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