AirVenture 2011: Memorable Waypoints

By Scott Spangler on August 2nd, 2011

Sitting on the front porch with my battered feet bared to a healing breeze, I celebrated the end of my 34th EAA AirVenture Oshkosh marathon. Delivering my second round of rehydration elixir, my wife joined me. Having made the trek herself, she knows that the seemingly countless waypoints of things to see and learn are overwhelming, and that each year is defined by those things that survive in memory on the day after it’s over.

AV11-24First thing Monday morning I eagerly found a seat close to the stage at the FAA Safety Center for an update on the Next Generation Air Transportation system. In its place was a member of the FAA Safety Team from the Great Lakes Region talking about ATC communications. The FAA exhibit area was almost a ghost town. In most of the booths usually staffed by FAAers in that division was an empty chair and a laminated explanation:

Congressional authorization for several FAA programs expired at 12:01 a.m. on July 23. As a result, nearly 4,000 FAA employers are now furloughed without pay. Given these circumstances, we are restricting our participation at AirVenture this year.

The Administration is working with Congress to resolve this unfortunate situation, and we regret the hardship this situation may cause for our employees and our stakeholders, including the attendees at AirVenture.

We wish you a successful event and hope to see you next year under getter circumstances.

Hoping that this was not an omen of what I would find elsewhere on my AirVenture hike, I trudged north. Each successive waypoint restored my hope and interest in aviation’s future, and these are the standouts.

AV11-39At the back of the Honda chalet was a huge shiny metal panel obviously shaped by a CNC mill. Covering its slightly concave surface was a grid of stiffeners. It was, a company rep said, the top skin of the the HondaJet’s natural laminar flow (NLF) wing, cut from a 2,500-pound block of aluminum alloy. With the ribs essentially built in, the upper and lower skins bolt onto the spars, he continued, substantially reducing the parts count. Given the milled skin’s smoothness and rigidity, it delivers a high maximum lift coefficient, low profile drag, and reduced performance penalties due to leading edge bug contamination, a problem with conventional NLF airfoils.

AV11-19A German FW-190 stood out out among the Navy’s World War II vets, celebrating the centennial of naval aviation, in the Warbirds area. My first encounter with the storied warrior, I inspected it closely. The Pratt & Whitney radial offered some confusion, until I learned that this airplane, part of the Frasca stable of warbirds, was a full-scale kit replica of the original, with pragmatic improvements. The most memorable detail were the autographs on the tail, all of whom who faced the Focke-Wulf in combat: Bob Hoover and Al Rigby of the the 352nd Fighter Group, C.E. “Bud” Anderson of the  357th fighter Group, and Wilbur Richardson, a B-17 ball turret gunner in the 94th Bomb Group.


In the grass behind the FW-190 were four bright yellow airplanes—a Fleet Finch, a Stearman, a Fleet Cornell, and a Harvard—each emblazoned with British roundels. They belonged to Vintage Wings of Canada, which was celebrating the 70th anniversary of the British Commonwealth Air Training Plan with a cross-Canada tour that included a stop at Oshkosh. Between 1939 and 1945 BCATP trained more than 200,000 British Commonwealth pilots, an effort that led President Franklin Roosevelt to call Canada the “Aerodrome of Democracy.” The aircraft of Vintage Wings fly in tribute to their past pilots, whose names are prominent on their fuselages. The Harvard honors one of its students, John Gillespie Magee, the poet who the immortal High Flight.

AV11-36Outside the southeast exhibit hangar I found two side-by-side Pipistrel gliders joined by a wing that held a powerplant in a nacelle with no air intake. Overall, it’s carbon fiber and Kevlar wings 75 feet. Pipistrel calls the four-seater the Tarus G4, and in September it will complete in the 2011 CAFE Green Flight Challenge. Oh, there’s no air intake because the 200-hp, liquid-cooled motor runs on electricity. And it has four seats because that gives it a points advantage in the competition, with Pipistrel has won the past two years. With a gross weight of 3,600 pounds, it has a useful load of nearly 2,000 pounds. Flight testing starts after AirVenture, which will derive the batteries endurance.

AV11-92An expert rolling cigars is not something found at an aviation event, but there he was, Luis Rodriguez, unlit cigar in his mouth, hand-crafting aged tobacco into succulent stogies at the booth promoting the Dominican Republic to aviators. I wasn’t the only one so attracted. Tourism is the primary draw, said a rep, but there are jobs and other aviation opportunities on the island nation that shares a border with Haiti. It is 667 nautical miles direct from Fort Lauderdale, he said, but most GA pilots stop at Exuma International for fuel, which divides the flight into legs of 282 nm and 386 nm. Lucky to get a sample of his work, I saved my freshly rolled cigar for my front porch celebration.

AV11-143Ultralights, at the south end of the AirVenture grounds, was the farthest waypoint of my weeklong marathon. There was a lot of open exhibit space this year, but not as much as last year. And there was a new airplane, Valley Engineering’s Backyard Flyer, a Part 103-legal ultralight, on tricycle gear. Aside from the robust nose wheel, it’s the same swing-wing airplane I tried on three years ago. Regardless where the third wheel resides, the price is the same, $19,500 ready to fly, because building either version costs the same, said Elana. They built this one two weeks ago, and the paint barely had time to dry before Oshkosh.

