Oshkosh 1999 Newswire:
Day Six — Monday, August 2

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Welcome to AVweb's exclusive daily coverage of Day Six of EAA's AirVenture '99, direct from Oshkosh.

Making Airshows Exciting Again

With CASPA, The Friendly Contest

An airshow is an airshow is an airshow — pilots fly and people watch. Although the pilots give it their all, sometimes it seems as if there's nothing new under the sun. The Championship Air Show Pilots Association (CASPA) may have found a way to put the "wow" back into airshows, if the excitement generated at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh is any indication. CASPA is promoting an event called the NAVplus Challenge Series that started earlier this season in Detroit, Mich., at the Wayne County Air Show. It will wrap up on Labor Day at the Cleveland National Air Show in Ohio, with two additional stops in between.

The NAVplus Challenge idea is pretty straightforward: The organizers found six great airshow pilots, dangled some money and bragging rights in front of them, and got out of the way. Those six pilots fly each airshow for points that go toward a grand total and eventual grand champion. There are three challenge segments per airshow. The first is a set of two compulsory figures to show the pilot's competency — and here's where it gets good. CASPA Chief Steward Clint McHenry is the only one who scores the pilot on whether the figures are completed — the judges score only on how exciting the pilot can make the compulsory figures. That means the pilot flies a no-holds-barred entry going into 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's more to come.

Several minutes later, the pilots return for their three-minute freestyle routine during which they 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 the freestyle program, the two top vote-getters move on to the challenge round that puts 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 the other.

The excitement in the audience is tangible, and pilots fly with a competitive edginess not always found in other performances. The competition is structured with the audience in mind, 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, an attorney, a U.S. senator, a design engineer, a retired commercial pilot, and a stay-at-home dad. Six of the judges were pilots, three were not, only two had any 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 the technical aspects of the maneuvers should not be their concern. "You're looking for content and impact, not degree of perfection. Judge only on how much it excites you. We're going to be the jury, they're the defendants." The defendants 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 no difference to the judges in their scoring, that "fame factor" may be the only drawback to the event. Announcers for the individual pilots let it be known multiple times how many NAVplus Challenges their pilots had won, and the judges no doubt had a hard time disregarding that information. If those better-known pilots have an edge going in, though, it does nothing to lower the intensity of their lesser-known competitors.

After two rounds of great flying, the final battle of the day came down to a face-off between Rocky Hill flying the America Online 4.0 Extra 300 and Sean D. Tucker and his 10-10-220. The CASPA NavPlus Challenge is structured for maximum audience excitement and the show is well thought out, even down to having the two challenge 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" blared from 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, leaving Hill 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," judge Dennis Byron told AVweb. "This is the first time I've felt like the airshow was being done for me." The audience was enthralled, too, loudly clapping and yelling for their favorites. The pilots flew their hearts out and seemed 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 new certified production airplane may be many things, but inexpensive is not one of them. It cost Cirrus Design $65 million to get from Day One of the company to the delivery of the first SR20 two weeks ago. When Cirrus first started raising money several years ago, they went outside the company to a broker dealer who got 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 try her 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 of months the former high school principal had raised a half million dollars. Soon after, she was promoted to director of investor relations. That was 16 million dollars ago, and Dougherty isn't slowing down.

A couple of days before EAA AirVenture '99, she was named Cirrus' vice president of investor relations. Did she ask for a commission herself? "No. I asked for stock options." Seems that Dougherty is as savvy about her personal finances as she is about her company's. Although she has a good product to 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 follow guidelines all the way through." Those investors include radio host Paul Harvey, who has told listeners he owns stock. "That sort of thing really helps," Dougherty says.

Dougherty says investors will make money in one of several ways. They'll see a return if and when the stock goes public in an initial public offering (IPO), when a strategic partner buys out the smaller investors, when a corporate partner comes in, or in dividends if the company remains private. What's the likelihood of a strategic/corporate partner? Dougherty says the company has had conversations with both. She told AVweb an IPO or partnership could happen within 18 to 24 months.

In the meantime, production is rolling along, orders keep rolling in, and Cirrus, like the cloud it is named after, is flying high.

EAA's Aeromedical Meeting Rekindles Progressive Ideas For Change

The EAA's Aeromedical Council held its annual meeting during AirVenture '99, with high-level representatives from the FAA Civil Aviation Medical Institute (the Oklahoma City medical certification division of the FAA) in attendance. The results exceeded everyone's expectations.

