Catastrophic Engine Failure Suspected…
Preparations for today’s opening of EAA AirVenture 2000 continued yesterday despite the tragic news that an Air France Concorde had crashed while taking off from the Charles de Gaulle Airport outside Paris, France, killing all 100 German tourists and a crew of nine aboard, plus four bystanders on the ground. The fiery crash — which placed this week’s planned arrival at AirVenture of a British Airways Concorde in doubt — occurred Tuesday afternoon Paris time. It was the first fatal accident involving the Concorde, the world’s only airliner that exceeds the speed of sound. Initial reports coming from the crash site — a hotel near the airport — were sketchy, but uniformly pointed to catastrophic failure of at least one of the Rolls-Royce Olympus after-burning engines mounted on the left of the Concorde. A rated pilot who said he witnessed the crash sequence — and images released by various news services — indicated that at least one of the left engines was trailing flames as the Concorde took off. The witness, FedEx pilot Sid Hare, told CNN that the airplane’s nose pitched up, increasing the delta wing’s angle of attack, until the jet apparently stalled and rolled inverted before crashing into the Relais Bleu hotel in Gonesse. The chartered trip was operating as Air France Flight AF4590. CNN also reported last night that the cockpit voice and flight data recorders had been recovered.
…In First Blemish On A Good Safety Record…
The Concorde first entered service with Air France and with British Airways — still the only carriers to operate the type — in 1975. Although plans for the aircraft date back to the early 1960s and included plans to build as many as 300 copies, environmental concerns and spiraling costs combined to relegate the Concorde’s numbers to only 20 and its routes to mostly transatlantic service and commemorative flights, since its first flight in 1969. Yet, until Tuesday, the type enjoyed an excellent safety record and there had never been a fatal accident of a Concorde engaged in commercial service. Earlier in the week, reports surfaced that cracks had been found in a few Concorde wings, but that finding appears unrelated to Tuesday’s tragedy.
The U.S. National Transportation Safety Board said it has made only one recommendation on Concorde safety — in 1982 — regarding procedures for handling a blown landing-gear tire on takeoff. Recent incidents involving the Concorde include partial separation of a rudder in 1998 while in cruise over the Atlantic, a pair of emergency landings and an engine shutdown in January and a near mid-air collision between two Concordes in August 1999, near New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport, presently the type’s only regular North American destination. The aircraft that crashed Tuesday was delivered to Air France on June 17, 1979, and first entered scheduled service on October 23, 1980. Prior to the accident it had accumulated more than 3,900 cycles and flown almost 12,000 hours. Recent maintenance included completion of a "C" check on April 28, 2000.
…While "Fingers Crossed" That Concorde Will Still Fly To AirVenture
As AVweb‘s publishing deadline approached, EAA officials were unable to confirm whether a British Airways Concorde — expected to arrive at OSH Friday morning — would arrive as planned. The airline announced yesterday that it had canceled its two flights scheduled for last night. "We have complete confidence in our Concorde aircraft and our Engineering. Nevertheless in these circumstances – and while information is still coming in – we have taken the unprecedented step of canceling tonight’s flights," the airline said in a statement. This year, the return of Concorde to Oshkosh was billed as the ultimate expression of this year’s AirVenture "Speed" theme. However, EAA spokesman Dick Knapinski told AVweb last night that their "fingers were crossed" that the Concorde would arrive as scheduled, since so far they had not been informed of any change of plan by British Airways.
The Show Hasn’t Started Yet, But It’s Happening Anyway At Wittman Field…
Planes line up on final and land two or three at a time, helicopters buzz nonstop, hungry folks wait in line to buy lunch at the Warbirds Cafe, families tie down their airplanes and set up their tents, exhibitors scramble to finesse the final details of their displays — EAA AirVenture is not officially open until today, but on Tuesday morning the show grounds were already alive and busy. Thousands of airplanes were already here, and all those pilots couldn’t wait to start buying new gizmos and gear at the Fly Market, even as vendors worked to get set up before the deluge to come. This year’s theme is "Speed and Technology," and apparently things are moving so fast that the show is open even before it’s open.
…With Lots More To Come…
So much is on the agenda for the next seven days that a visitor would have to be moving faster than the speed of light to take it all in. Jets, biplanes, airliners and antiques of all sorts fly low passes over the runways, while tents and hangars are filled with the latest in airplanes and avionics. NASA, the FAA, and seemingly every aviation company in existence will be hosting a booth or exhibit. Thousands of aircraft, each with its own story, demand admiration and attention. Long lists of forums, seminars, and speakers cover every topic from the do’s and don’ts of epoxy resins to emergency bailout procedures to "Welding 101" and Burt Rutan’s "Mojave Update." Aerobatic flyers offer spectacular shows every afternoon. Plus the unveiling of new aircraft and products, an open forum with FAA Administrator Jane Garvey, a roaring effort to break a couple of time-to-climb records … you get the idea.
