Although not quite as famous as the Experimental Aircraft Association’s (EAA) AirVenture in Oshkosh, WI, the world’s second largest aviation expo is certainly worth attending.
From 2 to 7 April this year, the 45th annual Sun ‘n Fun Fly-In and Expo was held at Lakeland Linder International Airport, in Florida. The airport, which is located just outside the city of Lakeland, has recently been given international status and is home to the well-known ‘hurricane hunters’ of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
The first Sun ‘n Fun event was organized in 1974 by the Lakeland chapter of the EAA. The event grew at a steady pace and by 1978 it was second only to the EAA’s convention in Oshkosh, in terms of size. In 2004, Sun ‘n Fun was separated from the EAA, making it an independent organization which was no longer affiliated with the EAA. That said, the two organizations continue to work together to achieve common goals, such as promoting aviation to the next generation of potential pilots. In the words of EAA CEO and chairman Jack Pelton, “Along with our EAA programmes, there are marvelous aviation educational programmes created right here by our friends at Sun ‘n Fun, the Lakeland Aero Club and the Aerospace Centre for Excellence (ace), plus those from multiple other organizations.
“All of us understand the importance of introducing these opportunities to young people. Just as each of us came to aviation via our own experiences, these activities are doing the real work of providing today’s pathways.”
He continued, “Sun ‘n Fun is one of those places where we can enjoy the legacy of the more than 100 years of flight that came before us, while also looking forward to what is next. A great part of that responsibility is ensuring that there must be a ‘next’.”
Sun ‘n Fun serves as a fundraiser for ace, its educational component. Every year, Sun ‘n Fun makes hundreds of thousands of dollars of scholarship funds available to students aiming to pursue a career in the aerospace industry.
Sights and Sounds
With this year’s theme ‘First in Fun – Fast in Flight’, Sun ‘n Fun was attended by more than 200 000 pilots and enthusiasts. More than 3 500 volunteers worked to ensure the event’s success. About forty Royal Air Force Cadets from the southeast of England joined the ranks of volunteers. This was the 25th year the cadets have served at Sun ‘n Fun.
This year also marked the 25th anniversary of Sun ‘n Fun Radio, which was originally created to keep airshow attendees with hearing impairments informed. At the time, hearing aids were not compatible with public address systems.
In terms of international visitors, more than 400 Brazilians attended Sun ‘n Fun, while about 230 and 110 people travelled from Canada and England respectively.
To those who have attended the AirVenture at Oshkosh, Sun ‘n Fun would present a familiar atmosphere, albeit on a smaller scale. About 500 exhibitors had a wide variety of aircraft and related products on display, while long lines of visiting aircraft, many with tents pitched next to them, were parked at the airport. On the opening day of the show, one of the exhibiting companies, Piper Aircraft, unveiled its VFR (Visual Flight Rules) Piper Pilot 100 and IFR (Instrument Flight Rules) Pilot 100i aircraft, specifically designed to serve as training aircraft.
More than 300 forums and workshop sessions, covering subjects such as metal fabrication, avionics installations, fabric aircraft covering and safety wiring, were presented throughout the event. Recreational pilots were able to shop at the Light Sport Aircraft (LSA) Mall at Paradise City, an area dedicated to the fun side of flight. Before and after each daily airshow, LSAs, microlights, autogyros and Short Take-Off and Landing (STOL) aircraft could be seen in action at Paradise City’s small grass runway.
In addition to the numerous commercial exhibits, there were dozens of warbirds and modern military aircraft on display. For example, a B-17F of the movie Memphis Belle was on static display and available for fun flights. Other warbirds included A-1 Skyraiders, T-28 Trojans, P-51 Mustangs, a B-25 Mitchell, a P-40 Warhawk, the world’s sole surviving XP-82 Twin Mustang and an F4U Corsair, to name a few. In terms modern military aircraft, enthusiasts were able to view aircraft such as F-35 Lightning IIs, F/A-18 Hornet and Super Hornet fighters, a C-17 Globemaster iii transport aircraft, a KC-135 Stratotanker, as well as an MV-22 Osprey. Various helicopters, such as an AH-64 Apache and CH-47G Chinook could also be seen.
Daily airshows primarily included aerobatic aircraft, many of which have performed at AirVenture, as well as special warbird displays. Heritage flights, with formations of older and modern military aircraft were quite popular, as were displays by the F-16 Viper Demo Team. However, it was the US Navy’s Blue Angels Demonstration Squadron that dominated the show. The team’s six F/A-18 Hornets performed stunning aerobatic manoeuvres in a breath-taking display of power and precision. Supplementing the daily airshows, two-night shows were held over the course of the week. The combination of formation aerobatics, pyrotechnics and fireworks is always something to behold.
