Do you know when you’re an airshow junkie, ‘er… enthusiast? Answer: When you actually enjoy observing the set-up process. I’ve made the following observation many times.
The night before opening, with literally hours before the show starts, the place appears in a state of chaos. Pandemonium reigns. Vehicles, crates, equipment of every kind is seemingly strewn about as if by a storm (which did do some damage on Saturday night, ironically most affecting those who started earlier).
Every show I think, “No way can they get this or that exhibit ready in the 10-15 hours before the main gates open to hundreds of thousands of visitors.”
Yet every show on opening day, I find myself saying, “What?! It’s all done!” Did they work all night? Even if staff was willing to work all night, it seemed unlikely to get the job done mere hours earlier. Maybe it’s magic or Santa’s Elves. Look closely. I’ll bet you see a lot of tired workers on day one but big crowds put smiles on their faces.
In this article, I’ll show you some airplanes that caught my eye. Not because they’re brand new or super innovative, though I’m always on the alert for those qualities. Many airplanes go through more subtle changes, and given aviation’s demands, maybe that’s not so bad.
Come On Along
for a Ride
Some people say they are visual learners or simply prefer video. I understand. Even as a longtime writer, I love the video format.
If you prefer video to reading, you’re in luck. I made a 5-minute quickie for you to get some views of Oshkosh on set-up day. Along the way I stopped to observe some aircraft that caught my attention. I’ll write about these below briefly. Have it your way: video or a magazine-style article.
The blue trio are from Fisher Flying Products, which company itself has news of a new financial partner that is helping with the metal aircraft hiding in the background of this image. That’s the Archon, which made a big impact on visitors to last year’s AirVenture.
The irony of this combo is that Fisher is known for its nearly all-wood kit aircraft, while Archon — created by a Greek designer — is all metal. It’s quite a departure and explains why another man wanted to help in the alterations they planned to make. The Archon in progress is displayed at SportAirUSA‘s display in the main aircraft display area.
I first ran into the Kitplanes for Africa company at Aero in Germany back in 2019. You rarely hear Africa associated with aircraft production but the secret is KFA is from South Africa, where we have a couple other well-known light aircraft builders including BushCat and the Sling line from The Airplane Factory.
Another company celebrating an anniversary, KFA was formed in 1993. Kitplanes for Africa started production of the Bushbaby aircraft, which they say “made a name for itself as a true bushplane in the Microlight category,” selling more than 300 Bushbaby aircraft. While Bushbaby is still being produced, Explorer came into production in 2003 as an upgraded Bushbaby. Pilots attending Oshkosh can check in with the Canadian distributor for North America to learn more about a Safari LSA on display.
We are seeing a year of several anniversary dates in Oshkosh this year. Most obviously, AirVenture celebrates its 70th year, while Avid Flyer design turns 40 as does Quad City’s Challenger. KFA above celebrates 30 and now we come to T-Bird which has also hit the 40th for these designs. Avid is not in production and T-Bird was out of production for many years but never dismiss a worthy design as dead; somebody might resuscitate it.
That’s what a family from Berlin, Wisconsin did. They rescued the T-Bird line, brought it from Iowa to Wisconsin and have been busy the last year. I was surprised and pleased to see it last year but this year, T-Bird is looking even better, displaying three aircraft. One pictured nearby is their TU model, which stands for True Ultralight. Harking back to the early Quicksilver days, I have fond memories of flying a version of this machine with its three-axis control (which was not universal in early ultralight days). T-Bird also displayed a two seat model.
Hiperlight is yet another company with a lengthy history, dating to Sorrell Brothers from the U.S. west coast. Now the biplane design hails from Michigan where Thunderbird Aviation’s Ron Jones has been laboring away on meeting ASTM standards for fully-built LSA. Some old timers dismiss these standards as lesser than conventional certification but 20 years of LSA has so proven the concept that FAA is broadening its use to Mosaic LSA but also to legacy Part 23 designs (think: Cirrus or Cessna). Ron saw this and chose to embark on the process of meeting ASTM standards.
His plans for the SLSA version previously targeted a very low price, one that reminds of expectations at the beginning of Light-Sport almost 20 years ago. Those price forecasts were before the last couple years when dollar dilution (otherwise known as inflation) sharply raised the price of almost everything you buy. Ron might not be able to meet his earlier price but I’m guessing it will still be one of the great bargains of recreation aviation. I’ll try to learn more this week,.
I close out this tour of set-up day at AirVenture Oshkosh 2023 with a look at an AirCam.
First, here’s a fascinating thought related to Mosaic. Some who read FAA’s 318-page proposal noticed that no ban appears for multiple engines. In fact, electric concepts often rely on multiple motors and they are included in Mosaic. So, could AirCam become a Mosaic LSA? Hmmm… maybe.
Such a step is a big one and the company has not announced any such plans. Of course, the NPRM just came out as all suppliers were working hard to prepare for Oshkosh. Nonetheless, I plan to ask Ian or Phil Lockwood about this possibility and if they concur, I’ll inquire if they may take steps in that direction.
Two points in closing. One, Mosaic is opening all kinds of doors, more than we expected. Two, the AirCam pictured nearby has one of the neatest paint jobs I’ve seen at the show. Another pilot and I debated if they used paint, decals, or airbrushing, but whatever the combination, this kit builder achieved an amazing finish. Come see it and all these planes in the Fun Fly Zone, EAA’s ultralight area.
- Fisher Flying Products
- Kitplanes for Africa, represented by Drake Aviation
- T-Bird TU from Berlin, Wisconsin
- Thunderbird Aviation, builder of the Hiperlight
- Lockwood Aircraft, builder of the AirCam
Note that background audio reflects an active, busy airshow. In addition, portions were sped up to make viewing them quicker. Enjoy this short tour of EAA AirVenture Oshkosh 2023.