Weather Is Here …
… Wish You Were
The fair skies and warm breezes that threatened to make AirVenture 2000 one of the most enjoyable in recent memory — weather-wise, at least — capitulated last night and today to showers, fog and sometimes moderate rain falling on the Mecca known as Wittman Regional Airport at Oshkosh, Wis. Although the wet weather dampened camping equipment, airplanes and parking areas, it did little to whet enthusiasm for AirVenture nor slow down the action in the exhibit areas. A series of low pressure systems were lining up across the Midwest U.S. and one of them had perched southeast of Oshkosh, spreading rain, fog and low ceilings throughout the central Wisconsin area. Forecasts for the OSH area into the weekend called for additional rain and low ceilings into Saturday with a clearing trend advertised for Sunday and fair skies to follow early next week.
Sadly, however, the poor weather combined with scud-running may have claimed the lives of four men attempting to make it into OSH early yesterday morning. A Cessna 182 with four aboard crashed and caught fire early Friday after apparently flying into a wind generator near Baraboo, Wis. Although it was too early to confirm the men’s identities, local authorities investigating the crash reportedly found a chart marked with a route from Independence, Mo., to Oshkosh. The crash marked the first and only fatalities of which AVweb is aware associated with planes flying to and from this year’s AirVenture.
JFK Hostage Situation Resolved
Despite the peaceful resolution of Thursday’s hostage situation aboard a National Airlines Boeing 757 parked at its gate at New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK), security officials at the airport maintained that there was not a security lapse. Charged in the aftermath of the five-hour standoff with airport law enforcement was 22-year-old Aaron Commey, a student whose father suspected he was suffering from unspecified mental problems. Commey charged onto the jet Thursday evening as its crew was preparing to operate a scheduled flight to Las Vegas. All 143 passengers and crew escaped the plane in the early stages of the standoff, although Commey held a gun to the unidentified co-pilot’s head, forcing him to remain behind. According to security officials at JFK, Commey ran around a metal detector at a security checkpoint before walking onto the flight. Although airport police arrived soon thereafter, the damage had been done.
…And Her Name Is Revolution Or Lafayette Or MCR 01…
A 2,100-foot-per-minute climb and 140 mph on two-and-a-half gallons of fuel per hour? Come on, who’s kidding whom? The American Ghiles Aircraft (AGA) company — headquartered in France with an office in Orlando, Fla. — isn’t kidding anyone. For the past three years, they’ve been producing fast-build kits for fast birds. Two hundred fifty of their kits have been sold in Europe, and 153 of their airplanes are flying, including five in the U.S. American Ghiles has a tent at EAA AirVenture and is working to get the word out that kitplanes don’t have to take years to build, and fast doesn’t have to be expensive. They say they have proof of both.
The company offers a variation on a single theme: a two-seater and a four-seater, both with composite airframes and both built around a Rotax engine. The plane on display at Oshkosh is the company’s U.S. demonstrator, a two-seater with a 912S Rotax four-stroke engine and constant-speed prop. Is it fast? Well, consider that the plane completed the 400-plus miles of the AirVenture cross-country race averaging 173 mph. Keep in mind this is the company’s stock airplane and is not slicked out for racing. The plane took third place in its class.
…Fast To Build, Fast At Cruise…
In June, the four-seat version of the plane with the same powerplant was flown for the first time in France, and according to Yves-Marie Mengin, head of U.S. sales, saw little degradation in speed. AGA hopes to have a four-seat prototype available for display at Sun ‘n Fun 2001. According to Mengin, the four-seater, at just 680 pounds, will cruise 145 knots at 75 percent power, and max takeoff weight will be 1,695 pounds. The two-place demonstrator carries a whopping 80 gallons of fuel. That seems like overkill in a plane that at max power will sip just four or so gallons an hour, so the kits will carry just 21 gallons, which at four gallons an hour still means five-hour legs.
When can you have a plane like this? Well, pretty soon, apparently. The factory will deliver totally assembled wings, control surfaces and stabilator, and the airframe will be glued together. You’ll be left with the sanding — and lots of it, says Mengin — the painting, the interior, the engine, and the wiring. Estimated time to finish the quick build kit is 400 to 700 hours.
