Making Airshows Exciting Again
With CASPA, The Friendly Contest
An airshow is anairshow is an airshow — pilots fly and people watch. Although the pilots giveit their all, sometimes it seems as if there’s nothing new under the sun. TheChampionship Air Show Pilots Association (CASPA) may have found a way to put the"wow" back into airshows, if the excitement generated at EAAAirVenture Oshkosh is any indication. CASPA is promoting an event called theNAVplus Challenge Series that started earlier this season in Detroit, Mich., atthe Wayne County Air Show. It will wrap up on Labor Day at the ClevelandNational Air Show in Ohio, with two additional stops in between.
The NAVplus Challenge idea is pretty straightforward: The organizers foundsix great airshow pilots, dangled some money and bragging rights in front ofthem, and got out of the way. Those six pilots fly each airshow for points thatgo toward a grand total and eventual grand champion. There are three challengesegments per airshow. The first is a set of two compulsory figures to show thepilot’s competency — and here’s where it gets good. CASPA Chief Steward ClintMcHenry is the only one who scores the pilot on whether the figures arecompleted — the judges score only on how exciting the pilot can make thecompulsory figures. That means the pilot flies a no-holds-barred entry goinginto the figure, and rams pedal to the metal coming out. "It cooks!"yelled one OSH spectator. If the compulsories cook, hang onto your hat, there’smore to come.
Several minuteslater, the pilots return for their three-minute freestyle routine during whichthey razzle-dazzle the judges with as much eye candy as they can muster.Everything is allowed … maneuvers on the deck, inverted ribbon-cutting, music,pyrotechnics, smoke — if you can name it, the pilots do it. At the end of thefreestyle program, the two top vote-getters move on to the challenge round thatputs them in the air at the same time, separated by a 500-foot no-fly zone.Here, it gets down to pride as each pilot does his dead-level best to outdo theother.
The excitement inthe audience is tangible, and pilots fly with a competitive edginess not alwaysfound in other performances. The competition is structured with the audience inmind, and CASPA follows through on that by choosing each day’s judges at random.On Friday at OSH, the judges included — among others — a city manager, anattorney, a U.S. senator, a design engineer, a retired commercial pilot, and astay-at-home dad. Six of the judges were pilots, three were not, only two hadany personal aerobatics experience at all, and that’s just how CASPA wanted it.In his briefing, CASPA Chief Steward McHenry stressed to the judges that thetechnical aspects of the maneuvers should not be their concern. "You’relooking for content and impact, not degree of perfection. Judge only on how muchit excites you. We’re going to be the jury, they’re the defendants." Thedefendants this season are Matt Chapman, Ian Groom, Mike Goulian, Rocky Hill,Sean D. Tucker and Gene Soucy.
Although McHenry stressed several times that a pilot’s name should make nodifference to the judges in their scoring, that "fame factor" may bethe only drawback to the event. Announcers for the individual pilots let it beknown multiple times how many NAVplus Challenges their pilots had won, and thejudges no doubt had a hard time disregarding that information. If thosebetter-known pilots have an edge going in, though, it does nothing to lower theintensity of their lesser-known competitors.
After two rounds ofgreat flying, the final battle of the day came down to a face-off between RockyHill flying the America Online 4.0 Extra 300 and Sean D. Tucker and his10-10-220. The CASPA NavPlus Challenge is structured for maximum audienceexcitement and the show is well thought out, even down to having the twochallenge pilots idle back to back on the runway like gunfighters at the O.K.Corral while awaiting word to launch. "Let’s Rock This Place" blaredfrom the speakers as they pushed throttle forward to grab a piece of the sky.When it was over, Tucker was the winner by only the slimmest of margins, leavingHill to plan for the next NAVplus Challenge.
Is the Challenge accomplishing what CASPA wanted? The judges were thrilled,there’s no question about that. "I’ve been to so many airshows," judgeDennis Byron told AVweb. "This is the first time I’ve felt like theairshow was being done for me." The audience was enthralled, too, loudlyclapping and yelling for their favorites. The pilots flew their hearts out andseemed to have a great time doing it. Good job, CASPA. Let’s rock this place.
