av2_gate Summer is Over

From The South Ramp --Hank Bruckner: 

September 2002

--Hank Bruckner

Summer Is Over
    The days are getting shorter but the summer still burns bright in memories and credit card bills.  The summer’s big event, of course, was the annual pilgrimage to Oshkosh for AirVenture.  This year celebrated the 50th anniversary of the first EAA fly-in, as well as the first since the terrorist attacks of last September. These factors combined for a truly memorable event.  Although overall attendance was off a bit (only about three-quarters of a million), more aircraft flew in than in previous years.  Weather was often great, occasionally wet, sometimes cloudy and, briefly, bad enough to curtail the daily airshow.  All that notwithstanding, it was virtually everything it was supposed to be and everything I needed to remind me of the vigor of aviation in this country.

    Oshkosh is a place to be surrounded, immersed in aviation—planes, products, performances and people.  It’s a feast for the eyes, the ears, and, dare I say it, the soul. It’s a place to revel in the sheer exuberance of the many facets of flight that are everywhere. It’s a place where you can see aviation history being made, replayed, honored, and preserved. And it’s a place where you can talk to and enjoy the people who are that history. It’s a place where you can witness the realization of thousands of individual dreams and talk to the dreamers.    It’s a place where you can marvel at the courage and skill and imagination of the airshow performers.  And, of course, it’s a place where you can meet up with old friends and make new ones.

     People, of course, are the essence of the Oshkosh Experience.  Carol Read and Richard Fast made it in for the weekend. Bud and Gladys again provided the traditional sanctuary, refuge, meeting place, and post-airshow snacks that so many of us have come to depend on.  I don’t know what we’d do without them and their Bounder!  Thanks guys! Their daughter and son-in-law, Jan and Jim, parked their Bounder alongside, providing some much appreciated shelter with that big awning.    Ellen is still at Parnell’s and they still serve the best baby back ribs imaginable.      This year, Jack Atkins, of Gunbarrel, Texas, brought his Harmon Rocket.  Jack has a history of flying some beautiful aircraft to Oshkosh and sharing them with his friends.  Years ago it was a gorgeous Christen Eagle, then, a spotless RV-6A, and now, the Rocket.  For those who aren’t familiar, the Harmon Rocket begins life as an RV-4, which is then modified to take a big Lycoming (O/IO-540)—hence the “Rocket” part.  Like all the planes Jack builds, this one is beautifully put together, inside and out and its performance is nothing short of spectacular!  

    Don Johnson and Sharon Biloff proudly showed their (her) immaculate Fairchild 24 in the Classics section.  Don and Sharon have been cornerstone participants in the Great Hawaiian Air Race.  Another GHAR couple, Mark and Lisa Haag had their award-winning Stearman parked by the International Aerobatics Club pavilion.  It was also great seeing long-time GACH member, Mike Hance again.  Unfortunately, it’s easier to miss people than run into them at Oshkosh.  Quite a few Hawai'i folk were there, that we didn’t see.

    One could spend the entire week sitting in Forum tents and never see an airplane, and still come away happy.  We didn’t go that far, of course, but we did watch Bud Anderson and Chuck Yeager tell their stories as well as Bob Hoover and Scott Crossfield.  Anderson and Yeager were squadron mates in WWII, flying P-51s, and these two aces daily flew a nice, tight formation in Mustangs, sixty years later.  Folks, that is larger-than-life personified.  Hoover’s life is so notable and exceptional that I never tire of hearing him reminisce.  Scott Crossfield was a test pilot when the edges of the flight envelope were truly unknown and test pilots were pioneers. He was the first to go Mach 2, and made many flights in the X-15 as well as several other significant X-planes.  Living, breathing, talking history!  We just scratched the surface this year (and most years) because there were so many other things tugging at me—airplanes!