…But You May Have To Wait To Build It
Mengin is enthusiastic about the plane. "The wing is bonded and flush-riveted from inside. The Rotax is new technology instead of the 40-year old technology being used by Lycoming and Continental." Anyone who buys one of the planes will also get five hours of flight instruction from Mengin. "A lot of people will be transitioning from planes like Cessna 150s and they won’t be used to the speed. Thinking ahead of the plane is the hardest thing for people to get used to."
Fast-build kits for the two-seater are available in one month, for the four-place, the wait is two months; however, there are only four of the four-place kits left for the U.S. this year. The factory will gear up to produce more in 2001. On the four-place, $56,800 will buy you everything firewall-back; for $79,860, you’ll get the engine and the prop. For the two-place, firewall-back will cost you $34,000.
So is the aircraft a keeper? Airplane builder Steve Culp took a look at the MCR 01 on display and after talking with Mengin, felt all of his questions were answered. "There are a lot of them flying, that’s proof that they have a good product. And when you figure you’re getting near-Mooney performance on 20 percent of the fuel burn, that’s pretty impressive."
Get out your checkbook, stock up on sandpaper, and get ready to fly — fast.
Super Guppy Arrives At AirVenture…
It appeared out of the mist off the end of Runway 36, its grotesquely bulging fuselage looking like a giant silver whale. NASA’s Super Guppy arrived late yesterday morning, and its arrival seemed to rekindle some of the excitement missing at Aeroshell Plaza since news of the Concorde’s cancellation was received Thursday afternoon.
The airplane at AirVenture 2000 represents the third generation of Guppy transports built in the 1960s and ’70s by Aero Spacelines, and is the last example of the stretched and modified Boeing C-97s still flying. It is one of four Super Guppy Turbines built.
…And It’s Hard To Miss
The Guppy concept was developed to move assemblies for the space program that were too large for road or rail transport. The Guppy’s 25-foot diameter fuselage and swing-up nose could carry a section of booster rocket to a specially built runway near Cape Canaveral, Fla. The Super Guppy is still working for the space program, carrying components for the International Space Station.
The airplane is operated by NASA as a public airplane, but is not a developmental project. It is FAA certified, and can carry a payload of 52,500 lbs. It has a range of 2,000 miles and cruises at 290 mph.
Foundation Works To Re-Invent The Airplane…
When Wilbur Wright died of typhoid fever, the best chance for a comprehensive record of the Wright Brothers’ journey leading to the first powered flight died with him. Orville was just not up to the task of writing the details of the story, and it was a source of great frustration to him until his own death. As the centennial of flight approaches, the Discovery of Flight Foundation is trying to rediscover the Wright Brothers’ experimentation, discovery and methodology. The foundation’s aircraft production team is here at AirVenture in full force at the EAA Action Pavilion, promoting their ambitious plan to design, build and test authentic, full-scale reproductions of the Wright’s developmental aircraft and engines.
"The Wright Experience," headed by Ken Hyde, hopes to create a historical record of the Wright Brothers’ evolutionary efforts by reverse engineering. They plan to produce authentic replicas of all of the brothers’ early kites, gliders, and flyers, culminating with a flight of the Kitty Hawk 1903 flyer by 2003. An example of the 1900 glider is hanging in the EAA Pavilion, as well as a reconstructed propeller from the 1911 Wright Model "B" Flyer. Wind-tunnel studies on this propeller at the NASA Langley Wind Tunnel have shown that their improved design had a maximum efficiency of 80 percent (50 mph, 450 rpm). This is quite an accomplishment, when the best of today’s wooden props only have an 85 percent efficiency. The Wrights were the first to think of a propeller as a wing moving in a helical path. As a side exploration, The Wright Experience plans to reconstruct the propellers of the Wrights’ contemporaries who claimed to have had earlier flights: Maxim (1892), Whitehead (1901) and Langley (1903).
