The Good And The Sad

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EAA AirVenture: One Of The Best Ever...

As AVweb reported all last week, the scene in Oshkosh this summer was bright and bustling, with cooperative weather, big crowds, and a feeling that the worst is behind us. Wednesday, EAA released estimated numbers, backing President Tom Poberezny's words offered in a Monday news release that the show was "one of the most successful conventions we've ever had." The figures confirmed a record 2,960 registered show planes (beating the former number by nearly 7 percent), an estimated 770,000 attendees wandering the grounds and more than 800 exhibitors. "Both in terms of quality and quantity -- I've never seen so many [aircraft] parked at the airport," Poberezny said. "If anybody took the effort and walked from the last row of aircraft on the southern edge of the airport to the northeast corner, that's 5.2 miles of airplanes parked here. People can't believe it." Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta said he also felt the positive attitude, telling an industry forum at AirVenture that "people are upbeat" about the future of the industry. "Great companies like Cessna, Piper, Beechcraft, Mooney and Tiger have renewed their commitment to entry-level general aviation," Mineta told the assemblage of manufacturers sponsored by the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA). "There [are] also new companies Cirrus and Lancair and emerging companies like Adam, Eclipse and Liberty bringing exciting new airplane models to market." While optimism reigned at Oshkosh, second-quarter results for GAMA members showed just how tough business has been. According to GAMA's tabulations, the number of airplanes built in Q2 dropped by 13.8 percent over last year and billings were down by 32.3 percent to $4.05 billion.

...But Hughes Racer And Pilot Don't Make It Home...

The sleek and beautiful Hughes H-IB Racer, a one-of-a-kind homebuilt that attracted thousands of admirers last week at EAA AirVenture, crashed about 6:30 p.m. Monday night in Yellowstone National Park, killing its devoted and inspirational pilot, James Wright, 53, of Cottage Grove, Ore. The plane was on its way home from Oshkosh. It approached from the west about treetop level, the Associated Press reported Tuesday, and struck the bank of the Firehole River near the main park road, about five miles north of Old Faithful geyser. The crash started a fire that was quickly snuffed by park workers. Nobody on the ground was hurt. Wright's long-time friend Dennis Parker said no cause has been determined but the aircraft had a history of propeller pitch control problems. "It kept going into fine pitch," he said. That jibes with a report in the News-Record, of Gillette, Wyo., where Wright stopped to refuel about 90 minutes before the crash. ''The air's thin enough here that the propeller gets stuck in low gear,'' he told the News-Record. ''I'm just trying to get home.'' Parker said Wright often used simplified terms when talking to the mainstream press about technical subjects and likened fine and coarse pitch on a constant-speed propeller to the low and high gears of a car. Parker said that although Wright appeared to be in excellent health, investigators are looking into whether a health crisis might have contributed to the crash. The airplane made its first flight in July 2002. Wright flew the replica to a world-record speed for the airplane's class last September, reaching 304 mph at Reno, Nev., on the 67th anniversary of Hughes' first record in the original airplane.

...AVweb/AirsideTV's AirVenture Video Archives Still Up

This marked AVweb's first year of streaming video coverage direct from the AirVenture show grounds, all of which remains available (for a brief period) along with our written coverage, plus our six-page image gallery. For your reference...