The 36th Annual Northwest Aviation Conference and Trade Show took place in Puyallup, Washington, on Feb. 23 and 24, 2019. I call it a family reunion. I get to sleep in my own bed each night (the show grounds are just 21 miles from my home). Ahh.
It is fun to catch up with old friends (and meet a few new ones).
In my many conversations, I had a few people ask “What’s news here at the show.” I always get asked that question. A byproduct — no doubt — of being a newspaper publisher. I noticed a few things…
Shane and Amy Woodson staffed the uAvionix display. Each time I poked my head around the corner, or walked by, their display was 10 to 15 people deep. Funny how that works. Design some cutting-edge products that comply with the ADS-B 2020 mandate, slap on an affordable price, and people will beat a path to your display. At the close of Saturday, Shane and Amy were spent. They had a non-stop line of people all day long.
Pete Nelson, owner of Middle Forks Mods, told me the company’s Cessna Tail Slide is selling well. The product helps prevent extensive damage to the tail structure of your Cessna in the event of a tail strike. They had planned to debut a Cessna 172 Tail Slide at the Great Alaska Aviation Gathering in May, but the recent government shutdown created a bit of a wrinkle in that plan. Pete had a prototype of the 172 Tail Slide on the table in Puyallup, but not his approval paperwork.
A flying saucer landed at the Northwest Aviation Conference. Zeva Aero is designing a personal flying machine — named the Zero — to pursue the $2 million GoFly Prize sponsored by Boeing. The Zeva Zero looks a bit like a flying saucer, but that is on purpose. The GoFly prize limits the size of the designs to a 8.5-foot-wide sphere. Zevo CEO Stephen Tibbitts is excited by the contest.
“The GoFly prize requires us to take off vertically (or nearly so), fly 20 miles distant, land, takeoff and fly back to our starting point,” said Tibbetts. “Without recharging the batteries.”
Tibbitts outlined a few interesting options as we chatted at the company’s display. First responders will be able to bypass traffic congestion, which is a real issue in the greater Seattle-Tacoma area. And since the Zero will have an autonomous mode, it could be used as a replacement to helicopter skiing. Fly to the top of the mountain, program the Zero to fly back down the mountain, then hop out, and ski down. Tibbitts admits it is very much “Jetsons” flying car sci-fi stuff, but wow, the possibilities are fun to think about. Good luck Stephen.
Salem, Oregon’s Ron Sterba stopped by to tell me they are hoping to attract airline service back to the Salem airport. When I reminded him that General Aviation News is a personal aviation publication he quickly pivoted. Salem-area based general aviation pilots are working to help preserve and grow the Salem airport, for all users, by seeking grants that will help the city attract commercial air service back to the airport. Sterba doesn’t fear Salem becoming as busy at Portland International, but a few dozen flights a day would require the types of facilities and infrastructure that will ensure the Salem airport remains a solid and growing airport for decades to come.
Seattle Avionics, makers of the FlyQ EFB (among other products), was continuously surrounded by current and prospective customers all weekend. They’re close to rolling out V4.0 of FlyQ, which will include a social media component.
CiES founder Scott Philiben continues to demand that pilots should trust their fuel gauges. His product accurately measures the amount of fuel in a tank and displays the amount on a number of optional gauges. Scott is adamant that we need to fix this problem.
“We have more than 20,000 units installed in the field,” Philiben told me. “And not one has had an off airport landing as a result of fuel exhaustion.”
The pilots know — not think they know — how much fuel they have on board and can plan accordingly, he said.
Aithre displayed its carbon monoxide detector at the show. The company has models that work with certificated and experimental aircraft. The Aithre Shield 4.0 is a portable CO detector with a rather simple user interface. When the Aithre logo glows blue, all is well. However, if CO levels rise about pre-programmed levels, the logo will glow either amber (warning) or red (land now). Additionally, when CO levels exceed 50 ppm, a speaker provides a secondary alarm. The Aithre Shield EX 1.0 can be wired into an experimental aircraft allowing it to be powered by the aircraft and transmit alerts to a few different displays.
Vashon Aircraft didn’t bring a Ranger R7 LSA to the show, but the company had a nice corner booth. Founder John Torode told me they’ve delivered eight so far and have sold about 40 so far. They’ll be at SUN ‘n FUN with a pair of airplanes they’ll be delivering to buyers who live in the southeastern United States.
There’s a lot going on in aviation. Much of it positive. Will everything work out for the best for all parties? Of course not. But if we don’t try, good things are even less likely to happen.
Lastly, hats off to the Washington Aviation Association for producing the Northwest Aviation Conference. And specifically Rachel and John Hansen (and their kids and volunteers) for doing the tireless work of making this event — I mean, family reunion — happen each year.