World's Largest Airshow
July 30, 2007 Oshkosh, WI & New London, WI
Umpteen thousands of aviation nuts
gather here every year for the largest pilot smorgasborg on the planet.
We're a wee minority but for those who love other flying things there a lot to see.
As good as it is to look
lousy to fly. Thankfully, two of humanities most generous specimens keep
80 acres of manicured grass available for us to fly. Marks Park and
Airfield, lovingly maintained by Mark and Angela Zabel, awaits the
air-needy paramotorist only 40 minutes away.
Normally I fly an
airplane to Oshkosh. Why not, I live on an airport and it's only an hour
north! But that leaves me stuck on the field. I
enjoy that, mind you, but it's not so convenient when you want to PPG at
the park and have para-flynalia to tout about.
Enter the Enterprise.
Kevin Kenarski is a long time local pilot
and friend who
joined me. He is also an airplane pilot and would have flown up there in
an airplane but this turned out much better. We left our west suburban
abodes on Thursday morning for a (sung to the tune of Gilligans Island)
three hour tour. The weather sucked. A small airplane would have been no place to be but Captain Kevin had no problem
piloting the Enterprise.
A slice of heaven has been laid down in New London, WI. On my Friday
morning launch, I got the wing up, accelerated a bit, then engaged in a
quarter mile half-circle foot drag through the dewey grass. Magical.
Mistiness mixed with sunshine and tree-covered hills made for an eerie
scene. Kevin soon came up to play, letting me get some good photos. He
was a good picture partner—steady of hand and willing to fly reasonably
close without climbing or moving around a lot.
Row One: 1) Fog flight, 2) John DeFranco and I return after
playing in the hay field. 3) Brent uses this method to insure his spark
plug stays home. 4) Bailey 4-stroke on Jeff Baumgartner's PPGPlans
machine. 5) Bill sets up to launch the ParamotorKits trike.
Row Two: John's custom MacPara red, white and blue wing. 2) Brent
Wickerham. 3) A bit too much A's as Bill familiarizes himself with trike
launching. 4) Kevin Kenarski setting up. 5) Even the sign is classy. 6)
Me trying out the prototype PPGPlans machine. by Kevin Kenarski.
Row Three: 1) Ike Higinio and Bill get the ParamotorKits trike
ready. 2) Jeff B flying with John on his right tip. 3) Brent Wickerham
spools up for a flawless forward. 4) After my strap whacked the prop I
set her down here. Charlie, the field's owner, kept me company until the
guys showed up. 5) Ike flying his trike. He wasn't planning on this
flight and so didn't wear a helmet. Nobody's perfect!
Row Four: 1) Dale toting gear. 2) "Feed nightly" 3) Brent. 4) I'm
in that position a lot, it seems. 5) Captain Kevin at the Enterprise
helm. 6) Jeff lets me get him by his new plans creation prototype.
Enroute to the bar we
visited the night before, cruising at about 300 feet, I had a back-up
fuel tank strap come loose and whack the prop. Chunks flew. I killed the
vibrating mess and landed. Kevin saw me on the road and went back for
help. Soon enough he and Brent Wickerham showed up in Brent's truck to
fetch me back to the field for more flying on my spare prop. Thanks
The Baumgartener skunk works has been busy. A new
plans-built prototype was the test of the day. This machine really will
be dirt simple to built. Cheaper, too, with only 4 special fittings that
must be made and minimal pipe bending. He's not committed to it yet but,
if he does, it will be buildable in a week of evenings even for someone
of minimal build ability (like me). My only objection was a square bar
that could hit your legs when you set the machine down but he's going to
change that along with a few other small items. This was, after all, a
prototype. Nice job Jeff.
His other craft was a Bailey-powered Skybolt
(his current model). What a sweet ride that was. I like the Bailey on
this style harness a bit more than the low hang point version it
normally comes with. That is one nice running motor. It was a bit
finicky to start since it hadn't been run in over a month but purred
like a kitten once awake. Quiet, smooth, plenty powerful (probably about
115-120 lbs of thrust this day) and with a linear throttle response.
I've always liked the current Skybolt frame.
Another machine I got to
try was the Ike Trike (Higinio's ParamotorKits machine). Simple and
lightweight, it did the job easily. It requires a straight-bar machine
with fixed underarm bars—no weight shift—since it's held on to those
bars. It takes a bit more time to set up than others but is lighter and
less expensive than most. Balance and stability were good, too. A new
pilot, Bill with a Blackhawk, was looking to buy it and I took it up to
see if there was anything untoward about its handling. There wasn't,
although that front tire needs a fender—I got a face full of dew while
doing wheel drags.