…And An Original Wright Engine Runs Again…
It made quite a racket this morning, but it was music to the ears of an appreciative audience as Ken Hyde and his crew cranked up an original Wright Brothers’ Vertical 4 engine today outside the EAA Action Pavilion. Just a few yards away from the NASA exhibit of the latest hypersonic scramjet engines, the Wright engine (serial number 20) roared into life with minimal coaxing. The Wright Experience has the only Wright Brothers’ engine now running, and it’s a 1910 style originally installed in a Model "B" flyer.
The plane was purchased by the Alger Brothers, who were also principals in the Packard Motor Car Company, and was put on floats. This particular plane was involved in the first air-sea rescue, and did the first aerial motion picture filming of New York City. The "B" flyer was donated to the University of Michigan to start an aero club, but the plane crashed in 1915 on its first flight there, and the engine had been in storage until The Wright Experience restored it. The engine has been thoroughly inspected and is entirely original except for screw and bolt hardware. It has a flywheel on the front because a handcrank was installed when it was converted to a hydroplane.
…With Fire And Noise And History
As the 180-pound engine motored on, small flames were visible at the bottom of the cylinders through auxiliary exhaust ports. The engine runs at about 1,320 rpm and develops somewhere between 28 and 42 horsepower. As part of the re-engineering of history, the engine will be taken to Rochester, N.Y., next month and run on a dynamometer under the auspices of the Rochester Institute of Technology. Kevin Kochersberger, mechanical engineering professor at R.I.T., said, "In addition to the historical value of this work, it has proven to be a great teaching and motivational experience for engineering students. The Wrights were so creative, and we don’t want to graduate drones who just sit in front of their computers waiting for someone to tell them what to do."
The Wright #20 ran yesterday on 80-octane avgas, but originally it ran on "85 octane Test fuel." "No one really knows exactly what that was," admits Greg Cone, of The Wright Experience, which illustrates how little we know of the engineering details of the early years of powered flight. The Wrights’ ability to produce a more efficient internal combustion engine was critical to their success.
NOTE: AVweb’s coverage includes a sound clip of the Wright engine in action, recorded live yesterday in Oshkosh (with special thanks to Frank Drefs for recording technical assistance). Learn more about The Wright Experience at their web site.
John Mohr Receives Barber Showmanship Award…
In an aerobatic world filled with Extra 300s, CAP 232s, and Edge 540s, it’s refreshing to see another number: 1943. As in 1943 Stearman, stock, thank you very much. World Airshow News thought that number was refreshing, too, and that was one reason the magazine decided to award its 2000 Bill Barber Award for Showmanship to the pilot of that 1943 Stearman, John Mohr. Mohr has been flying airshows in his 220-hp stock Stearman for 25 years, but he was aviating long before that. "I don’t really remember when I started," Mohr told AVweb yesterday at EAA AirVenture. "I was two or three years old sitting in my father’s lap." Mohr came by his love of things with wings honestly. His grandfather was an ol’ time barnstormer. His dad flew in World War II and ran a seaplane flying service along the Canadian border. Mohr grew up to become an airline pilot, but for entertainment, he flies 18 to 20 airshows a year.
Since he bought his Stearman in 1975, he has put over 10,000 hours on it. AVweb asked Mohr if he had ever had the hankering to trade the slow Stearman for a spiffier Extra-type plane. "There was a time I did. But I don’t like the outside stuff and hard gyroscopics. It gives me a headache. I don’t really like working that hard anymore." Don’t believe it. Mohr can wring more out of a stock Stearman than possibly anyone besides the great Bill Barber himself.
…And Reports "Flying Is Just A Joy"…
How good is Mohr? After watching one of his performances at Lakeland’s Sun ‘n Fun, former airshow great Marion Cole praised Mohr as one of the best Stearman fliers he had ever seen. Heady stuff, coming from a legend. It’s absolutely correct that Mohr wrings every ounce of performance out of the Stearman. "I’m right on the edge all the time (performance-wise)," says Mohr. "If it’s hot or high altitude or a wind is blowing, it’s hard, it’s real work. But on days when it’s cool and dry, flying is just a joy."
