Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Oshkosh 2010 - Day 2

Still in the mood to seek out the grassroots side of Oshkosh, I only traversed downtown AirVenture for as long as it took to drop Co-pilot Egg off at her office in Exhibition Building A and cross over to the southern suburbs. I had to pass through the central square on the way and I found the light to be perfect for a couple of pictures of the DC-3s parked there.

Just south of downtown is the Vintage Planes suburb.  I love everything about these old planes - the color schemes, the sounds of radial engines converting fuel into a rumbling yet appealing cacophony that modern engines cannot match, and the angular yet aerodynamic shapes achieved by the combination of steel tube, fabric, and hand-shaped aluminum. They are in many cases functional, flying works of art.

It was in this first ring of AirVenture suburbs that I discovered that I was wrong about the monopolistic homogeneity of dining options:

Never happy, I. I was as aghast at the prices as I was surprised by the variety.  Vintage Planes wasn't my destination, though. I've been out this far before, but have always run out of steam before pressing even further out to the boonies. Today was to be the day that I went all the way out to the very far reaches of AirVenture: the ultralight area. It's a long walk out there, but it's worth it if you are searching for the real down-to-earth (so to speak) type of flying that got organizations such as EAA started. My understanding is that a pilot of a Part 103 ultralight doesn't even need a pilot's license. Here's how EAA describes them:
Flying ultralights is an exciting and exhilarating sport when done safely. Please take the time and learn the rules of flight before your feet leave the ground.
Flying ultralights is not a step up or down, but a step into a completely different and exciting sector of the flying community. Flying ultralights might be described as a step into high performance slowness. While there are similarities to other type certificated aircraft, there can be major handling differences.
The Federal Aviation Regulation that regulates ultralight flying is called Part 103. These are the legal rules we fly by; they are the most lenient rules in the world. Our privileges, however, carry responsibilities.
Part 103 defines an ultralight as:
  • 1-seat
  • 254 pounds max. empty weight (powered)
  • 155 pounds max empty weight (unpowered)
  • 5 gallons max. fuel capacity
  • 55 knots max. full power speed
  • 24 knots max power off stall speed

To my untrained eye, it didn't seem like there were all that many true ultralights out there. The influx of Sport Planes has changed that aspect of the genre significantly. If I had to guess, I'd say it might be because of the single-seat limitation of true ultralights. There were a few flying, though. Here's one:

Now that's flying for flying's sake! They almost all look spindly and fragile like that, mostly I suspect due to the severe weight limitation. There was one, however, that didn't share that design style.

Here's a close-up of the tattoo from three pictures above because, well, just because:

I had a forum that I wanted to attend at 10:00 and it was getting late, so I had to head back towards downtown and pass through to the norther 'burbs. I was already getting tired, so I hopped a ride on one of the trams.

And, of course, I was yet again reminded that the commercialization of AirVenture that I sometimes rebel against has had many positive results. Most of the paths are now paved, I've never had to wait in line for a Port-O-Let, and free transportation is readily available. It's a massive operation and it runs very, very well. I do get tired of being beeped at by VIPs (Very Impatient Persons) in golf carts, but as long as I can avoid the major arteries it's not so bad.

The forums area (and again, these forums are presented in a dozen nice, solid sheltered, concrete floored structures sponsored by corporations) is clear across downtown in the northern 'burbs, right in the area where the homebuilts are parked. The forums are free and cover a very wide range of esoteric subjects. I was going to attend a forum on the inner workings of the Rotax 912ULS that will power by RV-12. The preceding forum was not quite done when I got there, so I learned a little bit about the Terrafugia flying car (or, as they call it, "roadable airplane"). Now that's esoteric! Some of the questions from the audience were very astute and were well answered by the presenter. The depth and breadth of diverse knowledge present and ready to be tapped at Oshkosh is simply astonishing.

The Rotax forum was also very informative. I had no say in the decision to someday acquire the Rotax912; that decision was implicit in the selection of the RV-12. I had heard of the Rotax engine, but beyond that did not know all that much about it other than that some people love them, and others don't. The presentation spoke to many of the questions I had about the engine and how it compares to the more traditional Lycoming engines that I've always dealt with. Now that I know more about it, I'm sold on the idea of the Rotax. It is a thoroughly modern engine that now has years of experience and refinement spread across 36,000 flying engines installed in all types of airplanes. On of my burning questions (heh!) was about the auto gas that it prefers to burn rather than the leaded aviation fuel I have to use in the Lycoming that propels Papa. I was concerned that pump gas has ethanol in it and wondered if that was going to be problematic for the engine. The short answer is no. The engine couldn't care less. The issue with ethanol has to do with plastic fuel lines or non-metallic fuel tanks. Neither of those are a problem for the RV-12.

I was no sooner done with the forum than I received a text message from a Facebook friend that I had been hoping to meet in person for the first time. He works for Cessna and was going to be spending a couple of days selling Cessnas at the show. Suddenly finding myself afloat with gratitude towards the corporate sponsors that had provided much-needed transportation and a folding chair to sit (albeit mighty uncomfortably, but my lack of posterior padding is hardly their fault) on, I eagerly set my course towards the Cessna exhibit located right in the heart of downtown. Oh, and I really wanted to get a close up look at the $660,000 Cessna Corvalis, an airplane that began life as a homebuilt only to be acquired by Cessna for the commercial certified market. In other words, a homebuilt that had graduated to store-bought.

Now this is one plush airplane. First, we have the hand-rubbed, teak fuel tank selector knob:

Naturally, any vehicle costing well over half a million dollars has to have a cup holder:

And a color TV:

And believe it or not, central air conditioning. The control panel for the AC is below the throttle, prop, and mixture knobs:

You probably think that big smile I'm wearing comes from sitting in such an incredible plane, and I'm okay with you thinking that, but it's really because Jeff had just given me a cold bottle of water. With the going price for a bottle of water being $2.75 (Grrrr, and I was just getting over being resentful of the monopolistic concessionaire), it was quite nice to have one provided to me gratis.

It was early afternoon by the time I was able to drag myself away from the corporate-provided treats and great conversation in order to go pick up Egg at work. She wanted to get back over to the Kidventure part of town to finish up her projects from yesterday. Today she would be carving a propeller out of a block of wood. I don't think this particular project was entirely focused on education since it is not all that common even for homebuilt builders to carve their own props anymore. In fact, given that it took a full hour, I think this one was more about giving parents a break.

Oh, and she got to pretend to fly a helicopter just like I got to pretend to fly a Corvalis:

The Kidventure area is located way over at the EAA museum complex. It's a long walk so we rode over on a shuttle bus, but going back was going to be difficult. The museum area is equidistant with the bus drop-off area to where our car was parked. In other words, it was a long walk to the car from the museum, but it was an equally long walk from where the bus would drop us off. Insult to injury, the bus would pass right by our car on the way back, but wouldn't stop to drop us off. As we were debating what to do, one of the Ford sponsored free shuttle cars pulled up. The lovely young lady hired to drive (and ostensibly sell, although she made no effort to do so) the car had no objections whatsoever to dropping us right where we needed to be.

So, thanks Ford! I'm going to quit whining about the over commercialization of AirVenture now. Well, except for the $2.75 water. That really bugs me. Fortunately I have found a spot just outside the gate that sells a bottle for $1.00. Saints, those people. Saints.


  1. Awesome! When are you back? I'm in Ohio for a couple weeks.

  2. Thanks for the great Oshkosh trip reports again this year, Dave. It really is awesome to see so much from your perspective since I wasn't able to make it up there!