…And All Of It Coming To You On AVweb
AVweb, EAA’s Official Online News Source, will be bringing you complete, detailed coverage of all the events and happenings going on each day of AirVenture 2000. Lots of feature articles, interviews, and of course, our ever-popular daily photo galleries will be produced by AVweb‘s AirVenture News Team. AVweb will also provide live, real-time audio feed from the air traffic control tower at Wittman Field exactly as the pilots hear it. Plus, every night we will broadcast OSHTalk, an hour-long talk show from the camping area at EAA AirVenture. Check back each day for all the sights, sounds, dirt, grease, oil, and grime of EAA AirVenture 2000.
Chicks Flight — Women With Wings Fly Into Oshkosh…
Fifteen airplanes left Janesville, Wis., on Sunday, and flew en masse to Wittman Field — the first-ever fly-in of women pilots to AirVenture. The group arrived a little late, and a little ragged. "It was our first time — but we made it!" said Sunni Gibbons, of Santa Maria, Calif., who flew in with her husband Travis, in their Cherokee 235 tail plane, dubbed "Chicks Tail" in the self-designated "Chicks Flight." The planes all made it in more or less together, though the faster planes spotted the slower ones a bit too much lead time and never really caught up. "I thought this would be a great way to arrive here," said Gibbons, who is making her first visit to EAA AirVenture. "It was great. We had the sky to ourselves." One pilot in the group had an oil-pressure problem en route and left the group to land safely at a nearby airport.
Kathy Richey and Judy Dixon, the flight’s organizers, flew in from Oregon in a pair of Piper Pacers. "It was our first time, and we’re still learning," said Dixon. "The hardest part was mixing the fast and slow aircraft." Will the Chicks Flight become an annual event? "We said ‘never again,’" Dixon said, "but then everyone was so enthusiastic, we said, ‘well, maybe.’"
NOTE: To learn more about the Women With Wings Caravan, check out their web site.
…Followed By Masses Of Mooneys…
Wejay Bundara, of San Antonio, Texas, flew along with 97 other Mooney drivers on Monday for his first trip into AirVenture. "It was planned and executed just terrifically," he said. "Everything just went very smooth." The planes gathered in Madison, Wis., and the pilots were thoroughly briefed prior to takeoff. "We left in 10-plane waves," Bundara said, "it was just like a military operation." The Mooneys took off two-by-two and flew in staggered formation, at 125 knots, all the way to the Oshkosh runway. "That’s pretty slow for the Mooney," Bundara said, who flies a 1969 M20C with speed mods. "But it was perfect, and the weather was perfect, it was just fabulous. I’m tickled to death." Rows and rows of Mooneys taxied in and parked side by side up and down the North 40 camping area.
…Bonanzas By The Bushel…
One observer said it looked like D-Day. She was describing the annual Bonanzas To Oshkosh mass flight, which arrived at AirVenture 2000 on Monday afternoon. Seventy-six Bonanzas, three Beech piston twins and a King Air made the flight from Rockford, Ill., with the planes flying in trailing formations of "V"s. This is the 11th year for B2OSH, which started in 1990 with nine Bonanzas. In 1995, 135 Bonanzas made the flight, commemorating the 50th anniversary of the Bo’s first flight. Bo pilots from Florida to Seattle, as well as from Hawaii, Australia and Germany participated this year. Many of the pilots are ex-military, and all were required to have logged at least three hours of formation work in the last six months. Wayne Collins, official briefer for the flight, said that the trip up from Rockford went well. The weather was good, and the only glitch came when an F-33A collapsed its nose gear landing on 36 Left.
…And Warbirds, Wingtip To Wingtip
Warbirds have been arriving in small numbers for days, but the big influx of heavy iron was Tuesday. About 11 a.m., eight flights of four T-6s each flew in from the south, turned upwind for Runway 36 and broke for landing. Warbird ground crew, in their distinctive white T-shirts with orange lettering, were busy during the day escorting and spotting new arrivals. By midday, a Junkers Ju-52, several P-47s, some Corsairs, an F4F Wildcat, a P-40 and numerous T-34s, P-51s and Liaison types were on the field. T-6s were thick as mosquitoes on a North 40 camper’s neck. The major warbird shows are scheduled for Saturday and Sunday, with crowd-pleasing pyrotechnics that simulate bombing and strafing runs.
