenith Aircraft Company of Mexico, Missouri, and Charlie Becker, director of EAA member programs, attendees came from as far away as Venezuela and South Africa.
Paul Poberezny (right) honors Chris Heintz at the EAA Nature Center
Paul Poberezny was the guest speaker and gave the message that those of us in experimental aviation are all family, which is especially relevant to the Heintz family of five sons who are all in the process of following in their father’s footsteps. It was especially endearing to hear Chris speak passionately of his younger years at EAA, where his entire family was part of the adventure, with Chris flying in with his older sons, while his wife drove in with the younger ones. Sebastien mentioned how he met his wife at OSH when they were both teens, and he had his 17-year-old son, Calvin, beside him. More photos
Although there was some hope of the debut of the tandem-seat CX-5 fuselage at AirVenture this year, it just wasn’t meant to happen. Although work on the tandem-seat, two-place version of the CX-4 is still underway and making progress, a decision was made that staying at home and working on the project was a better use of resources than displaying something that wasn’t complete.
Thatchers are being hatched on a very regular basis, from all over the world, so it’s certainly a disappointment that there weren’t several at this year’s event. But there was at least one, prominently displayed in front of Homebuilders Headquarters.
The Spaceship Company
In these troubling times of unemployment in double digits throughout the nation, especially in California, it was certainly refreshing to see aerospace recruiters prominently displayed along with vendors, and it was especially inspirational to see this upstart company doing its recruiting at AirVenture.
It certainly didn’t hurt that the recruiters were friendly.
The Spaceship Company, also known as TSC, is a new aerospace company (founded by Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Group and Burt Rutan’s Scaled Composites) that will build the world’s first fleet of commercial spaceships, making space travel a reality- but they need to staff-up with qualified individuals first.
TSC has contracted with Scaled for the development of a suborbital space flight system, comprised of WhiteKnightTwo (WK2) and SpaceShipTwo (SS2). TSC is now taking these designs into commercial production, with its first customer, Virgin Galactic, being on track to become the world’s first private “spaceline.”
Mojave Air and Space Port (Mojave, California), often described as the Silicon Valley for the emerging space industry, is the home for TSC’s WK2 and SS2 assembly and testing operations.
For a list of opportunities, visit http://www.thespaceshipcompany.com/Careers.html.
Brian Robinson’s Chevrolet V8-powered Republic Seabee
Although not homebuilts, a few Republic Seabees caught my eye. A total of four of them were powered by Chevrolet V8 engines, using Brian Robinson's conversion I wrote a little about for EAA. Three of the four are absolute gems, with the fourth being a work in progress.
As stated in the beginning of this article, this was by far the best AirVenture I’ve ever attended. I could continue this article another dozen pages or more, but my copy editors would string me up. So at this point, I’ll sign off and leave you with a photo gallery complete with captions on my Facebook page.
I can’t wait till next year!