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Twilight Flight Fest Highlights a Less-Expensive, Fun to Watch Segment of Aviation
By Barbara A. Schmitz
July 26, 2017 - A highly successful debut of a night air show in the Ultralights area Monday night birthed a new AirVenture tradition.
The Twilight Flight Fest at the Fun Fly Zone was scheduled for four nights this year, including Thursday and Friday, said Dennis Dunbar, director of AirVenture air show operations.
“Last year we decided to hold a flying activity every night of the week … and the ultralights show was a huge success that we wanted to capitalize on,” Dennis said. “But the real purpose is to expose folks to some of the less-expensive entryways into flying, the gateways of aviation.”
The Fun Fly Zone night shows begin at 8 p.m. and end around 9:30 p.m., Dennis said, and feature the Valdez STOL Invitational flying competition and demonstration, the Paradigm Aerobatic Team with paramotors, the Red Bull Air Force jumpers, the Patriot Parachute Team, 3D RC flying by Colton Clark and Jase Dussia, and more. Typical activities will go on as usual prior to the show, including demonstrations by various fixed-wing ultralights, light-sport aircraft, gyroplanes, and powered parachutes.
The STOL (short takeoff and landing) demonstration is at the beginning of each show, although each night’s acts are different, Dennis said.
STOL organizers Frank and Kris Knapp said 15 pilots will take part in the competition and demonstration, and EAA trophies will be awarded to the top pilots in both the certified and experimental classes at the end of the week. Wind will determine just how short or long the takeoffs and landings are, but they will likely be 60-120 feet.
Now in its fourth year, STOL was moved full time to the Fun Fly Zone last year. “It’s more conducive to the style of flying we have,” Frank said. “It also allows the people at the fence to be more involved. It’s kind of like our own little circus down there.”
About half of the planes and pilots involved in the STOL event are new to AirVenture this year, he added. “But the pilots are so excited to be here,” Kris said. “They want to share the enthusiasm of flight.”
The Paradigm Aerobatic Team has 10 members, and nine will be in Oshkosh — including four brothers: Adriel, Ethan, Doran, and Jadon Martin. The group will also be performing in the night air show on Saturday along the flightline.
Paradigm co-founder Travis Burns said the smaller aerobatic box in the No Fly Zone means the six performers will need to make some changes to their act. They will, however, do some synchronized formation flying and wingovers, plus Manu Tejeiro, from Spain, will do things that look like they shouldn’t be happening.
So how did the Lake Wales, Florida, team get a member from Spain?
Facebook, they said, noting that the paramotor community is a small one. Manu is one of only five people in the world who can do the maneuvers he does safely, predictably, and on purpose, the group said.
The other members of the team in Oshkosh include Tucker Gott, Kyle Mooney, and co-founder Eric Farewell.
Dennis said he is confident the new activities will draw more people to the Ultralights area. “It will let folks see what’s going on at the south end of the airfield who might not otherwise come down,” he said. “And the shows should really appeal to the younger crowd with its fun environment.”