    Every year we wander around the Warbirds, taking in the sights and sounds and I lose myself among these great aircraft, feeling the presence of past aviators and the times they lived in. Warbirds were there in number again this year, including almost two dozen Mustangs, lots of T-6/SNJ-5/Harvard and T-28 trainers, T-34s, L-19/O-1s and O-2s, a few B-25s and B-17s, and some rarer birds like the Spitfire Mk XVIII, Corsair, FM-2 Wildcat, P-40, Sea Fury, A-26 Invader, RV/OV-1D Mohawk, F-8F Bearcat (to name a few).  Notable for their absence this year were the P-38 and P-47.  The Thunderbolt was represented last year, but it has been several since a Lightning graced the skies of Oshkosh. Jet warbirds made their presence known, including several of the Czech-made L-39 Albatross, L-29 Delphin, a couple of F-86s and MiGs and even an A-4 (civilian-owned) and a DeHavilland Vampire, as well as the usual military suspects (F-15, F-16, F/A-18, A-10, C-17).  The L-39 is getting so popular, they are getting their own racing class at Reno this year.

    We also make a point of ambling among the Classics—the Staggerwings, Stearmans (Stearmen?), Ryans, all sorts of WACOs, Fairchilds, Stinsons, round-engined Cessnas (190/195), and many other rare and beautiful aircraft.   A standout this year was a gorgeous 1935 Pasped Skylark—a sleek, spatted, graceful, round-engined two-seat monoplane.  A beautiful, polished metal Lockheed Model 12 was back, as were several Grumman amphibians (Widgeons, Geese and Albatri).  Replica racers included the famous Mr. Mulligan Monocoupe and the Laird Super Solution, both of which flew in the daily Showcase.  For the sake of streamlining (read, SPEED), the Laird’s cockpit is completely faired into the fuselage, giving it great streamlining, but virtually nil forward visibility.  Racing (and landing) that aircraft must rank very high on the thrill scale.

    Homebuilts constitute the roots of the EAA movement, and they were there in great variety and numbers.  More and more beautiful Lancairs populated the field, including the new turboprop version of the pressurized -IVP, and the RV-series are so numerous, they get their own parking in the North 40.  I got to chat with Jerry VanGrunsven, RV designer Dick’s older brother. Jerry has been building RVs since the –3 prototype and had his latest, a beautiful RV-8a, there.  One trend that is becoming increasingly popular is the application of very non-traditional, creative, imaginative and colorful paint schemes.  Unless you’re the artist, though, touch-up after a ding or corrosion control could be a major headache.  Of course, composites don’t rust…

    The afternoon airshows were everything we’ve come to expect at Oshkosh.  Sean Tucker is still arguably the most dynamic and exciting performer in his bright red Oracle Special (very highly modified Pitts), and he still does the best torque rolls in the business, though some others are trying very hard to best him.  Kirby Chambliss puts on a superb show in his Zivko Edge 540, including a breath-grabbing Cobra maneuver on takeoff.  Mike Goulian is flying an outstanding, precise, and difficult show in his CAP-232, taking full advantage of that craft’s incredible control authority.  His Flip maneuver is unique and one of my favorites. Adding to the grace, smoke and noise of the four T-6/SNJs of the most excellent Aeroshell Team was another four-ship formation group, the Red Barons in Stearman biplanes.  This year, Howard Pardue put on a beautiful show with his FM-2 Wildcat—a rare, stubby little fighter that served the Navy so well during WWII.  Usually, he flies his F-8 Bearcat in the show.   The low growl of the Grumman’s round engine is music to my ears.  Low clouds and rain did shorten the airshow one day, although a few acts did fly modified routines.  Conditions finally forced the Air Boss to call it off.  

    If the FM-2’s engine is music, then two dozen P-51s with their Merlins, as well as Spitfires, Sea Furys, P-40, YAKs, Corsairs, B-25s, A-26, B-17, T-28s, T-6s, T-34s and many others all in the air at once during the daily Warbird show is a true symphony. It’s more than that, of course.  It is a lesson in living history for the vast majority of people who were not around for World War II or even the Korean War. There is no substitute for seeing these venerable birds fly. This year also featured a daily mock air race, pitting a Sea Fury, Mustang, and Super Corsair against each other, providing some of the sights and sounds you’d expect at Reno.  Though it came across as slightly contrived, it was good entertainment, nonetheless.