Experimentals Compete In AirVenture Cup Race…
Yesterday morning, a dozen-plus fast-looking experimentals zoomed into Wittman Field, soon after crossing the finish line in this year’s AirVenture Cup, a speed race from Kitty Hawk, N.C., to Oshkosh. Gathered on the grass near Aeroshell Square, at the heart of the field, the array of racers drew a lot of interest. The contenders had gathered in North Carolina for the start on Monday, but the IFR weather refused to budge to let the race begin. After a day of sitting on the ground, the start of the race was moved to Dayton. The flyers got there however they could — IFR if they were so equipped, or finding a route around the weather. Once in Dayton, the weather was bright and fine all the way in to the finish line at Lake Winnebago. Among the racers were a Lancair, a Berkut, a White Lightning, a Long Ez and a one-of-a-kind Polen Special II, a single-seater capable of 282 mph. Official results were not available at deadline.
…And The Tiger Is Ready For Revenge
One of the planes flying in with the AirVenture Cup race was Bruce Bohannon’s Flying Tiger, the fast cat he flies to record-breaking effect. "This was my first race," Bohannon said, "and it was exciting. There was no competition really in my category, but still, you’re in a race and you want to get the most out of your airplane." Bohannon is also pretty excited about the new powerplant in his Tiger, a replacement for the engine that broke during a record attempt at Sun ‘n Fun in April. The new engine is extremely powerful and very reliable, Bohannon said, and he’s confident that he’s going to break records in his time-to-climb efforts this weekend. "What we’re going to do to the 9,000-meter record is going to shock everyone," he said. He will be drilling into the sky for two record attempts this weekend: time-to-climb to 3,000 meters (almost 10,000 feet) on Saturday and to 9,000 meters (more than 29,000 feet) on Sunday, weather permitting.
Restored Grumman Widgeon Stays In The Family
One of the rare birds that can be seen at AirVenture 2000 is a beautifully restored 1941 Grumman G-44 Widgeon amphibian. Originally operated by the U.S. Coast Guard, this Widgeon was purchased by Merrill Wien in 1981, who then spent six years restoring it to the original Coast Guard configuration, including paint scheme and markings. After flying the Widgeon for 13 years around the San Juan Islands in Washington state, Merrill decided to sell the twin amphibian to his son Kurt, a Boeing 767 pilot for American Airlines. Keeping it all in the family, Merrill was flying the Widgeon to its new home in New Hampshire, with a stop at AirVenture, from Washington with his daughter Kim, a flight attendant for Alaska Air. Merrill also mentioned that this particular Widgeon has an AVweb connection: Seems AVweb’s own John Deakin got his multi-engine seaplane rating in this Widgeon back before Merrill owned it. Oh, and if the name Wien sounds familiar, it’s because Merrill’s father Noel Wien founded Wien Alaska Airlines in 1924, which was one of the first commercial carriers in the country.
Everything But The Kitchen Sink
For many people traveling to AirVenture 2000, the annual fly-in is a chance to get together with friends they may see but once at year. One such group is gathered in the Classic Aircraft camping area, and from the looks of it, they didn’t leave much at home. Their encampment included everything from portable picnic tables and chairs, to grills and tents, and even an inflatable wading pool. Camp member Jim Killian of Lexington, Ill., had flown his Cessna 180 to Oshkosh to join the rest of this gang from destinations all over the country. Killian said this particular group consisted of 35 friends who arrived in 13 planes, including, among other types, a Cessna 195, several Piper Pacers, an Ercoupe and a Stinson. Including both adults and children, the group was looking forward to sharing food, friendship and flying stories throughout their stay. And since Killian said that most of the group intended to camp with their planes for the entire week, the large quantity of supplies strewn around their camp seemed to be one good way to make their stay a little more comfortable.
Flight-line Volunteer Returns For The Camaraderie
AirVenture would be impossible without the thousands of volunteers who help make it happen, and many of those return year after year. One of those faithful volunteers is Steve Owen, who was helping direct planes to their parking spots on Monday after they landed on Runway 09 at Wittman Field. Though the official start of the show was two days away, a steady stream of taxiing planes kept Owen busy. Owen has been a volunteer at Oshkosh for nine years now. Originally from England, he met the woman who would be his wife on his first visit here, in 1982. Now he lives in town and comes out to Wittman Field every July to help direct traffic as the folks fly in from all over. He enjoys it, he says, and the camaraderie among the volunteer crew keeps bringing him back. But the show itself has become too overwhelming, he says, and he rarely goes onto the grounds anymore. However this year Owen has friends flying in from England for their first Oshkosh, and said he will probably join them to see some of the sights of AirVenture 2000. After a lull in the arriving traffic, operations started picking up again and Owen had to run off on his scooter to help direct another plane to its final destination on Wittman Field.