We’d lucked out. It was a gorgeous winter afternoon in Sebring, Florida, a comic book periwinkle sky, just an insinuation of wind, and, I imagined, the kind of visibility from up higher that would allow one to make out Vero Beach on the Atlantic coast and then, upon turning, spy Sarasota on the Gulf Coast on the other side of the famously flat peninsula. It was, in short, the kind of day that comes around too seldom in Florida in January, so when it does, you just have to go flying. And that was the plan.
Across the field there was, indeed, plenty of flying going on, aircraft strutting around the pattern in the daily flybys at the Sport Aviation Expo: a yellow gyroplane zooming down and rising back up and coming around to do it again (and again); a white and red tube and rag big tire machine on short final threatening to go into a full hover; and a little composite nose gear LSA demonstrating to the onlookers the opposite—that is, just how fast it really is, the LSA regs be damned. Regardless of what’s in the air, the backing soundtrack at Sebring is the same, auto racing, the late-model sports cars rounding the track with their Doppler growls and whines, Porsches, Jaguars and the occasional Italian job, a Ferrari, maybe a Lambo, as they ricochet their laps around the world-famous Sebring International Raceway.
As much fun as driving the track is, and it is, the view from a sports car pales in comparison to that from a plane, and I was the lucky one here because I was going flying. I would, in fact, be flying in a brand-new airplane, one that’s not really new at all but was new to me and is probably new to you, as well. That plane, the Ameravia Vulcanair V1.0 (words my spell-checker rejects one and all as if to underscore how unusual the plane is), is made in Italy and imported to the U.S., where distributor Ameravia outfits them and sells them. It hopes to sell a lot of them. I hoped to find out just how good a plane it was.
As we pulled up in the shuttle bus, the V1.0 (I wonder what owners will actually call it instead of the clunky designation) caught my eye, looking shiny and pretty on the temporary ramp on this far side of KSEB, a parking area created just for the airshow overflow, which, I guess, included us today.
Admittedly, the setting seemed inauspicious, and it was, but at the same time the V.1.0’s pedigree is just that, “inauspicious.” There are around 300 of the planes out in the field, many of them in Europe. That said, I learned long ago not to judge an airplane by its history. There are some really good airplanes that for one of a handful of really important reasons never made it big, and this might just be one of them.
Speaking of which, when I said the V1.0 wasn’t really a new airplane, I meant it’s really not new, as in, it’s been around in one form or another for 50 years. And neither is the company new—well, not really.