    Sadly, all was not perfect. The marketers’ influence continues to grow and in a real sense, nibble away at the quality of the overall experience.  Everything has gotten much more expensive:  food and drink, exhibitor space, parking.  

This year, for the first time in memory, the annual poster published by the Oshkosh Chamber of Commerce and distributed free was unavailable, replaced by an official EAA/AirVenture poster available for sale at official merchandise outlets.  Not a biggie in the grand scheme of things, perhaps, but symptomatic, nonetheless (there’s that word, again.)

The Fly Market—a wonderful collection of most everything imaginable—continues the decline that began a couple of years ago.  Just why fewer and fewer vendors participate is unclear, but the net effect is that there just isn’t the variety of stuff available any more.  On the positive side, of course, is the expansion of the indoor vendor exhibits that brings an incredible variety and amount of cool stuff to the public.  

Aircraft manufacturer’s outdoor exhibits were more centralized this year, making it easier to take them all in.   Apex Aviation, the new makers of the superb CAP and Robin aircraft were there with the new CAP-10C—truly beautiful.  It’s basically the same aircraft as the –10B, but with a reworked wing.  Carbon-fibre spar caps, stronger aileron attach points which permit spades, and slightly larger ailerons add 66 pounds to the aerobatic useful load and also about 30 % more roll rate.  It also comes with Cleveland wheels and brakes and electric flaps.  The new wing is retrofitable to the CAP-10B, converting it to a C.   Hmmmm….

The CarterCopter, a hybrid helicopter/airplane, made a public flight, proving that it can, in fact fly. Once in the air, it relies on its short wing for lift, giving it a theoretical top speed of over 300 mph—something you can’t do with a helicopter.  Dick Rutan flew his XCOR rocket-powered Long EZ, for the first time publicly, making a touch and go, which is quite an accomplishment for a rocket-powered airplane.  It’s a technology demonstrator for new throttleable rocket propulsion that could have a major impact on the aerospace business in the near future.
Bottom line?  Oshkosh is still Oshkosh, in spite of the marketers. I only scratched the surface of what was there in terms of aircraft, exhibits, forums, entertainment and activities.  It is the grandest, biggest, and best celebration of aviation anywhere.  Film at 10.

A Miracle
As many of you know by now, Chacy Eveland, proprietor of the longest-running flight school in Hawai’i, suffered a serious motorcycle injury at the beginning of summer.  After the medical experts stated that he’d likely never walk, talk or possibly even see again, he is making what can only be described as a miraculous recovery.  He’s not only walking and talking, but well on his way to a hopefully complete recovery. Those who wish to send him a greeting can get his Connecticut address from Addie or me or his nephew, Clayton, who is running the flight school.

GA Forum
There were no surprises at the July 18 State GA Forum. The state has been prolific in sending out minutes from each session, so I won’t bore you with the details.  Though little seems to get resolved, it is valuable to have personal, face-to-face contact with the DoT.  It would be nice to have greater participation. Highlights included: the vehicle insurance requirement at HNL continued unresolved, the announcement that FBO lots at Kona were up for bid, and some runway and lighting repairs at Kalaeloa were underway.  There was continued talk of getting fuel and power out there. In the meantime, the modular home outfit that is occupying one of the big hangars has not proven a commercial success, according to the press.  You could’a knocked me over with a feather!  Sorry.  Next meeting is January 16, 2003, same time, same station.  

