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A Glimpse of the Future at First Annual Sport Aviation Showcase

By Ted Luebbers

November 10, 2016 - The spirit of aviation was alive and well at the first annual DeLand Sport Aviation Showcase held November 3-5 at Florida’s DeLand Municipal Airport, and a walk around the field gave a hopeful glimpse into the future of sport flying.

EAA’s Charlie Becker, director of chapters and communities and homebuilt community manager attended the event as a keynote speaker and also lent his knowledge at two kit-building forums.

“It is great to see a new show starting up dedicated to sport aviation,” Becker said. “We can always use more events that shine a light on building your own aircraft.”

As with most aviation shows, there were many light-sport and ultralight aircraft on display, in addition to informative forums and workshops, a large tent with the latest in avionics for homebuilts, and manufacturer’s displays on the tarmac.

Sebastien Heintz, owner of Zenith aircraft, also dubbed the show a success.

“Attendance was light but I’m pretty happy because I talked to some people that are definitely going to build,” he said. “We had some serious people take demo flights. The location closer to the ocean makes it a fun destination.”

EAA Chapter 635, whose home is at DeLand Municipal Airport, was busy each day roasting corn and served a big breakfast on Saturday morning. I am sure all those skills honed from many fly-ins over the years made this a success.

But what really was indicative of sport aviation’s outlook was if you looked a little deeper into a couple of the displays you might have been pleased to notice the number of young people there.

Kyle Petesch, Tony Tianyuan Zhoo, and Victoria Jingsi Li are three Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University students we met at their display of a battery-powered aircraft that would be able to fly for two hours with a battery pack weighing little over 300 pounds. This pack would be made up of 2,700 small, rechargeable batteries about the size of AA batteries. The electric engine they demonstrated ran quietly with its standard size prop turning within a safety cage right in front of us.

My wife Joan and I were impressed with these young people and their explanations of how the system worked. I wondered what it must be like for them to be working on such a cutting edge project at their age. This was certainly a glimpse into the future of not only sport aviation but probably commercial aviation as well.

The other young person we met was a young girl named Rachel St. Louis from Machias, Maine, who was celebrating her 15th birthday. She had a display of her handmade jewelry in a well-appointed utility trailer on the tarmac amidst all the other aviation displays. All the profits are plowed into her building of a Bush Cat homebuilt airplane — the frame of which was sitting in front of the trailer. She already has about 150 hours of flight time in her dad’s Cessna 172 and has completed 10 take offs and landings in a seaplane.

In addition, Rachel was one of three guest speakers at the show, where she talked about the development of her jewelry business and how it was geared to help her achieve her desire to build her own airplane.

We also discovered Aviation Explorer Post & Club 491, a group of youth interested in aviation based at the DeLand Airport, selling hot dogs and hamburgers to passersby. Joan and I were interested in their activity because our own EAA Chapter 534 recently sponsored Aviation Explorer Post 534 at the Leesburg International Airport in Leesburg, Florida.

With so many gray beards involved in aviation today it was refreshing to see and talk with so many young people already showing a keen interest in becoming pilots and seeking careers in aviation. 

We thought the First Annual DeLand Sport Aviation Showcase was a great success and will plan to go again next year.

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