Well, I survived one more Oshkosh experience!
As I have for just about every year since 1970, I journeyed to Oshkosh for the annual EAA aviation extravaganza the last week of July.
As usual, there was a huge crowd of planes, campers and people on hand. I don’t have any sort of count, but let it suffice to say there were lots of all of them. The airport at Oshkosh was packed throughout the week and I drove past the nearby Fond du Lac airport several times and the rows of airplanes there seemed to fill most of the spaces. Although I didn’t go to the Appleton airport, I was told by others that the scene there was similar, with parking spaces for airplanes at a premium.
There were several interesting announcements and new airplanes this year.
The number of very light jets continues to grow. But, once again, the most exciting area was Light Sport Aircraft.
Cessna had announced it was going to get into that market and it certainly did. The company’s display in front of the four large buildings housing most of the commercial venders had a Caravan, a Mustang jet and several single engine aircraft, but the craft that attracted crowds throughout the show was the brand new Cessna 162 SkyCatcher, an airplane fitting into the LSA category.
With a glass cockpit and joystick control, this is not your father’s 152 updated. It is new. Interestingly, the powerplant is a Continental 0-200 and the airplane is all metal.
By noon Sunday, an electronic reader board at the tent covering the SkyCatcher claimed 572 sales with deposits of $5,000 each. (They probably added a couple more after I went past for the last time.)
It will be really interesting to see how many orders Cessna gets for the SkyCatcher when flight schools catch on.
Plans are for the plane to get into production and deliveries to start in the last quarter of 2008, with production ramping up to 700 a year by 2011.
There were lots of other companies showing off their light sport planes. I’ll leave the complete report on that and other aspects of the fly-in to others here at GANews. However, I felt the return to its roots by Cessna was an important message.
Another thing I noticed at Oshkosh that really surprised me was construction of a new air traffic control tower. It is taller than the current one and located in just about the same location.
Frankly, I was startled when I saw it and I asked if this was a locally-funded project. Nope, this is a $12 million FAA funded tower, I was told.
Since Oshkosh has no airline traffic and, with the exception of the EAA fly-in one week each summer, a limited amount of other flying activity, I find it hard to buy the necessity for spending that kind of money on a new tower. I’m waiting to hear a full explanation of why it is going up, if the FAA is paying for all the construction costs and if it is being manned by FAA-paid staff. Remember, FAA funds come from taxpayers!
On another note, there were a few airplane accidents in distant places during the days running up to the fly-in. Local television and radio news broadcasts, as well as newspaper stories, always connected the mishaps to the Oshkosh fly-in, regardless of where they occurred.
The aircraft were heading to the fly-in, but I find it stretching the point to include the destination into an accident that happened miles and miles away. It bothers me to read that and realize that when cars are involved in a highway wreck on their way to the Indy 500, that isn’t usually included as a normal part of the story.
General aviation remains a mystery to most people. It is something they don’t understand and are scared to try. The net result is that the media and others have to try to attribute the accidents to something.
What they fail to recognize and comment on is the “glass half full or half empty” aspect. How about the thousands of airplanes, flying singly and in large groups, that safely, efficiently and relatively economically made it from their home bases around the world to Oshkosh?
And, oh yes, all those people flying to Oshkosh kept the highways free of a lot more cars, too!
Dave Sclair was co-publisher of GANews from 1970-2000.