In a round-table discussion between the doctors who regularly perform flight physicals and the FAA doctors, comments by the FAA frankly startled those in the trenches who deal with pilot medical exams on a daily basis. The FAA has been keeping statistics regarding medical conditions and aircraft accidents for some time. The FAA found that over the last few years, no pilots under age 40 who hold first- or second-class medical certificates were turned down for a renewal, and none ever experienced a medical incapacitation in flight. As a result, some discussions were held in the Aeromedical Council meeting about increasing the duration of first and second class medicals in the under 40 age group in a fashion similar to the extension granted third class medical holders two years ago. However, these discussions have not yet and may never result in concrete regulatory proposals.

Tired Of The Commute?

George Jetson look out! Personal aerial transport is at hand, in the form of the Gen H-4 personal helicopter. Sporting four engines and eight cylinders, redundancy is the theme of the Gen H-4. It can fly with one engine out, and can land safely with two engines out. If luck runs out, the design includes an "I quit" handle: A BRS ballistic parachute is included.  It's powered by four 125cc two-cylinder two-stroke engines that require a 30:1 oil/gas mix, and have a small carburetor on each cylinder, with a total of 40 hp. 

Gen Yanagisawa, of Engineering Systems Company, designed and built the prototype personal helicopter. The framework of aluminum tubing incorporates the landing gear, a seat for the pilot and a gimbaled mount for the engine/rotor combination. The top 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 gearbox handles the power input, and reduces the two top rotors to between 800 and 850 rpm. 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, for around $30,000.


EAA AirVenture Museum Unveils Hangar X

The EAA AirVenture Museum opened the doors to its latest addition, Hangar X, during AirVenture '99. Though most of the exhibits were not finished, a steady stream of visitors passed through the new annex to get a glimpse of what the EAA hopes will be the centerpiece of their youth aviation education program. John Gaertner, the Hangar X designer and curator, told AVweb the museum is planning 24 interactive exhibits that will include everything from wind tunnels and flight simulators to the largest exhibit in the Hangar, a 2/3 scale Lockheed F-22 Raptor.

Gaertner is particularly proud of Hangar X's second-story "control tower" that overlooks Pioneer Airport. Gaertner said he hopes to have an operating radar system in the tower plus a live audio feed of Wittman Field communications to add a touch of ATC realism. With additional space devoted to classrooms and workshops, Hangar X will also be used to provide aviation training to educators from 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 Air Academy youth camps. Although the completion date for all the planned Hangar X exhibits depends on receipt of additional funding, Hangar X is poised to take the EAA aviation education programs to new heights in the 21st century.

DreamWings Introduces Sleek Ultralight

With a fully enclosed tandem cockpit, smooth composite structure, and absence of wing struts or support wires, the Dreamwings Valkyrie prototype displayed at AirVenture '99 does not look like your typical ultralight. Attracting much attention in the ultralight area, the Valkyrie, from DreamWings LLC of Lawrence, Kan., can be operated as either an ultralight or experimental depending on engine choice and seating options. Operating as an ultralight, Dreamwings pedicts a cruise speed of 82 mph on only 28 hp. Company founder John Hunter said the Valkyrie is designed to the rigorous standards of FAR 23, and will offer 10-minute assembly/disassembly for easy trailering. The prototype at AirVenture sports an 80-hp engine, but the airframe is designed for up to 125 hp. The Valkyrie kit costs $16,000 without an engine, and DreamWings estimates it would take about 300 to 400 hours to build the aircraft. Hunter said first flight is scheduled by the 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 aviation artist Sam Lyons will be pleased to know that he is recuperating well and upbeat, according to author and pilot Jim Wheaton, one of a group of friends who volunteered to staff the artist’s booth at EAA AirVenture '99 in the wake of Lyons’ tragic plane crash June 26. Lyons was flying with his wife, Vicky, when their 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 Lock Haven, Pa. Vicky died of injuries she suffered in the crash; Sam survived with major burns that will require months of recuperation.

"We talked to him yesterday and he was in great spirits," said Wheaton, as he worked Lyons’ booth Monday with his daughters Allison and Kate. "We’re here because we wanted to be sure Sam’s presence was represented at Oshkosh," he added. The Wheaton clan shared booth duties with another family of Lyons friends, Bill and Cathy Johnson. Both families live near and fly with Lyons out of an airport near Kennesaw, Ga. Which just goes to show, a person’s most valuable possessions are almost always good friends.

Doctor Still Recovering

Laird "Lad" Doctor, 56, who was seriously injured Thursday when the F-4U Corsair he was flying collided with an F-8 Bearcat on the main runway at OSH, remained hospitalized late Monday. Doctor was last reported in "critical but stable" condition at Froedtert Memorial Hospital in Milwaukee, where he was taken after the collision.