Lots of Campers
I got a bit of a surprise Sunday afternoon when driving by the North 40 camping area at Wittman Field in Oshkosh. The field wasn't quite full to the fence line off the approach end of runway 9 but it was getting there. That's as full as I've seen the campground on a pre-show Sunday in several years and certainly an improvement over last year, when heavy rains rendered the place a sodden wasteland. Using the North 40 as a leading indicator of economic conditions is a great AirVenture sport, but it's probably not a reliable indicator of show attendance.
Still, I'd rather see it full than not. The campers had their usual Vulture's Row of gawkers grading the landings of arriving airplanes. Not to be too harsh, but you can sure see that some pilots don't seem to be to…ummm…very proficient. Some of those landings were quite cringe worthy. I always figured if you're going to fly into OSH with an audience, you'd better bring your A game.
Real People, Real Pain
As that convention of idiots in Washington otherwise known as the 112th Congress continues to play chicken with the world economy, some of those chickens came home to roost here at AirVenture. With the FAA's budget in limbo, some of the more than 4000 agency employees furloughed were involved in the unleaded avgas transition team group. They were scheduled to give a briefing here on Wednesday, but it appears they've called the whole thing off in the absence of FAA staff to oversee it.
And that's only scratching the surface. Probably dozens if not hundreds of certification projects large and small are also stalled, thus costing companies real dollars in delays and probably some of the real jobs the political class flaps its lips about but does nothing to improve. The aviation industry continues to be fragile and this is just another few knots of headwind.
Flight Designs CT4
I've never seen convincing evidence that a low-ball price on airplanes expands the market at the lower end in a sustainable way. The most compelling evidence to the contrary is Eclipse. Its proposed sum-million dollar jet proved to be a headlong slide into bankruptcy.
But here comes Flight Designs with a certified, four-place cruiser it proposes to sell for around $250,000. Why does it think it can do this with Diamond's DA40—a comparable proven and competent airplane—sells for around $350,000? One reason is that it builds airplanes in the Ukraine, where labor rates are lower. But another may be that it hasn't certified a four-place airplane in the current market and is doing what most airplane companies do: underestimating the cost of bringing a new airplane into production.
I wish them the best, but I'd rather see a realistic price that builds in the most important thing any new airplane should have: Good value for the customer and profitability for the company building the airplane. It's never in the customer's interest to have the company losing money on every sale.
Airlines: Sinking to New Lows
Speaking of customers and sticking it to same, how about a nice loud razz for the ever incompetent Congress and at least some airlines. Since Congress can't figure out a way to re-authorize the FAA to operate, it can't, among other things, collect passenger ticket taxes.
Sensing yet another opportunity to abuse customers, some airlines skipped right past giving ticket buyers a break on the tax holiday and just raised their basic fares to the same level, keeping the money for themselves. According to the Associated Press, American and Jet Blue followed this course, reaffirming my faith that American business remains in the grip of money grubbing MBAs.
Run! Run for Your Lives!
Well, okay, maybe just file in an orderly fashion to the exits. That's the idea behind a new emergency notification by text message that EAA has put together. Following the surprise tornado at Sun 'n Fun last spring, the AirVenture staff figured it needed at least a basic framework for emergency notification.
They're doing this through a text message setup. To use it, text OSHALERT to 84444 and you'll get on the list for emergency notifications. For alerts on other activities, text OSHFUN to the same number.