That’s All Brother
One of the Douglas C-47s on display at Sun ‘n Fun had a truly remarkable history. The aircraft, named ‘That’s All Brother’, led the main airborne invasion on D-Day, 6 June 1944, over Normandy, France, in World War ii. The aircraft forms part of the D-Day Squadron, which aims to fly eighteen DC-3s and C-47s across the North Atlantic Ocean, to participate in the 75th anniversary of the invasion of Normandy. The D-Day Squadron will be flying from the USA to England, where the aircraft will be joined by about thirty C-47s and DC-3 from other parts of the world, some as far as Russia and South Africa. After participating in the D-Day anniversary, the aircraft will fly to Germany to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the Berlin Airlift.
A South African-designed Sling TSi flew to Sun ‘n Fun all the way from the Sling Pilot Academy in California. The aircraft was flown by Co-CEO at Sling Pilot Academy Wayne Toddun and technical director at The Airplane Factory Jean d’Assonville. The Rotax 915iS-powered aircraft completed the non-stop 1 900 nm flight in 13.5 hours. The aircraft was flown at a speed of 155 kts at 17 500 ft, until bad weather forced a change of altitude. The two pilots opted to fly at low level, where the air was calmer, despite being less fuel-efficient. Nevertheless, they arrived safely at Lakeland after an impressive flight. Jean d’Assonville is no stranger to epic long-distance flights, having completed round-the-world flights in Sling aircraft.
According to Sun ‘n Fun’s newly appointed chairman of the board Harley Richards, there has been tremendous growth over the past six years. He added that there will be even more growth in the next six years. At the end of this year’s Sun ‘n Fun, a new name was unveiled for the event: Sun ‘n Fun Aerospace Expo. According to Sun ‘n Fun President John Leenhouts, “Renaming this iconic aviation event reflects our mission to engage, educate and accelerate the next generation of aerospace professionals.”
Next year, Sun ‘n Fun will take place from 31 March to 5 April.
“A ‘perfect’ event may be unattainable, but AirVenture 2018 came about as close as one could imagine. The combination of outstanding programs, aircraft variety, a robust economy, and good weather combined to complement the efforts of our staff and 5,000 volunteers throughout the grounds. The week was upbeat, exciting, and filled with many ‘Only at Oshkosh’ moments.” - EAA Chairman Jack Pelton
It is no secret that the Experimental Aircraft Association’s (EAA) AirVenture, often simply referred to as ‘Oshkosh’ or even ‘the convention’, is an enormous event. The first EAA fly-ins were held in the 1950s in Milwaukee, WI, and later in Rockford, IL. By 1969, it had become evident that the convention had outgrown its facilities Rockford, and it was moved to what is today known as Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh, WI. Every year, the annual convention’s attendance grew at a tremendous rate. Today, it is the largest of its kind in the world. This year the AirVenture was held from the 23 to 29 July, and more than 600 000 people attended the event. About 40,000 visitors camped at the airport. A record number of 2,714 visitors from 87 countries registered at the international visitors’ tent. The actual number of international visitors is higher, as registration is voluntary and, given the multitude of distractions, not everyone makes it to the tent. Even so, Canada took the top position on the list of countries represented by international visitors (538), with Australia (386) and South Africa (277) placing second and third respectively. In terms of the media, 976 representatives from six continents were present to cover the AirVenture.
According to the EAA, “More than 10,000 aircraft arrived at Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh and other airports in east-central Wisconsin. At Wittman alone, there were 19,588 aircraft operations in the 11-day period from July 20-30, which is an average of approximately 134 takeoffs/landings per hour.”
In total, there were almost 3,000 showplanes at this year’s AirVenture. This number included 1,160 homebuilt aircraft, 1,094 vintage aircraft, 377 warbirds, 185 ultralights and list sport aircraft, 75 seaplanes, 52 aerobatic aircraft, 22 rotorcraft and 14 hot air balloons.
Of course, there was more to see at the AirVenture than just 10,000 aircraft. There were almost 900 commercial exhibitors present, for example. The event is also known for its forums, workshops and presentations. This year, more than 1,500 of these sessions were attended by no less than 75,000 visitors. Also, a total of 2,800 people flew onboard the EAA’s vintage Ford Trimotors. About 3,000 flew onboard the EAA’s Bell 47s, and another 680 had the opportunity to flew onboard the B-17 bomber ‘Aluminum Overcast’.