In addition to coaxing his Stearman through such maneuvers as the "Falling Leaf," during which he stalls the plane, applies rudder until the wing drops, then applies opposite rudder and full up elevator to break the other way over and over until he is just a few feet off the ground, Mohr does a lot of inverted maneuvers, made even more difficult by the fact his oil and fuel systems are not inverted. When he holds the plane upside down for a few seconds too long, the engine coughs, and a fireball shoots out of his exhaust stack. Fire and fabric-covered aircraft can be a bad combination. For that matter, fire and any aircraft can be a bad combo.
…As He Pushes The Stearman Envelope
Fire doesn’t scare Mohr, though. He regularly flies a pyrotechnic night show, and several years ago, added a Stearman-to-helicopter passenger transfer to the mix. In that routine, Mohr flies an Enstrom chopper (he taught himself to fly helicopters, you might know) down to where the skid is very nearly sitting on the Stearman’s top wing. A stuntman clambers out, wraps an arm around the chopper’s skid and off they go.
In making this year’s presentation, World Airshow News’ Dave Weiman complimented Mohr for being a flying "Renaissance man." In addition to being a fantastic pilot, John and wife Lyn are good folk. Good job, John. May you delight many more airshow crowds along the way.
They Don’t Build The Hardware, Just The Brains…
There’s no doubt about it — Jeppesen wants their software to be in your cockpit as the 21st century unfolds. Yesterday the company announced an in-cockpit version of its JeppView Electronic Airway Manual Service, as well as the signing of a three-year agreement to provide the databases for NASA Langley Research Center’s synthetic vision research program. NASA’s "Synthetic Vision Solution" plans to figure out a way to present terrain, obstacle, navigation and flight data on a multifunction display that a pilot can understand and use when the view outside is nil. The ultimate goal is to help pilots avoid problems with hazardous weather, flight into terrain, and spatial disorientation.
Jepp’s new JeppView FliteDeck product provides Jepp charts in a format optimized for use on handheld and panel-mounted cockpit display devices. Dejan Damjanovic, Jeppesen’s director of flight deck operations, said, "A new feature in this first software version will be the ability to display and track the aircraft’s location directly on the terminal chart using GPS data." This means no more excuses for sloppy procedure turns on those instrument approaches. He also described the program as having a more "flight management system-type interface." But don’t throw out your paper charts, yet. The FAA still wants redundancy when dealing with electronic charts, so unless you have multiple independent systems like some of the large carriers or fractional jet programs, you still need your paper copies for now.
…As Jeppesen Upgrades, Extends Other Product Lines…
Jeppesen also has announced upgrades and extensions to its other software and print product lines, including an upgrade to its FliteStar/FliteMap flight-planning software and new training materials. The company has produced a new version of its private pilot multimedia course software, and can now offer a completely integrated "Private Pilot Electronic Kit" including ground school, texts, and flight maneuvers instruction in one package. One addition to the FliteMap product is the availability of street map data that can used with the program. As a Jepp rep put it, "A pilot can leave his laptop running, get out of the plane and take his GPS navigation with him as he drives off the airport and looks for his final destination."
…And There’s Still No Word On Company’s Sale
Jeppesen’s new owner, the Tribune Company, has put the company up for sale, but Diane Murphy, PR manager for Jeppesen, was unable to say much about the company’s future ownership. "Lots of potential buyers are looking, and we hope to know something within the next 60 to 90 days," Murphy said.
Davis D-1-W Makes X-C To AirVenture
What do you do when you have just completed restoring an airplane first built in 1929, one of only five flying versions known? You take it out and land it in a beanfield, naturally. Six days ago, Jack Tiffany of Spring Valley, Ohio, finished the final touches on his Davis D-1-W. His son, Nick Hurm, took the plane for a shakedown flight and five miles from the airport, Hurm got a fast course in Davis fuel burn. The plane coughed and the world got very quiet, but luckily, neither Hurm nor the Davis were injured. "Flies like a Cub and sinks like a Stearman," Hurm laughed.
