Sixty years and half-a-million airplane lovers per year can't be wrong. EAA's AirVenture is the air show to go to if you want to try your hand at experiencing all things aviation.
This year celebrated two key anniversaries: AirVenture's 60th and the Piper Cub J3's 75th. Anyone taller than knee-high to a grasshopper had to smile as a wave of more than 100 golden J3s and derivatives flew in en masse, then parked together to create a sea of Cub Yellow in the aircraft parking area.
Oshkosh also showcases aviation technology past, present and future every year. Immaculately restored classics sit side-by-side with electric aircraft and exotic concepts. Anything remotely related to breaking the bonds of gravity makes the pilgrimage to Oshkosh, Wis., and we go to oooh and ahh.
We know we risk melting in the heat and humidity, getting drenched from torrential downpours or being sucked up to Oz by tornadoes, but every year we flock again to Wittman Field, and few, if any, of us are ever disappointed due to the sheer kaleidoscopic wonderfulness that is simply known as Oshkosh.
More than 10,000 aircraft flew in this year. Another 2,500 showplanes were on display, and although the 802 commercial exhibitors seemed like much fewer than last year, that tally was in fact just one less than 2011's.
As always, Oshkosh is a great place to go to see who has got the latest, greatest new plane or gadget or exciting story to tell. Below, here's our pick of notable happenings: See you next year!
Pipistrel Alpha Trainer
Fresh from its stunning NASA Green Flight Challenge win last year with the brilliantly innovative Taurus Electro G4—a four-seat electric-powered aircraft—forward-thinking Slovenian company Pipistrel again demonstrated its continued push to become a major light-aircraft presence.
The Alpha Trainer is the latest addition to a broad lineup of super-efficient two-seat cruisers, motorgliders and the in-development Panthera four-place GA super cruiser that will have three power systems: gas, electric and hybrid!
At just $83,000, the Alpha, announced late last year, is already in production as an ASTM-certified S-LSA. It derives from the company's popular models but, in particular, optimizes flight-school ruggedness and fuel economy.
Although powered by just 80 horsepower (Rotax 912 engine), it hardly skimps on performance. The sophisticated, bullet-nosed carbon-fiber-composite airframe delivers a 108 knot cruise at 3.6 gallons/hour fuel burn, climbs at 1,220 fpm at 76 knots and ranges out 390 miles minus reserve.
Its modified and beefed-up landing gear is meant to stand up to flight-school hard knocks. Alpha minimizes hourly costs for schools, too, with a 2.5 gallon-per-hour fuel burn during pattern work!
Beautifully sculpted, forgiving and docile but highly responsive (we were the first U.S. magazine to fly it: full report next issue), Alpha comes standard with a full panel of innovative new LX analog/digital instruments and a ballistic airframe parachute. Contact: www.pipistrel-usa.com.
Redbird J3 Cub Motion Simulator
Redbird Flight Simulations had a super-fun Piper Cub J3-themed simulator at Oshkosh that drew long lines of eager old and young folks to take a turn at the controls. The six LCD screens wrap around the interior for a good life-like view. The three-axis, full-motion cab is painted Cub yellow, comes with excellent software graphical display simulations, and sports the classic Piper black lightning bolt on its side. There's even a small prop up front that you spin by hand to start the simulation! Completely wonderful.
At $54,000, the single-pilot full-motion simulator was intended as a one-off to commemorate the 75th anniversary celebration of the Piper Cub J3, but after one was sold at the air show, the company said it would add the special version to its sim line up.
"Flying" was much like flying a Cub, right down to a random programmed engine failure that required a dead-stick wheel landing. Plane & Pilot acquitted itself admirably by sticking it just past the numbers.