So tell me, if you made it to Oshkosh this year, what are your memorable waypoints? –Scott Spangler

Related Posts:

9 Responses to “AirVenture 2011: Memorable Waypoints”

  1. Rich Says:

    Could only afford one day, but here goes:

    Warbird alley, listening to the Old Crow folks spinning Mustang stories.

    Gazing into Fifi’s eyes on the Plaza.

    Sitting (very comfortably) in a puddle of drool in a Flight Design CTLS. This pilot will never have a mission requiring a quick, spacious bird. In the CTLS you have a nice little plane with all the avionics, BRS and creature comforts, not to mention a faster cruise on nearly half the gas and half the price of a C172. I want!

  2. Paul Schnacky Says:

    Wow Scott! I was right there with you…at AirVenture 2011 and all the way through your write-up. Can’t wait ’til next year.

  3. Andrew Hesketh Says:

    Sunday before opening day, sitting in my chair at end of row #92, my tent and BE35 parked a short distance away, cold adult beverage in my hand, radio tuned to RWY 36 tower and watching all the arrivals.

  4. Scott Sedam Says:

    Most memorable moment at OSH 20111?

    Easy Saturday about 4:00 we receive texts of 45+ knot winds coming, squall line visible in the distance As we are running around securing tents and airplanes, Sean Tucker takes off anyway and starts his show. We are all like, WTF?

    Sean is just knocking out the maneuvers left and right. We are just amazed. We have the showboss on the radio and he calls, Uh, Sean, we are, uh, showing 35 knots perpendicular to the runway, uh, well Sean does not even reply, just keeps cranking out the stunts.

    I am thinking, Sean, land on 27 now! Sean, fly to Fon du Lac NOW! So finally, Tucker comes around to land on 36. He was all over the place, just wild. 35 knot xwind in a Pitts? You HAVE to be kidding. After a lot of stick and rudder work, he plants it. Showboss says, Great job, Sean in one of the understatements in show history. Sean says, THAT was interesting and taxis back in.

    We were all just flabbergasted. Incredible airmanship. Will never forget it.

  5. Stephen Ruby Says:

    My most memorable occurrence at EAA was the fact that no one noticed the only flying Howard 500 in existence in North America flew in Thursday afternoon, right over my house at about 130 knots, gear and flaps down.

    Dee Howard formed Howard Aero in San Antonio Texas in 1947 after he purchased a fleet of surplus Lockheed Ventura bombers from
    Canada and South America. These became the Howard 250 in reference to it’s cruise speed and were the darling of business executives, often
    called the “baby constellation”.

    In 1959 the prototype Howard 500 flew at a time when the first Gulfstream 1 was certified. FAA approval came in February of 1963 when everyone wanted a Lear Jet or a Gulfstream.

    Dee Howard had built the ultimate luxurious transport for a piston powered executive airplane capable of 340 KTAS, 6.75 PSI cabin
    differential and stand-up seating for 10. One more waypoint to mention is that the airplane is capable of non-stop flight 2200 nautical miles.


  6. Robert Mark Says:

    Most memorable for me? Going to sound kinda silly I guess, but I plunked down my foldup Northwestern Wildcats chair under the wing of someone’s Citabria parked out in the North 40 to watch the show.

    Did the same thing about 25 years ago with a buddy except the airplane was mine.

  7. Chris St.Germain Says:

    As Scott said above, the wind that came through on Saturday. I was in the Light Sport Mall, talking to potential buyers, when the wind came through. WOW!! I live in the midwest, but that was still impressive. We were holding down the Falcon, just in case, watching trash and recyclables fly by. The Roush trailer blew over onto its side, not far away. I finally remarked to the other guy “This is a helluva sustained gust.” Then I realized the oxymoron. Not a gust if it’s sustained. Quite the wind! Roger the comments about Tucker. What a machine! He went on with the routine like no big deal, just another day.

  8. beth Says:

    A few things that stuck with us this year…
    * Definitely that rogue wind on Saturday! We picked up the in-laws tent in the North 40 before it blew to the flight line (the stake stayed in the ground, the wind took the tent off of them).
    * Sitting in the grass at the intersection where departures were queuing for RWY 9 before the mass exodus Wednesday afternoon, watching the insane 2-up departures run for over an hour.
    * The night show. I’m pretty sure that was the longest fireworks show I’ve ever seen.

  9. Scott Spangler Says:

    Thanks for sharing. I saw the Lockheed Lodestar and the Ventura, the basis for the Howard 500. I didn’t know it was the last one flying! I wish I would have taken a photo of it. I also just learned that the Howard 500 essentially used the Pratt R2800 and four-bladed Corsair prop to make it go. I imagine that is is easy to find parts to keep it flying and, oh my, the fuel bill at cruise!

Subscribe without commenting