Hopefully I'll get at least a brief write up on
these new entrants as soon as I catch up with other reviews already
Oshkosh - From An PPG Perspective
Oddly enough, paramotors were the big hit in ultralight land. There
was only one manufacturer present, AeroThrust (pictured left) and I'll bet half the
people walking around the ultralight area were there. He had a huge
display with probably 7 paramotors out and video running continuously.
Surprisingly, it was Risk & Reward—NOT the video I would show
prospective entrants. After all, it makes no bones about showing the
risks. But people were eating it up. Maybe they feel better knowing that
the risks are largely understood and there are ways to minimize them.
Owner Dave said that this show was much better than Sun-N-Fun which
traditionally caters to more ultralight vendors. There weren't as many
vendors which accounts for some of the traffic but it was still
impressive to see that many people huddled around vendors. He's got a
nice-looking new harness that was quite comfortable although I didn't
get a chance to fly anything. He was too busy with the show to bring
anything to Marks Park.
I did my PPG presentation and it, too, was
well attended. A cool aspect displaying several brands which allowed
showing different suspension systems. Besides my Blackhawk, FlyOhio
Bruce Brown brought his Free Spirit, ParamotorKits Ike Higinio brought
his new fiberglass frame and Aerothrust Dave Rakisch brought his water
cooled ZG Cruiser. The organizer said it was the 2nd or 3rd best
attended presentation in the ultralight area which was encouraging.
Kevin captured this exceptional airshow pilot going through his routine.
Low flying is dangerous to everyone, not just us. Within a week of this
picture, two airshow performers had died during performances. 2)
Attendees pay due respect during the National Anthem. 3) Giving my
presentation with the ParamotorKits frame and FlyOhio Free Spirit. 4)
Showing some element of the harness on my Blackhawk with the Sky 100 ZG
Cruiser behind. 5) I still don't know how this happened. By Kevin
Paramotor flying is quite constrained at Oshkosh itself. The required
pilot briefing starts before God gets up, we fly a set pattern and in a
tiny time window. That's why most of us flew at Mark's Park but,
apparently, someone did fly at Oshkosh (Dave possibly). There were
several powered parachutes but their ranks have been decimated my sport
pilot—another reason for PPG's increasing interest.
Oshkosh - From a
General Aviation Perspective
It's a kid-in-candy-store experience but with very expensive
candy. I was eyeballing one particularly fancier-than-thou display that
cost $20k. When I asked the sales gent what side dishes came with that,
he asked about my airplane, a 1959 Beech Bonanza. "Oh, that's not for
your airplane, that's for an experimental. for your airplane it would
cost $60,000." Problem is, my airplane needs "certified" widgets wheras
an experimental can get by without that. Out of my league.
come away unscathed, though. For some time I've been looking for terrain
avoidance and expected to pay over $6k for the cheapest solution. I also
wanted something that could provide vertical guidance down a 3° descent
path. Funny thing was that most makers don't do that for fear it will be
misused—pilots will make up their own approaches and fly them illegally.
Yet they present detailed terrain data and don't worry about using
Fortunately, one company, APIC approach systems makes what I wanted.
You can put a 3° glideslope on any runway, allowing for a stabilized
approach to be flown all the way down. Accident investigators have found
that to be a dramatically safer way to fly airplanes. So now I'll have a
better display with better situational awareness than I have in the
Boeing. It runs on a tablet PC that mounts to the yoke. Plus it provides
backup attitude and navigation in the event of a total electrical
failure. All good.
God love Mark and Angela Zabel. They open
up their place and seem to enjoy having pilots come fly. They don't
charge anything although we always contribute some money to help with
maintenance. It's got to be expensive mowing all that. I mean this was a
huge area of nothing but grass. They're PPC pilots but love to
have us PPGers come. They even have electric outlets for RVers so we
were hooked up the whole time. That's worth a contribution of $15/night!
It was great getting together, as always. It had been too long since I
got to fly with long-time friends Jeff Baumgartener and John DeFranco.
It was also good to meet new pilot Bill, then Dale and his wife who
rolled up on his-and-hers motorcycles with a paramotor strapped to
Dales. Brent Wickerham came from Michigan with a spinner-equipped
machine that looked cool and Kevin Kenarski joined me on the Enterprise.
A small, fun group.
After getting my gear out there, the scene struck me. This is the field.
I inflated, accelerated just enough to get airborne, did a 1/4 mile foot
drag in the dew then proceeded to gear it up. Too bad this places goes
under the snow in winter.