Just 8x8 square feet of space and a standard 15 amp electric power source are needed to accommodate the Redbird MX2-based simulator. Contact: www.redbirdflightsimulations.com
Lisa Airplanes Akoya
Amphibian aircraft are true fly-everywhere birds. Perhaps the most exotic amphib yet is the Akoya, a composite two-seater with distinctive hydrofoil wings on its forward hull. Still in development, currently in flight test (projected late-2013 delivery), two features make Akoya a standout: Seafoils and Skis-in.
Seafoils are those hydrofoil-like wings. Skis-in are snow skis integrated into the retractable gear for winter flight—and require no special modification.
The folding-wing craft has a sensual Italian-style, 180º wraparound windshield but it has some performance chops too: a range of more than 1,000 miles at a claimed 3.3 gph fuel burn and legal-LSA max speed of 120 knots (131 in Europe).
The French company, like America's Icon Aircraft, has been working on the design for several years. ASTM certification is in the works. Projected price rests currently at $370,000, landing it in the high-octane category along with another long-term project, the Terrafugia Transition flying car, last sporting a $250,000 ticket.
Lisa plans a Hy-Bird version, powered by fuel cell and solar batteries. The gas-powered model mounts a Rotax 912 ULS 100 hp engine on the tail to drive the 36-foot span, unusually high-aspect-ratio wing (18:1). Empty weight is 661 pounds, which if the company can make work, will provide a most impressive 769 pounds. useful load. Contact: www.lisa-airplanes.com.
Wipaire Wipline 1450 Float
Veteran float maker Wipaire is diving into the LSA and light experimental market with its new 1450 all-aluminum amphibian (or straight seaplane) float. Company rep Amy Gesch said the newest member of the family will be available by the first quarter of 2013 and is meant for aircraft in the 1,600- to 1,650-pound class. That flotation embraces the entire LSA category as well as certificated aircraft that can also be flown as LSA, such as Piper Cubs and Aeroncas.
"We're so excited to get them out there and flying," said Gesch, adding that the company is working with many LSA manufacturers who will conform the floats under ASTM certification standards for existing and future customers.
Introductory price is $30,000 for the amphibs; $23,000 for the float version. Weight: 210-225 pounds. LSA regulations allow an additional 110 pounds for floats, or 1,430 pounds max, so the net detraction to useful load will be a bit over 100 pounds.
"There is a dearth of floats for LSA," said Gesch. "Rather than composite, we went with aluminum, since we have a lot of experience there and wanted to make them as light as possible." The 1450 was designed and prototyped in less than three months. Contact: www.wipaire.com.
North American A-36A Invader
North American A-36A Invader
A real treat this year was the beautiful A-36A Invader, newly restored by the Collings Foundation. It's a rare warbird in spite of its instant recognizability and was a derivative of the iconic P-51 Mustang with the bubble canopy and much more powerful Rolls-Royce Merlin engine (built under license by Packard, the now-extinct auto manufacturer). The P-51D is perhaps the most-recognized fighter of World War II.
Also known as the A-36 Apache, the fighter bomber was restored by Gary Norville of American Aero Services. There are only two others in the world—and just one of those is flying. The A-36 came out after the P-51A Mustang, also called Mustang I by the RAF during the war. The Oshkosh visitor was built in 1943 (for $49,000!) but never saw combat. A total of 500 A-36s were built before the Merlin engine version variants—more than 10,000 of them, were mass produced.
The A-36's 1,325 hp Allison V12 engine (nearly 900 hp) was set up for low-altitude ground attack. The Invader had a top speed of 365 mph. The Oshkosh version was authentically done up in the markings of the 86th Fighter-Bomber Group based in Italy.
Lightspeed FlightLink App
Leading headset maker Lightspeed Aviation's new app, FlightLink, turns Apple iPads and iPhones into cockpit voice recorders when connected to the Zulu.2 noise-cancelling headset. All intercom communications—both incoming and outgoing—are available for instant playback and permanent archiving.
FlightLink lets pilots instantly play back up to two minutes of ATC transmissions: a great way to make sure you heard those rapid-fire instructions accurately. Also, the entire flight can be recorded and saved for future use.
