It’s Friday at AirVenture Oshkosh. It’s my 27th consecutive show. I’m a newbie by some folks’ standards. But I know the show. As a member of the media and insider at one point to many of the decisions and policies that shaped the show, I’ve seen how it became what it is today and how it got there in ways that few other attendees get a chance to see.
My week at AirVenture isn’t over. I’m here for the duration. I don’t want it to end, and while it’s true that I never want it to end, this year it’s palpable. It’s already been a special show, and we’ve got three days to go.
9. A Legacy Of A Different Kind: On the night before the show started, I stopped by the Cirrus Aircraft pre-show party to say hi and wish departing Cirrus leader and co-founder Dale Klapmeier a fond retirement. I’ve been snooping around and folks who know tell me he’s already enjoying stepping back. I’ve known Dale for a long time. I met him and his brother Alan at AOPA Las Vegas in the early 1990s when I had a chance to fly the company’s VK30 kitplane model. It was Cirrus Design’s only model, and if you’re wondering what happened to it…well, it was a bundle of cool ideas, all of which presented risk to the success of the project, so they moved on from it. But from Day One, I realized that this was a special company, one that had an actual, identifiable DNA. Innovation, technology, sleek style and safety. Developing a sophisticated culture of safety came later to the game, but for the past 10 years or so, Cirrus has developed one that could be a model for many other companies. They’re not the only one, true. But it shouldn’t be a small club. Dale and Alan Klapmeier each brought a special world-class set of skills to their leadership at the company. Alan departed Cirrus years ago, and Dale remained to guide it to where it is today. His legacy will be lasting. And a big part of that record is the fact that Dale knows how to get things done. He’s not alone in that. But here’s the part that’s extraordinary. He got things done while empowering his employees, who were always his colleagues, too, to be a part of the success. It was never about Dale winning. It was always about everyone winning. That’s legacy.
8. Electrified: People are just now starting to say what I’ve been saying all along. Where are we going with electric flight? It’s a hard question to ask because the hope for electric-powered flight is palpable. But the questions—how do we overcome the barriers to success…short battery life, sky-high weight-to-capacity ratios compared to fossil fuels, and the problem of working recharging into the model of aviation operations that’s developed over the past century—are all impossible to answer today. They’ll remain so until we find answers, and those answers won’t be created by being more clever about how we work around the deficiencies, but by solving them. In this we’re all captive to men and women working in labs around the world trying to figure out how to improve by orders of magnitude battery capacity and recharging performance. Until then, what we’re doing has to be seen as some kind of very active wishful thinking. Don’t get me wrong. I am not against that, working toward a destination even when the path there is still unknown. I just think we need to be honest with ourselves about where we are and prepare for a journey for which there are no charts available.