Literally hours later, the plane was loaded and Oshkosh-bound. "I’ve always liked older birds, quite the antique buff," owner Tiffany told AVweb. He isn’t kidding. In addition to the Davis D-1, Tiffany and a couple of friends own a KR-21, Piper Cub, Fairchild 24, Monocoupe 113, a Davis V-3, Pitcairn Autogyro, an Arrow Sport, an Aeronca K, and others that he was unable to call to mind. Tiffany is retired from the Air Force Institute of Technology, where he ran the machine and model shop. "It was sort of a natural that I started doing this. Now I just have more time to play."
…The Wish List Is Longer…
There are other planes Tiffany would love to call his own. A Kinner Sportster and Playboy, a Curtiss Robin, an Airmaster, an Inland Sport. "Those are just the ones I think are attainable," Tiffany says… and he doesn’t mind looking long and hard for the planes of his dreams. "The Autogyro took 15 years to find." He and his son search the Internet, Trade-A-Plane, and rely on word-of-mouth and phone calls, plenty of phone calls.
With all the planes he has available, which is his favorite to fly? "The Cub, hands down. If you crash it, it’s no big deal. The other stuff is pretty rare. I don’t want to trash it, so it’s a little nerve-wracking to fly." Indeed. The last time Tiffany brought a Davis to AirVenture, he was told to land on a downwind runway. The plane flipped over, and Davis and his elderly passenger were trapped upside down. Davis yelled to his friend to find out if he was okay. "No," was the response. "I’m pissed."
…But Doesn’t Include A Spaceship
Only one of the planes he has gotten was a bad purchase. A friend talked him into buying a Fleet, that upon examination was "so bad I couldn’t believe it." It was part Fleet, part Stearman and part unidentified other. "Instead of looking at it first, we just took the trailer and got it. Later, me and my friend were returning home, driving late at night through Roswell, New Mexico. I said to him, ‘You know, those UFO’s never abduct rocket scientists and brain surgeons and people like that. They take people pulling loads of junk. You’d better get ready. We’re about to go."
Thankfully, the UFOs were busy with other junk haulers that night, leaving Tiffany to continue to do something he does well: restore a bit of American history.
Kids Get A Classic Ride To Remember
The EAA’s Young Eagles program has already introduced more than 600,000 youngsters to the world of GA flying, and they’re still at it this week during AirVenture. Yesterday, Gen. Chuck Yeager took a group of Young Eagles for a flight over Wittman Field in a DC-3, and later signed their official EAA certificates. "It was a short flight, but we all got a chance to look up in the cockpit," said Alan Miller, an airline pilot from Hawaii who rode along on the flight with his children, Dylan, 9, and Elyse, 10. "The kids loved it." Flights are offered every morning during the show, weather permitting, in a Piper Archer, a Piper Apache, and various antiques and classics. John and Martha King are also taking several Young Eagle flights aloft in their Citation jet.
Slots are filling up fast, and parents need to book at least a day ahead. But if the EAA can’t get kids aloft during the show, they are hooking up visitors with a Young Eagles volunteer pilot near their home.
Ceremony Yesterday, Final Flight Today
Jon Sharp and Team Nemesis believe in going out on top. The world’s most successful race airplane is retiring and being donated to the Smithsonian’s National Air and Space Museum. Jon and Tricia Sharp and the team presented the speedy Formula One racer to NASM Director Jack Dailey at a ceremony at Show Central yesterday afternoon. Nemesis will fly one final time today, with Jon Sharp at the controls, and then be turned over to the Smithsonian. Pending completion of NASM’s Dulles Annex, Nemesis will be on display at the EAA AirVenture Museum in Oshkosh.
Nemesis holds 16 world speed records, won nine consecutive world championships and 48 out of 51 races that it entered. Jon Sharp’s attachment to the small white-and-pink airplane was obvious at yesterday’s event. He presented NASM Director Dailey with a pair of racing gloves in Nemesis’s signature hot pink in lieu of a set of keys. He helped Dailey get into the cockpit and then playfully lifted the tail and rocked it, telling Dailey he was experiencing turbulence. As the presentation was winding down, Sharp asked Dailey, "Would we have visitation rights? Could we come polish it?"