Cirrus Gets Stockholders To Show Them The Money
New Investment VP Has Dollars And Sense
Building a newcertified production airplane may be many things, but inexpensive is not one ofthem. It cost Cirrus Design $65 million to get from Day One of the company tothe delivery of the first SR20 two weeks ago. When Cirrus first started raisingmoney several years ago, they went outside the company to a broker dealer whogot a commission. Sara Dougherty, Alan and Dale Klapmeier’s executive assistant,didn’t like spending that extra money one bit, and asked to be allowed to tryher hand at finding money. "Basically, they said if you can raise money,you can raise money. It was sort of a testing ground." Within a couple ofmonths the former high school principal had raised a half million dollars. Soonafter, she was promoted to director of investor relations. That was 16 milliondollars ago, and Dougherty isn’t slowing down.
A couple of days before EAA AirVenture ’99, she was named Cirrus’ vicepresident of investor relations. Did she ask for a commission herself? "No.I asked for stock options." Seems that Dougherty is as savvy about herpersonal finances as she is about her company’s. Although she has a good productto sell, her job isn’t easy, as not everyone can become a Cirrus investor."We only take accredited or qualified investors, so we have a minimum …you have to have a certain personal net worth to be able to invest, we followguidelines all the way through." Those investors include radio host PaulHarvey, who has told listeners he owns stock. "That sort of thing reallyhelps," Dougherty says.
Dougherty saysinvestors will make money in one of several ways. They’ll see a return if andwhen the stock goes public in an initial public offering (IPO), when a strategicpartner buys out the smaller investors, when a corporate partner comes in, or individends if the company remains private. What’s the likelihood of astrategic/corporate partner? Dougherty says the company has had conversationswith both. She told AVweb an IPO or partnership could happen within 18 to24 months.
In the meantime, production is rolling along, orders keep rolling in, andCirrus, like the cloud it is named after, is flying high.
EAA’s Aeromedical Meeting Rekindles Progressive Ideas For Change
The EAA’sAeromedical Council held its annual meeting during AirVenture ’99, withhigh-level representatives from the FAA Civil Aviation Medical Institute (theOklahoma City medical certification division of the FAA) in attendance. Theresults exceeded everyone’s expectations.
In a round-table discussion between the doctors who regularly perform flightphysicals and the FAA doctors, comments by the FAA frankly startled those in thetrenches who deal with pilot medical exams on a daily basis. The FAA has beenkeeping statistics regarding medical conditions and aircraft accidents for sometime. The FAA found that over the last few years, no pilots under age 40 whohold first- or second-class medical certificates were turned down for a renewal,and none ever experienced a medical incapacitation in flight. As a result, somediscussions were held in the Aeromedical Council meeting about increasing theduration of first and second class medicals in the under 40 age group in afashion similar to the extension granted third class medical holders two yearsago. However, these discussions have not yet and may never result in concreteregulatory proposals.
Tired Of The Commute?
George Jetson lookout! Personal aerial transport is at hand, in the form of the Gen H-4 personalhelicopter. Sporting four engines and eight cylinders, redundancy is the themeof the Gen H-4. It can fly with one engine out, and can land safely with twoengines out. If luck runs out, the design includes an "I quit" handle:A BRS ballistic parachute is included. It’s powered by four 125cctwo-cylinder two-stroke engines that require a 30:1 oil/gas mix, and have asmall carburetor on each cylinder, with a total of 40 hp.
Gen Yanagisawa, ofEngineering Systems Company, designed and built the prototype personalhelicopter. The framework of aluminum tubing incorporates the landing gear, aseat for the pilot and a gimbaled mount for the engine/rotor combination. Thetop rotor blades are each about 13 feet long, made of carbon fiber and Kevlar,and they counter-rotate, negating the need for a tail rotor. A strong gearboxhandles the power input, and reduces the two top rotors to between 800 and 850rpm. The empty weight is listed as 155 pounds, and gross weight is 485 pounds.Cruise speed will be 60 mph. You, too, can take off from your driveway, foraround $30,000.
