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Electrics Only Adding to the Buzz at the Fun Fly Zone
By Randy Dufault
July 23, 2015 - Dan Johnson, proprietor of ByDanJohnson.com, and one of the eminent authorities on recreational aviation, is particularly impressed with what he is seeing at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2015.
“I’ve heard it at Sun ’n Fun and I’ve heard it here now: that Part 103 is having a resurgence this year,” Johnson said. “I had not seen it earlier, and I track that pretty closely. Things had been happening after we came out of the doldrums of the recession, but this year, for reasons unknown to me, it seems to have elevated up a lot.”
Part 103 is the portion of the Federal Aviation Regulations that govern light, single-seat aircraft that do not require a pilot certificate to fly. Part 103 aircraft, commonly referred to as ultralights, are a big part of the activity at AirVenture’s Fun Fly Zone.
The Fun Fly Zone, located at the southernmost reaches of Wittman field, is where the ultralights gather—along with many other forms of purely recreational aviation.
“We have such a wide scope of the lighter end of aviation,” said Red Barn Operation Chairman Carla Larsh. “We have balloons, we have rotorcraft, we have powered parachutes, we have foot-launched backpacker [powered parachutes], we have trikes, we have ultralights, and we have light-sport.”
Larsh went on to say that so many recreational flying activities are happening this year that the Zone is a real attraction, both to budding pilots and to experienced recreational fliers.
Over the last several years the Zone has hosted a number of electrically powered light aircraft development projects. Those projects are beginning to turn into commercial realities with a number of electric options available from vendors displaying their wares at the Zone.
One significant this year is Belite’s Skydock Part 103-compliant electric airplane. The company is raising money for the project on the popular Kickstarter crowdfunding site. Johnson said that the use of crowdfunding is something new for the light aviation industry.
Jason Golden of Adventure Aircraft said they are seeing a tremendous amount of interest in their electric motorglider project. Several builders are working from plans, and a kit is under development.
Speaking of vendors, Larsh indicated that all of the available commercial space sold out this year.
“All the vendor spaces filled up,” she said. “We are sold out and actually had to turn one or two away. It is a good problem to have, but I feel bad for the vendors.”
2015 also marks the 40th anniversary of John Moody’s first flight of a powered hang glider. Moody first flew his 12.5-hp development project in 1975 off a frozen Wisconsin lake. A flight demonstration at the 1976 EAA convention here in Oshkosh launched the ultralight movement and resulted in the development of FAR Part 103.
Except during the air shows, flying is almost constant off the Zone’s grass runway. Tethered hot air balloons fly early in the morning and late in the evening. Other aircraft types share blocks of time over the balance of the day.
If weather and wind conditions allow, a full balloon launch is scheduled for 7:00 a.m. Saturday morning.
The Zone is also lending its field to the Valdez pilot’s short takeoff and landing contest Friday evening after the air show.