Log

Electrifying At Oshkosh

The Electrics Fly!

This may be the year of electrics.

Being the world's biggest airshow has its benefits, not the least of which is a popular place for firsts. Yuneec International brought three electric paramotors and all of them flew at the show. Three. And all of them flew. I'm told these are the production machines and indeed they looked the part. Eric and I flew them on Thursday and Friday and I hope to get a review up soon.

The big news was their e-430 electric airplane. That's impressive for the fixed wingers. It's uses a grown-up version of their paramotor drive with the same battery packs for simplified manufacturing. Test pilot Dave Morss flew it twice during the show but the big story was how they got it here in the first place. In order to satisfy FAA officialdom they were originally told that, as a motorglider, they'd need to fly it in California, where it came into the country, for 5 hours. Then, on the day before it was to head for Oshkosh FAA officials required a full 20 hours. That would need to be accomplished in two days. Two days!

So they did.

Fly, replace batteries, charge, fly, replace batteries, etc. That's a pretty harsh test itself and speaks highly for the system's durability, at least for concentrated use. Longevity always has to determined over time.

The airplane is impressive, for sure, and is clearly where the money will be, but the paramotor is where my interest lies. Yuneec was the only company showing a paramotor of any kind as a vendor. It was great to have a number of the Wisconsin and Chicago area pilots show up. Quite a few flew, too, including Lance Marczak and Scott Baxter from the Chicago area.

Yuneec's drive was also test flown by Tom Peghiny on one of his company's Flightsar aircraft.

The show this year was better than last year for ultralight vendors, about 25% better. I asked around at other vendors and they all see to feel the same way. So who know, maybe the economy is turning around or, then again, maybe an Oshkosh ticket is a cheap way to fantasize. But one vendor also told me they have made good sales to boot.

Ultralights and Crowds

You'd think with the economy on its butt, aviation would be suffering, especially shows like this. Yet the vendors I talked with said this was a booming good show, much better than last year. And this was from some of those in the ultralight area which was only about a third full. Given the increased turnout we can only hope other paramotor people see the value of coming.

The crowds lining fences were plentiful and plenty enthusiastic. We paramotors are always a hit. Lance and Eric flew before I got here and told of all the clapping after they landed. The same thing happened after my flight. I didn't do anything other than foot-drags and trot-bys--people just love watching these things fly, especially when we do some simple ground stuff.

Flying

There's a gazillion airplane types here, general aviation arrivals and departures are going on all around our little ultralight area but still we get to fly. These guys go out of their way to accommodate our strange craft including letting us do foot drags down the runway. Other craft aren't allowed to do touch and goes.

The flying is, however, quite limited . We usually only get about 40 minutes in the evening and a bit longer in the morning, not that I would do morning given the limited number of degrees—I don't do cold.

The one session I had, though, was pure magic.

After a surprisingly good pilot briefing, I headed over to scope out gear. Yuneec's new motor comes with some additional safety features and I wanted to make sure I knew how to work them. It would have been a bit embarrassing, to say the least, being out in front of so many eyeballs and not be able to turn the thing on. Plus, I wanted to kite the wing—a large, beginnerish thing that was a bit slow to rise. It wasn't bad, but certainly was no Pluto or Spice like. The wing really wasn't that bad and, in fact, it passed a riser-only inflation test albeit with great effort.

The whole e-Pac weighs 66 pounds with the battery which is 7 pounds more than my fully fueled weight-shift Miniplane. It was quite comfy once you got the seat tucked all the way up.

Flying was interesting, especially to start. Several PPC's set up to launch north but the wind then changed to favor going south. They're on wheels with a gazillion harnessed horses, I'm on foot with a few ponies and am not about to launch uphill with a tailwind. So we waited. The ops fellow was great and let us change the pattern after the PPC's launched. They were going one way and we were going the other. But our smaller pattern kept conflicts to a minimum and they finally got the word to turn around. It was actually a rather refreshing adaptation of conditions by the safety folks.

Then we launched into a great little flight. I, Lance, Chinese pilot-Zhang-Ke, Mike Koval, Ohio pilot Dave and Scott Baxter all launched into the smoothing air. Of course the pattern is limited but they let us do footdrags and runway walks. Gotta love those—you land and walk while keeping the wing overhead. Makes it look easy. Getting this one flight in was all I needed. My fix. And how cool was it flying the electric. Power off means the prop stops all noisemaking, the only noise there is. You just glide. I got about twenty minutes of playing around then the thrust died off enough that I went for only one more round but that was enough.

The Show

It's a flyers smorgasbord. Being the world's largest airshow means that, if it flies, or is expected to fly, it's probably on display here. Being an airplane owner means that my mouth waters just walking around the main vendor areas as I dream of all the goodies I won't have in my Bonanza. That's ok, of course, it's just fun to see what's possible. I'm quite happy with what I've got—quite happy (it's magenta Bonanza).

Seeing Space Ship Two and Airbus's 380 fly was exciting. I'm not into aerobatics but some of the stuff I saw there looked like it defied aerodynamics. Very impressive.

It was a great time with the Yuneec folks who were kind enough to provide a place to put my sleeping bag and I really enjoyed spending time with many of the IL boys.

A welcome change from last year was comments by numerous vendors, including the ultralights, that crowds were much larger than last year. Even though the ultralight area was only 1/3rd full, a lot more prospects seem to be checking it out. Makes me wonder if it isn't time for a paramotor school to make a go of it there.

Organizers also made it easier for ultralight pilots to camp right at their aircraft so quite a few flew in. There were, in fact, more ultralights in the tie down area than I ever remember seeing. Lets hope this is the harbinger of good things to come.

Flight Back

Chris Bowles flew up with me in the Bonanza then both Eric Dufour and Chris flew back. Their airline flights departed from O'Hare so that's where I dropped them off. It's easier to fly into big airports under instrument flight rules (IFR) so I filed and got the appropriate reservations. You need a reservation both to leave OSH IFR and to arrive O'Hare. It was an easier process than I expected and the flight went easily.

Touching down on the grass at Naperville was a sweet end to an engrossing, fascinating trip. OSH was well worth the effort.

1. Yours truly (Jeff Goin) & Zhang flying two of the Yuneec ePac Electric Paramotors at Oshkosh.

2. Trying it on for size. It fit.


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