EAA AirVenture Museum Unveils Hangar X
The EAAAirVenture Museum opened the doors to its latest addition, Hangar X, duringAirVenture ’99. Though most of the exhibits were not finished, a steady streamof visitors passed through the new annex to get a glimpse of what the EAA hopeswill be the centerpiece of their youth aviation education program. John Gaertner,the Hangar X designer and curator, told AVweb the museum is planning 24interactive exhibits that will include everything from wind tunnels and flightsimulators to the largest exhibit in the Hangar, a 2/3 scale Lockheed F-22Raptor.
Gaertner isparticularly proud of Hangar X’s second-story "control tower" thatoverlooks Pioneer Airport. Gaertner said he hopes to have an operating radarsystem in the tower plus a live audio feed of Wittman Field communications toadd a touch of ATC realism. With additional space devoted to classrooms andworkshops, Hangar X will also be used to provide aviation training to educatorsfrom around the area. As more of the interactive exhibits become operational,the EAA intends to include Hangar X activities in the curriculum of the EAA AirAcademy youth camps. Although the completion date for all the planned Hangar Xexhibits depends on receipt of additional funding, Hangar X is poised to takethe EAA aviation education programs to new heights in the 21st century.
DreamWings Introduces Sleek Ultralight
With a fullyenclosed tandem cockpit, smooth composite structure, and absence of wing strutsor support wires, the Dreamwings Valkyrie prototype displayed at AirVenture ’99does not look like your typical ultralight. Attracting much attention in theultralight area, the Valkyrie, from DreamWings LLC of Lawrence, Kan., can beoperated as either an ultralight or experimental depending on engine choice andseating options. Operating as an ultralight, Dreamwings pedicts a cruise speedof 82 mph on only 28 hp. Company founder John Hunter said the Valkyrie isdesigned to the rigorous standards of FAR 23, and will offer 10-minuteassembly/disassembly for easy trailering. The prototype at AirVenture sports an80-hp engine, but the airframe is designed for up to 125 hp. The Valkyrie kitcosts $16,000 without an engine, and DreamWings estimates it would take about300 to 400 hours to build the aircraft. Hunter said first flight is scheduled bythe end of the summer, and the company had already received 50 orders.
Injured Artist Recouping Well, While His Friends Help Out At OSH
Fans of aviationartist Sam Lyons will be pleased to know that he is recuperating well andupbeat, according to author and pilot Jim Wheaton, one of a group of friends whovolunteered to staff the artists booth at EAA AirVenture ’99 in the wake ofLyons tragic plane crash June 26. Lyons was flying with his wife, Vicky, whentheir Piper Cub was the second of two airplanes to crash near Cumberland, Md.,en route home from the annual Sentimental Journey Piper Cub reunion in LockHaven, Pa. Vicky died of injuries she suffered in the crash; Sam survived withmajor burns that will require months of recuperation.
"We talked to him yesterday and he was in great spirits," saidWheaton, as he worked Lyons booth Monday with his daughters Allison and Kate."Were here because we wanted to be sure Sams presence was representedat Oshkosh," he added. The Wheaton clan shared booth duties with anotherfamily of Lyons friends, Bill and Cathy Johnson. Both families live near and flywith Lyons out of an airport near Kennesaw, Ga. Which just goes to show, apersons most valuable possessions are almost always good friends.
Doctor Still Recovering
Laird"Lad" Doctor, 56, who was seriously injured Thursday when the F-4UCorsair he was flying collided with an F-8 Bearcat on the main runway at OSH,remained hospitalized late Monday. Doctor was last reported in "criticalbut stable" condition at Froedtert Memorial Hospital in Milwaukee, where hewas taken after the collision.