This year marked the 66th annual convention of the EAA, and had several notable themes. Dubbed ‘the year of the tanker’, the AirVenture celebrated the 70th anniversary of the US Air Force Reserve. It also celebrated the 100th anniversary of the Royal Air Force, with several displays and flight demonstrations forming part of the week’s activities. The AirVenture also commemorated the 100th anniversary of the end of World War I and had several aircraft of that era on display.
Let us take a look at just a few of the many announcements, products and presentations from this year’s EAA AirVenture.
New BendixKing products and subscription plans
BendixKing, a business unit of Honeywell, announced the availability of several of its latest products at a media breakfast. The BendixKing AeroVue Touch primary flight display, for example, will be ready for pilots and operators to purchase in fourth quarter of 2018. The display is BendixKing’s latest, and will be available for 353 aircraft types on the Approved Model List Supplemental Type Certificate. The system features Honeywell’s Synthetic Vision System, terrain awareness, a moving map, a vertical situation display, aeronautical charts, traffic and weather information, all within a near-4K high-resolution, 10.1-inch touchscreen display. Every safety-critical function is accessible within two pilot touches on the display, and all functions are available within four touches or less, making the system intuitive and easy to learn. Other products will be covered in future issues of ANJ, as well as on our website. One of the more exciting products demonstrated was AeroVue Voice, which enables AeroVue to receive voice commands from the pilot. The system recognizes natural speech, unconstrained by mandatory keywords or phrases, and recognizes speech regardless of the pilot’s accent. Voice command eliminates the need for the pilot to control AeroVue manually, speeding up command entry, reducing workload and keeping the pilot’s eyes looking outside the cockpit.
BendixKing also announced a new Avionics-as-a-Service plan that allows aircraft operators and owners to upgrade their avionics via a monthly subscription instead of an outright purchase. It will be an industry-first in the integrated avionics segment, and will be available soon for many BendixKing products including AeroVueTM, AeroVue Touch, xVue Touch, KSN 770 navigator, AeroWave satellite communications system and the MST 70B transponder with ADS-B Out. Similar to a cellular plan that includes a new mobile phone, the subscription will include virtually everything: avionics equipment, installation at an authorized BendixKing dealer, equipment repairs, software updates, databases and navigation charts, as well as technical support. Instead of paying a flyaway cost of $20,000 or more to purchase and install a single flight display, Avionics-as-a-Service would allow the owner to pay a monthly fee of about $400 per month.
Lynk Remote Technologies, Inc. unveiled its HangarBot suite of products. These products deliver a connected hangar experience for those who rent, own or manage hangars to control, automate and secure hangars remotely via mobile devices. The product suite consists of the HangarBot Hub, Door Controller, 110 V Outlet, and Door Sensor, each sold separately, allowing users to customize based on their needs. The HangarBot Hub has several features, including an HD video camera for 24/7 video
surveillance, motion sensor, temperature sensor, and can serve as a WiFi hotspot. Using the
HangarBot app, users can set the HangarBot Hub to send notifications via email or text message
when motion is detected or a change of environment takes place, allowing users to monitor
hangar activity from anywhere in the world. The Door Controller can be used to remotely open or close hangar doors, or used to open doors under certain conditions such as when a user enters or leaves a preset proximity of the hangar or set to a specific time. The HangarBot 110 V Outlet offers users the ability to turn on or off anything plugged into the HangarBot Outlet via the HangarBot app. With a robust 16 amp maximum, the outlet is ideal for heavy electrical loads.
New Frasca RTD
Frasca International launched a new Advanced Aviation Training Device (AATD), named the Frasca Reconfigurable Training Device (RTD), which is intended to meet customer demands for a lower priced entry level reconfigurable device, that also provides the advanced features required to meet their training objectives. The Frasca RTD is easily reconfigurable between different aircraft models including the Cessna 172 and Piper Seminole and between legacy and realistic, advanced avionics which operate and function exactly as in the aircraft. Frasca's RTD provides a high level of realism that enables the students to transfer a greater amount of learning from the AATD to the aircraft. Frasca's aerodynamic models have been validated by the FAA on higher level Full Flight Simulators and include physical modeling of all significant components and effects of the aircraft class.
Aspen Avionics’ Evolution MAX
Aspen Avionics introduced the latest generation of Evolution Flight Displays, the Evolution MAX series of primary flight (PFD) and multi-function displays (MFD). With redesigned electronics and new glass, the Evolution MAX series displays offers a bolder and brighter display with higher reliability and several customer-requested functions such as font and window enlargement and increased processing speeds. All MAX displays can be configured for one, two, or three units. The Evolution MAX series will be available starting in the fourth quarter of 2018.