Sharp’s team announced work on a new project in 1998 called Nemesis NXT, which was expected to be a new-generation Formula One racer. Earlier this year, Sharp announced that Nemesis NXT would be a two-place retractable single built of molded carbon fiber, powered by a turbocharged Continental IO-550 engine. The team plans to fly the airplane in the Sports Class at the 2001 National Championship Air Races at Reno. Kits of the airplane would be offered, according to information on Team Nemesis’s web site.
With One Model Moving, Another Close Behind…
Deliveries are just starting for the Lancair Columbia 300, and already the company is talking about a faster, higher-flying version of the four-place composite fixed-gear single. The Columbia 400 will sport a turbocharged Continental TSIO-550 engine, enabling speeds in the 230-knot range. In a briefing at AirVenture 2000 yesterday, company representatives said the 400 model had reached 232 knots at 17,500 feet in flight testing within the past month and a half. Lancair claims the Columbia 400 will turn 245 knots at FL240.
The Columbia 400 will feature Highway-In-The-Sky technology displayed on two large AvroTec multi-function displays. HITS displays will do away with traditional steam gauge instruments by depicting flight and engine information on large flat-panel screens. Lancair is also working with Teledyne Continental on FADEC applications. Company reps said yesterday that the Columbia 400 should price out at around $349,000 with standard IFR equipment. Certification is expected by mid-2001 with deliveries beginning in early 2002.
…As Production Prepares To Speed Up
In other news from Lancair, it announced that it has contracted with Composite Solutions Corp. of Auburn, Wash., to build wings for the Columbia line. Completed wings should begin to arrive at Lancair’s final assembly facility within two months. Lancair said it was in the process of getting production ramped up, with one Columbia per month going out of the factory now, rising to two per week at some point in the future. Lancair has delivered two Columbia 300s to customers and is sending the third to Europe to support its European delivery program.
Lancair deliveries lag behind Cirrus’s production of its SR20. Over 50 SR20s are in the hands of customers, and some are parked in North 40 camping this week at AirVenture 2000.
A Cessna 182, which local authorities believed was headed for EAA AirVenture, crashed in a wooded area of central Sauk County, Wisconsin, early yesterday morning. Four men were killed. The plane was beleived to be based in California. Early reports said that it was foggy, and the airplane hit a wind generator before it crashed and burst into flames.
Top Secret "TigerWorks" First Spoof Of Concept…
One of the show-stoppers at AirVenture 2000 has got to be a venerable 1965 Mooney M20-E — a Super 21 turned into a… twinjet. "Did you fly it here?" AVweb asked owner Coy Jacob. "Sure I did," he told us. "Did you have any structural concerns?" "Oh yeah," said Jacob. "A lot of them. That’s why I had a priest bless the flight." A spec sheet for the plane shows a top speed of 400-plus knots at FL450. C’mon now. A Mooney is a fast plane, but jet engines? Who’s pulling our leg?
Mooney Mart owner Coy "I scored high in creativity in college" Jacob, actually. Jacob DID fly the plane to OSH, but used the Lycoming the plane came with instead of the jet look-alikes stuck on the back near the distinctive Mooney tail. So where’s the prop? In the trailer next to Jacob’s display. The "jet" cowl will come off before Jacob’s return to Venice, Fla., and the regular cowl with prop will be put back on.
…Shows What Can Happen If You Don’t Watch Your Airplane
"This is fun. But it could be done," Jacob told AVweb. "The Mooney airframe is incredibly strong and very efficient at the flight levels, no question. If we get enough interest, who knows?" In the meantime, Jacob is having a lot of fun answering the incredulous questions he is being bombarded with. "I made the mistake of parking the Mooney next to a CitationJet and this is what happened."
"Can you imagine what would happen if we had parked it next to a shuttle? Our next display might be called a ‘Muddle.’"