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2012 National Warbird Operator Conference Recap

NWOC participants prepare for upcoming flying season

Bill Fischer

By Bill Fischer, Executive Director of EAA Warbirds of America

From all accounts, the 2012 National Warbird Operator Conference (NWOC) was a big hit with attendees. This year's event was held at the hotbed of warbird aviation, Ontario/Chino, California, February 16 to 19. The host facility was the Doubletree by Hilton Hotel in Ontario.

Thursday, February 16, was registration day as over 260 warbird owners and operators checked in for the weekend conference. That evening a special sponsors welcome reception was held in the grand ballroom.

On Friday, the conference sessions began with a warm welcome and opening remarks from Rick Siegfried, president of EAA Warbirds of America. Rod Hightower, president and CEO of EAA, greeted attendees and gave an overview of recent advocacy efforts by EAA, including FAA-related issues and the NTSB hearing on air show and air racing events.

Doug Rozendaal and Dan Hollewell, representing the International Council of Air Shows, were next on the agenda with an interesting safety session. They reviewed last year's warbird safety data and outlined plans for a future warbird safety management system.

Next up was Jim Jeffries of Jeffries Airworks, discussing propeller balancing and vibration analysis.

NWOC is always a great opportunity for the FAA to interface with the warbird community. This year was no exception. A panel discussion was held, moderated by Bill Fischer, executive director of EAA Warbirds of America. Joining Bill was Sean Elliott, EAA's vice president of Industry & Regulatory Affairs, and Ray Stinchcomb and Joe Morra from the FAA Flight Standards Service, General Aviation & Commercial Division. Issues such as experimental exhibition aircraft operating limitations, pilot proficiency checks, second-in-command, and the Living History Flight Experience Program were discussed.

The Friday Lunch Program was entitled "A Pilot's Pilot," featuring R. A. (Bob) Hoover, sponsored by Courtesy Aircraft Sales. Bob shared several fascinating and sometimes humorous aviation stories with the NWOC crowd. All would agree that 90 minutes wasn't enough time to share with this aviation icon.

Next on the agenda was Randall Richardson of Fulbright & Jaworski LLP with an interesting session entitled "Limiting Your Liability Exposure."

The balance of Friday afternoon was spent in aircraft-specific "breakout sessions." Groups included T-6s, T-28s, T-34s, bombers/transports, fighters, Yaks/CJs, jets, and liaison/observation aircraft. In the breakout sessions, owners and operators can get down to detailed discussions on engines, airframes, training, maintenance, and safety topics. In many cases, new warbird owners garner valuable information from the more experienced operators.

On Saturday morning, opening remarks were given by Mark Clark of Courtesy Aircraft Sales. Representative Sam Graves (R) from the 6th Congressional District of Missouri welcomed NWOC attendees and gave a brief overview of aviation-related topics from Washington, D.C. He urged pilots to work with their local representatives on promoting aviation and being active in the political process.

Sam Graves
Missouri Congressman and Warbird Board Member Sam Graves gets a cockpit checkout in the Northrop Flying Wing.

One of the hot topics in general aviation these days is the future of fuels. Tim Roehl of General Aviation Modifications Inc. and Brian Sterm of Swift Enterprises discussed some of the innovations their companies are working on to find a suitable alternative to 100LL fuel. While more research and testing need to be done, progress is being made using biomass as a potential substitute.

Next up was Jim Rezich of Rezich & Rezich Aviation Consulting. Jim covered owner-produced parts and preparing for an FAA ramp check. He outlined the rules and regulations governing parts production and the necessary paperwork. His advice on FAA ramp checks included being organized by keeping all of the required documents in a binder and available to the FAA inspector.

One session that is always popular at NWOC is the Engine Panel Discussion. This year's participants included Paul Draper of Roush Aviation, Blaine Abbott of Covington Aircraft, Rex Vaughan and Sam Thompson of Tulsa Aircraft Engines, Mike Nixon of Vintage V12's, and Bud Wheeler of Allison Competition Engines. An active question and answer period followed.

The Saturday Lunch Program featured "Chino - A Historical Journey," an interesting slide presentation and discussion by aviation author Michael O'Leary of Air Classics & Warbirds International Magazines. The presentation was sponsored by U.S. Specialty Insurance Company. Michael highlighted decades of fascinating warbird history in the Chino area.

Next up was a session entitled "Modern Avionics for Your Warbird - How to Do It Right" by Mark Krueger of Advantage Avionics. He highlighted many of the new products available to the warbird owner/operator. The afternoon concluded with a behind-the-scenes tour at the Chino Airport, known as a hotbed of warbird activity. Yanks Air Museum, Aero Trader, Advantage Avionics, and the Planes of Fame Museum all hosted tour stops for the NWOC group. Tram transportation between the venues was provided by the Yanks Air Museum. As a special treat, the Planes of Fame Museum flew its rare Northrop N9MB Flying Wing, a Curtiss P-40, and a pair of North American P-51 Mustangs. Following the tours and aerial display, attendees enjoyed a delicious dinner, sponsored by Cannon Aviation Insurance.

On Sunday morning, the various aircraft breakout groups gave reports on their sessions. By midmorning the 2012 edition of the National Warbird Operator Conference was completed, and attendees were on their way home. By all accounts, it was another successful conference. This year's NWOC planning committee included Angie Harris, Mark Clark, Darcy Kaapke, Wendee DeBusk, Rick Siegfried, Eric Van Hoff, and Bill Fischer.

The NWOC presenting sponsor was Cannon Aviation Insurance. The elite sponsor was U.S. Specialty Insurance. Choice sponsors included the Classic Jet Aircraft Association, Oilamatic Inc., Rezich & Rezich Aviation Consulting, Gauntlet Warbirds, RacingJets.com, Air Capital Insurance LLC, Planes of Fame Museum, Trudeau Warbird Enterprises, Covington Aircraft, International Jets, and Heritage Aero. Support sponsors included EAA Warbirds of America, Courtesy Aircraft Sales, Trojan Phlyers, and the Commemorative Air Force. Conference sponsors included the North American Trainer Association, the T-6 Racing Association, Tulsa Aircraft Engines, and Yancey Enterprises.

Special thanks go out to all the sponsors, planners, exhibitors, and attendees for another great event. Watch the NWOC website for updates on next year's event (location to be determined) at www.WarbirdConference.com.

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