The Lindbergh Innovation Forum
The Charles A. and Anne Morrow Lindbergh Foundation was founded in 1977 by Neil Armstrong, General James Doolittle, Sir Edmund Hillary and other friends of Charles and Anne Morrow Lindbergh. It has a rich pedigree in aviation, and a strong track record of supporting and honoring innovators. The Lindbergh Foundation is governed by a board that consists of prominent names in aerospace. In the words of John Petersen, Chairman of the Lindbergh Foundation, “The Lindbergh Innovation Forum is a platform to showcase innovation in aviation.” The forum used a format of multiple speakers and short, compact presentations, featuring key breakthroughs and innovations that will shape aviation for decades to come.
Some of the numerous fascinating talks were those given by Adam Warmoth, Vehicle Requirements Lead at Uber Elevate, who spoke about the future of transport in cities, in terms of airborne vehicles, as well as Workhorse Group CEO Steve Burns, who spoke about his company’s SureFly personal VTOL (vertical take-off and landing) aircraft, which was present at the AirVenture.
Robert Hannaford, co-founder and director of UAV & Drone Solutions, spoke about the Air Shepherd programme, which is successfully being used in Africa to prevent poachers from killing endangered animals. Hannaford, a South African currently living in Texas, originally founded Air Shepherd in June 2015 to support anti-poaching operations in South Africa. Since then, Air Shepherd has expanded its operations to include three sub-Saharan countries. The company’s UAVs (Unmanned Aerial Vehicles) have flown thousands of missions, resulting in many success stories. In some areas, the local rhino and elephant populations would have been completely decimated without Air Shepherd surveillance. Air Shepherd has complied with all South African Civil Aviation Authority requirements and demonstrated the UAVs in all types of conditions and environments. Also, all its UAVs have been equipped with Mode-S ADS-B transponders. As a result, Air Shepherd UAVs are allowed to fly beyond visual line of sight over national parks, with 90 percent of operations taking place at night. The company has and continues to work with several organizations, including the World Wildlife Foundation, Peace Parks Foundation, SanParks and the Botswana government. Please visit airshepherd.org for further information, or to help support this worthy cause.
100th Set of Wipline 8750 Floats
One of the aircraft present at the AirVenture, was a Mission Aviation Fellowship (MAF) Cessna Caravan, which happened to be equipped with the 100th set of Wipline 8750 floats. Wipaire delivered the floats to MAF earlier this year, in July. The aircraft will serve in Papua, Indonesia. MAF operates a fleet of more than 125 aircraft in 37 countries, providing medevac flights, delivering humanitarian aid and supporting churches, missionaries, medical groups and relief organizations. MAF aircraft recently responded to the Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo and provided assistance following Hurricanes Irma and Maria in the Caribbean. Each year, the organization flies over four million nautical miles, supporting some 2,000 partner organizations and hauling more than 5,600 tonnes of cargo.
First certified in July 2012, the Wipline 8750 float replaced Wipaire’s long-running Wipline 8000 model. Upgrades from the Wipline 8000 to the Wipline 8750 include higher buoyancy, supporting a gross weight increase to 8,750 lbs (3,969 kg), improved main gear design, and a new hull design for better rough water handling.
One Week Wonder
This year, the EAA’s second Once Week Wonder project was successfully completed exactly one week after construction began at the beginning of the AirVenture. The Van’s Aircraft RV-12iS took flight on Monday evening, July 30. The aircraft was test-flown by EAA Homebuilt Aircraft Council Chairman Vic Syracuse. “What a perfect airplane,” he said. “I can’t believe it took a week to build this. That was wonderful.”
According to Charlie Becker, EAA’s director of chapters and communities and homebuilt community manager, “It was a huge accomplishment for the team at Van’s Aircraft and all of our volunteers. We had 100 core builders plus over 2,500 people that helped pull a rivet on the aircraft. I thought it turned out awesome. The energy all week was very high.”
As with previous years, AirVenture 2018 was certain worth attending. There were simply too many highlights to mention, which is why we rely on photographs to better illustrate the AirVenture experience. But what about next year? According to Jack Pelton, “We are celebrating our 50th consecutive year in Oshkosh during 2019, so we’ll be looking back on a half-century of unforgettable highlights at Wittman Regional Airport, and planning activities that involve EAA’s hometown and its unique place in aviation history. While 2018 is barely in the record books, we’re talking to many groups and individuals with intriguing new ideas for aircraft, innovations, exhibits, and events. We’re already planning for 2019 and looking forward to announcing features and attractions very soon.”