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 around, it's 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.

Marks Park

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 guys.

Test Flights

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 flown.

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. Beats me.

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 Kenarski.

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.

I didn't 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 that inappropriately.

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.


1. Hey, a picture of me flying! Jeff Baumgartner is above. Photo by  John DeFranco.

2. Kevin Kenarski poses atop the fog. I always appreciate willing photo victims and this was an excellent group for that.






























1. They take their horse shoes seriously. Even the steady drizzle wouldn't deter these diehards at the Bean City Bar and Grill.

2. While horse shoes took to flight outside, we consumed. Then we got everyone together for a group shot. Unfortunately, Dale and his wife snuck out before I got the idea.


© 2015 Jeff Goin   Remember: If there's air there, it should be flown in!