Not only NO…
The state has come up short of revenue for the DoT due to a number of factors, including a downturn in tourism and increased security expenses.  Under the current agreement with the Airlines Committee, as I understand it, if the DoT Airports Division revenues fail to meet requirements, the Airlines Committee will make up the shortfall.  Airports revenues come from landing fees, Duty Free shops, and rent/lease income, as well as some from a fuel tax, and not from general tax revenue.  To cut costs, the State is looking into closing Port Allen and Upolu Point airports and privatizing Dillingham and Kapalua West Maui.  Politics aside, (yeah, right), there is a real safety issue with closing runways in this state. For example, there is NOTHING between you and the deep blue sea between Hana and Hilo except for Upolu Point.  The Hamakua Coast is not a choice area for an emergency landing, to put it mildly.  Upolu’s 3,800’ runway also could prove invaluable in a natural or other emergency, as would Kaua'i’s Port Allen.  Although Port Allen only sports a 2,400’ runway, it would still be usable by a wide range of fixed and rotary wing aircraft in an emergency.   Hawai'i has few enough usable runways as it is, especially given its unique situation and environment. Closing PAK and UPP would save relatively little, but once a runway closes, it is forever.  Regarding privatization, I would be very curious and cautious about any such plans, especially here.  We don’t have a strong history of doing it right. Using privatization as a means to sidestep making needed improvements may ultimately not be in the public’s best interest.  The fact is, the state has incurred obligations by accepting federal funds for airport use, and it is not likely they’ll be excused from them.  What really rankles is the poor attempt to keep this initiative quiet by the current, lame duck Director and not involve the users in the discussion. Auwe!

It Could Happen Here
Jay Berringer, a former student, wrote recently about things in Germany. “We also have to pay for weather briefings.  A telephone briefing is $2.05 plus $0.12 per minute.  Or you can do a "self briefing" but that requires buying the German Weather Service's (DWD) software and subscription service for $87 per year.  These used to be free and funded by Avgas tax (we pay $4.73 per gallon).  Legally we're required to carry proof of a weather briefing before every flight.  So most pilots dump a few METARs and a TAF for local flights from the U.S. NWS site and use those.  My forecasts from the charts and radar are more accurate than the DWD has ever been anyway.  (DWD is known for lousy forecasts.)  So it's fee for service but the service isn't worth anything.”  Remember that when you hear the politicians talking about privatizing the Flight Service system.

AirLifeLine is a national non-profit charitable organization that enables people to get to medical treatment, transports critical items such as organs, and other humanitarian needs.  There are over 1,400 volunteer member pilots nationwide. Existing in 49 states, Dottie Cooley is trying to set it up here in Hawai'i as well. AirLifeLine doesn’t compete with such outfits as Hawai’i Air Ambulance who transports trauma and other patients who need en route medical support.  Rather, they provide volunteer air service to folks that cannot afford to travel for treatment.  If you are interested in joining this worthy cause, contact Dottie at jercol@msn.com.  Pilot requirements are a minimum of 200 hours PIC and evidence of liability insurance.

Space Training Done Here
    Many of you probably aren’t aware of the role the Hawaiian Islands played in the training of our Apollo program astronauts.  Hans Mueller and his Hawai'i Air Tour Service (HATS) provided the aerial portion for astronauts studying Hawai'i ’s lava and geological formations that were believed similar to those on the moon.  Material related to this effort now resides at the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum archives.  Bet if you ask around, you’ll find some pilots who participated still around…

Poor Man’s Fly-In Postponed
    Last year we had one airplane.  The year before, two.  This year, the GACH Board decided to postpone the annual Poor Man’s Fly-In at Port Allen until we get a sense of whether or not anyone wants to go.  Let me know.
    Be careful out there.

Hank’s Ratings:
Shane Tajima        CFI Spins
Hiroshi Jinjo        CFI Spins
Jeff Doornbas        CFI Spins
Kelly Flynn        CFI Spins
Tom Moss        CFI Spins
Joseph Comeford    CFI Spins
David Uehara        CFI Spins
Takahiro Honda    CFI Spins
Ryan Stoddard     Tailwheel Endorsement and Phase I, Aerobatics


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