AirVenture: The Great Gathering Draws Near

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New Companies, New Products...

EAA AirVenture is just around the corner and because many companies gear their product development and PR campaigns to the week at Oshkosh, particularly this year in the centennial of flight, you will soon be awash in new products to drool over and/or lust for. AVweb is already aware of some new weather products, new aircraft and new support services for all facets of flight (including those you spend on the ground). Whether you're going to the show (see AVweb's Survival Guide) or not (see our coverage), the AVweb team will be at AirVenture in force, to find what's best of what's new. Among the new aircraft, Extra Aircraft, the U.S. sales and marketing arm of the German aircraft manufacturer Extra Flugzeugbau, will spotlight their new business/touring aircraft with designer, founder of the German-based company, and aerobatics icon Walter Extra on hand. Many people are already familiar with the Extra 300L, a nimble, two-seat, fully aerobatic plane, but the EA-500 and EA-400 models being introduced at Oshkosh are aimed at a different market. Both are six-place pressurized aircraft designed for Point A to Point B travel with speed and comfort. The EA-500 has a 450-h.p. Rolls Royce 250-B17F/2 with a five-bladed reversible prop to pull it at a maximum cruise of 230 KTAS. The EA-400 gets its 350 ponies and 220 KTAS from a liquid-cooled TCM TSIOL-550-C.

..."Pilot-Optional" Airplane...

Explorer Aircraft is no stranger to AirVenture, but the latest twist in its marketing efforts might raise an eyebrow or two. The Australian-based firm is pitching its big, powerful, bush-friendly single as a "pilot-optional" aircraft for military use. With a pilot, the Explorer is a 10- to 16-passenger workhorse that can get in and out of smaller airfields. Take the crew out of the equation and the company says it's an unmanned aerial vehicle that can fly as high as FL400 and accomplish a myriad of missions. While AirVenture is a showcase for all types of aviation, its roots are with homebuilts and kit plane manufacturers, like the New Glasair, which continues to innovate, announcing a super-fast-build option. According to the company, the pre-built components shave a total of 750 hours from the build time. With a couple of weeks to go before AirVenture, Glasair, one of the oldest names in high-performance homebuilts, has announced a "jump start" kit that takes hundreds of hours off the build time. Many of the major airframe components are pre-assembled and aligned, resulting in factory-quality construction. "Now, when the crate is opened, it is clearly recognizable as a Glasair airframe, not a bunch of parts," said CEO Mikael Via. "The difficult and critical alignment work is done and structural integrity is maximized."

...Electronics Abound

You won't actually have to attend the show to see some of the latest products and services being offered there (but it's a lot more fun). WSI, which provides pilots "a continuous stream of aviation weather information to your portable or panel-mounted display," will soon be setting up a temporary mini-site within its main Web site to show off its capabilities and provide extensive weather data for those traveling to the Oshkosh area. That will include satellite pictures, radar imagery, and a three-day temperature and sky forecast as well as a textual TAF. The mini-site will be up during the event and for a few days prior and afterward. Another company, TurboWx, will put similar information on your appropriately enabled cellphone. TurboWx is one of several companies offering packages to deliver all manner of weather information (even PIREPs) to your PDA or your SmartPhone. The color graphics and images offer a real-time look at conditions and you can also get forecasts and conditions in text format. There's even a flight-tracking function that follows your progress as you log onto the system so anyone interested in your flight can keep tabs on it.