Pilots will find FlightLink useful for recalling clearances or playing back later for debriefing and after training flights. There's also a scratchpad (iPad edition) for notes and
diagrams...drawn with your fingertip!
The app works with the newest edition of the Zulu.2 headset. Older Zulu.2 headset versions can be retrofitted for a one-time upgrade fee of $69. The app itself is free. Contact: www.lightspeedaviation.com.
Garmin GDL 39 And GDL 88
Garmin GDL 39 And GDL 88
Garmin's new, lower-cost GDL39 portable ADS-B "in" antenna/receiver ($799) and GDL 88 ADS-B panel-mounted dual-link device ($3,995) bring the full basket of ADS-B Broadcast Services, including free weather and traffic alert, to general-aviation pilots.
Now you can choose between subscription-based aviation weather services or the free, government-provided, satellite-based ADS-B (Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast). The ADS-B system also provides traffic alerts and is due for completion by the end of 2013/early 2014. Much of the U.S. urban airspace is already up and working. All GA aircraft in the national airspace are mandated to carry ADS-B "out"-compliant devices onboard by Jan. 1, 2020. Pilots will then have unprecedented cockpit awareness of conflicting traffic at all times.
For those with Garmin 696, 796 and Aera 500 series portable GPS systems, Garmin's G3X or an Apple iPad and other iOS or Android-based devices, all they need is the GDL 39 antenna/receiver. It interfaces through wireless Bluetooth or standard cable connection.
ADS-B weather depiction is similar to that of older Garmin devices in that it has somewhat less detail than subscription-based weather. Yet ADS-B certainly brings enough situational awareness to keep pilots out of trouble from potential weather and traffic dangers.
Bewildered by the complexity of the new traffic system? You're not alone: Check out Garmin's online ADS-B Academy by visiting www.garmin.com/adsb.
Dynon SV-ADSB-470 And D1 Pocket Panel
Dynon's SV-ADSB-470 is a UAT Band Traffic and Weather Receiver module ($995) that brings ADS-B "in" weather, traffic and TFR readouts to its hugely popular SkyView system. Designed specifically for light-sport and experimental aircraft, the 470 taps into the aircraft power system and uses an external-mount antenna. When coupled with Dynon's Mode-S transponder module with ADS-B out, reliable traffic data is displayed on the SkyView even without a certified GPS on board.
Talk about attitude: The portable D1 Pocket Panel ($1,425) is a mini-EFIS that crams a lot of positional information into one diminutive package (3½x3¼x1 inches). The D1 displays a true artificial horizon with accurate pitch and roll; slip/skid ball; built-in GPS for ground speed, altitude, VSI (Vertical Speed Indicator), and ground track depiction; and a turn rate indicator with ticks for half-rate and standard-rate turns.
Sensing data comes via the built-in AHARS (Attitude Heading and Reference System), which includes built-in accelerometers and gyros. This little powerhouse mounts with a suction cup or a spring-loaded adapter that you squeeze and pop into a standard 31⁄8-inch steam gauge hole and release. Both mounts are included. A four-hour Li-Ion internal battery is chargeable by car-type power socket or AC charger. Contact: www.dynonavionics.com.
200 mph Long-EZE
200 MPH On Batteries Only?
In a modified Long-EZE homebuilt redubbed Long-ESA for Electric Speed and Altitude, champion motorcycle racer Chip Yates claimed an unofficial 202 mph speed record on July 19...and the press ate it up. The flight ended with a close-call dead-stick landing when a battery cell died. The pilot was still rolling out of a slight bank as he lined up on the runway, then dropped the Long-ESA hard onto Inyokern Airport's runway in the Southern California desert. Nothing like living dangerously. The flight's video is on YouTube.
