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Sparks Fly at AirVenture

By Dan Grunloh, Editor - Light Plane World, EAA 173888

Dan Grunloh

An historic event took place at Wittman Airport when, for the first time ever, two electric ultralights pushed up to the runway and went flying down on the Farm at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2011. Someday they will have their own row for parking (likely with charging outlets), and vendors will display their wares for electric fliers in our commercial exhibit area. Some of the sparks I witnessed flying around this year were of a different nature.
 
It was great to be in the middle of aviation history while it was happening. I’d already seen Dale Kramer fly his electric Lazair. Each time, the attendees were enthralled by the beauty of the craft, the sound of those motors, and the fact that it was electric. You can see a typical view of spectators gathered around the plane after each flight in a photo on the Light Plane World Facebook page. It was after one flight I noticed Mark Beierle had arrived, unloaded his electric Gull from a trailer, and quietly walked over to check out the electric Lazair. The two renowned designers were aware of each other’s projects but had no prior communication about the details of the other’s work until they met at AirVenture. As they talked I realized the spark of innovation, information exchange, and inspiration taking place right there and all over the grounds at the show. The questions at the end of forums given by Dale and Mark were very technical, and they came from people planning to go home and build something. That very type of meeting and exchange of information has been going on at EAA events for decades and has helped make sport aviation what it is.

Unfortunately for Mark, sometimes his electrons collided and his electric Gull flights were cut short by an unknown problem that caused him to make precautionary landings still within the confines of Wittman Field. Perhaps a 2,000-mile ride from California on a small open trailer could have an effect on the innovative and original scratchbuilt electrical equipment. However, the video of Mark flying at Arlington, as well as the video of the water takeoff of the Lazair, were especially selected for this issue of Light Plane World so you can hear the sound of electric flight. We’re going to hear that sound more and more.

There was one other spark-related issue in the ultralight area for anyone using a remote antenna with a handheld radio in your light plane. When you remove the radio from the plane, take care about the positioning of the loose antenna cable.Read about Arty Trost, aka The Wandering Wench, elsewhere in this issue, and check out the July 25 entry in her blog for proof that where there’s smoke, there’s fire.

And finally, the folks from Quicksilver Manufacturing Inc. set the bar pretty high this year with a free winter flight jacket given away each day and a $500 drawing at the end of the week for Quicksilver owners and pilots at AirVenture. We wanted to kick off the idea of a dedicated display area for special aircraft each year with a “Salute to the Quicksilver” theme, and they came through with the support. I’ll have more details in the next issue. In addition to being timeless, the design proved its resilience in the wind damage sustained from an extreme gust front that struck the field on Saturday. Some of those birds looked pretty mangled, but every part can still be replaced or rebuilt fairly quickly. You can’t keep them down.

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