Tuesday, July 9, 2013
Light-Sport Chronicles: Europe’s Disneyland For Airplanes
One Yank’s take on Europe’s premier aircraft show...and why we should care
I lead with the 70% scale Mustang because it epitomizes Aero, which you can think of as Europe's aviation Disneyland. Here's where you see the latest conventional and electric aircraft prototypes and model updates, new power systems and airframe construction methods, avionics advances and so much more.
I've never been, but I felt this important gathering gives us a sharp and clear focus on advances in flight we often don't see Stateside for years—if ever. So I asked my pal Dan Johnson, light-aircraft expert and purveyor of the superb website www.bydanjohnson.com, to be our Aero 2013 tour guide.
Let's start with Dan's industry-seasoned view on why we Yanks should pay attention to Aero. After all, don't we already have our own Sebring, Sun 'n Fun, Oshkosh and regional aviation gatherings? "This is Europe's most important air show," he begins. "I've been to 10 of them. That first visit, the largest plane I saw was a Cessna 206. Now, they have jets and GA displays everywhere—but Aero has firm roots as a recreational aircraft event. They call it 'sport flying' in Europe, and it's always been driven by the sailplane community."
After World War II, the victorious Allies prohibited Germany's pilots from flying powered aircraft, so sailplane flight grew widely popular, as it had after World War I. To this day, soaring remains a vital mainstay of German civilian flight. Here at home, the general aviation-to-sport aircraft ratio is roughly 80% to 20%, which includes all sailplanes and homebuilts. In Europe, it's just the opposite: 80% sport to 20% GA!
"We sometimes think of sport flying as a U.S. phenomenon," Dan continues, "But we're only one of several active and developing markets that include Australia, Brazil, Europe, China and India."
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