It's all part of Yate's Flight of the Century dream project to follow Charles Lindbergh's transatlantic crossing of 1927 that changed civilization. Current technology won't support such a flight on one electric charge. Did that stop Yates? No way. He plans to "refuel" by docking with a series of several flying UAV (unmanned drone) "battery pods" orbiting at fixed points along the route. Yates has actually patented this wild idea.
He will fly a custom-designed electric plane with a 100-foot-plus wingspan. The mission will follow self-imposed constraints, including flight near the same altitudes and speeds as Lindbergh.
While the stunt may not offer a practical application, Yates maintains, as he works toward a 2014 launch, that his mission is to "force innovation that drives electric flight technology forward in a significant and measurable way." Stay tuned for this story; it should prove interesting. Contact: www.flightofthecentury.com.
MGL Avionics iEFIS Explorer
The Explorer, first of three pressure-sensitive (even with gloves) touch-screen EFIS displays to hit the market, was in development for 18 months. Its electronic heart is the iBox EFIS, which carries pitot, static, GPS, transponder, nav/com and more serial plug-in sensory inputs and lives behind the instrument panel. Control knobs and tactile buttons allow for pilot interface with the device, no matter how turbulent the flight conditions.
Meant for the Experimental and LSA market, the noncertified package goes for $5,975, which includes the iBox.
Features include complete engine monitoring for up to a four cylinder powerplant, air-speed indication up to 250 mph and more. Additional, dedicated displays can be bought for $2,500, and come in two other sizes: iEFIS Discovery (7-inch screen) and iEFIS Challenger (10.4-inch). If you have the real estate, up to eight screens can be powered by the iBox, which cost $2,500 each.
The screens have many features to facilitate easy navigation. Just touch the instrument, drop-down menu, airport, radio interface or airport diagram you want to make it "live." Contact: www.mglavionics.com.
Bendix King myWingMan App
The avionics giant's new app, myWingMan, brings simplified flight planning and in-flight navigation support to the cockpit.
Meant for Apple iPad display tablets, the app streamlines tasks like Smart Route preflight planning, en route navigation, enhanced situation situational and positional awareness and more.
Some of the crackerjack features: customizable two- and three-way split-screen display, two Synthetic Vision views ("Chase Plane" and traditional "Forward View"), georeferenced charting, Highway-in-the-Sky guidance, internet WX access and in-flight satellite weather from WxWorx XM. There's even a G-meter.
Synthetic Vision provides pilots with real-time graphic simulations of where the aircraft is in relation to nearby terrain through a virtual 3-D view, whether by day or night, and regardless of fog, clouds or other ground-view obscuration.
Everything in myWingMan follows the intuitive Apple drag-and-drop convention for calling up features: no menu screens. VFR-only price: $99. With IFR: $149. Contact: www.bendixking.com.
Dual Electronics XGPS170 GPS + ADS-B Weather & Traffic Receiver
This palm-sized, powerful, multi-app unit fits on the glare shield or can be slapped on the windscreen with a simple rubber adapter.
The communications interface is Bluetooth instead of wifi. Apple OS and Android devices (iPad, iPhone, iPod Touch etc.) can only connect with one WiFi network at a time, and thus also only work with one wifi accessory at a time. With Bluetooth connectivity, the unit can talk to multiple remote devices and leave the iPad or Android's WiFi free to connect to other WiFi devices. It will also connect to two iPads simultaneously.
The attractive XGPS170 lists for $799 and offers broad conformity with a number of apps including WingX Pro7, Global NavSource, i1000 Flight System and many more.
The internal WAAS GPS-based electronics can be used strictly as a GPS too. It integrates seamlessly with the iPad as if it was the internal GPS, to provide position data to any app you want to run on the tablet for flight, car, boat, hiking or other navigational needs. Just bring it along with the tablet and you're good to go anywhere and any way you like.
The five-hour battery recharges with USB, wall or auto-style connections and has a removable pop-up antenna. Contact: www.xgps170.dualav.com.