Some Surprises In The Air This Year In Oshkosh
by ANN Senior Correspondent Kevin R.C. "Hognose" O'Brien
AirVenture is almost upon us! And as usual, Aero-News will be
there in great force. Going over some advance press information, I
saw a few disappointments, in that some exciting aircraft aren't
coming after all. That's a bummer. But on the up side, there are a
bunch of awesome things to see here in the beautiful Wisconsin
summer. So make an appointment or two to see some things you'll
never see again.
Steve Culp's sick-in-a-healthy-way Biplanes
When I saw Steve Culp's version of a Sopwith Pup last year, I
almost fell over. T.O.M. Sopwith would have only the barest glint
of recognition of his own firm's design. Steve took the two-seater
plans and built it as a convertible single/two-place plane. He
overbuilt it -- redesigning it to +- 10G, adding extra wing ribs,
and adding a little more horsepower than the 160 hp Clerget which
was tops in 1918 -- like, 400 from a Russian M-14 radial with a
three-bladed composite MT-propeller. (It should fly like a
Finally, he picked the most colorful authentic Pup scheme, that
of training Squadron C417, and then put it on with a gloss that the
dopes of the Great War simply couldn't have done. And then mounted
a real Vickers gun on top. Steve wasn't at the plane, so we called
him on his cell, and he told us that he had ANOTHER one, a red one,
in the works; it just wasn't ready (the blue one barely had the
time flown off, and he was going to work on envelope expansion
He also told us about his plans for an airshow act with the
beautiful, overpowered Sopwiths (hint: expect to be thrilled). Sure
enough, this year Culp Pup #1 will be joined by a red counterpart,
marked in German Maltese crosses and swinging a two-bladed prop.
The #2 pup is owned and flown by Howard Ham, an experienced airshow
pilot in his own right.
To build the Sopwith, Steve sold his famous Culp Special, the
plane that he flew for years on the airshow circuit. It must have
been a little hard to part with such an old friend, but only a
little: Steve sold it to a friend, Doc Hamm, and the three of them
are going to fly in to Oshkosh together. They plan to leave July
20th, arrive on the 22nd, and will be on display together in
AeroShell Square from the 25th-31st.
More Trimotors than you can shake a stick at
During the 1920s and 1930s, multiengine airplanes became the
standard, and the standard in airline flying was often three
motors. It was a confluence of design and the limitations of motive
power in those days of single-row radials. While there are plenty
of three-engine planes flying today, including modern planes like
the Falcon 50 and the Britten-Norman Trislander, if you say the
word "trimotor" and most flying buffs will grin, imagining a
corrugated Ford 5-AT or, maybe, a Junkers 52.
Both those types will be represented at Oshkosh this year, as
will several other variants of the Ford Trimotor (including a rare
Bushmaster), high- and low-wing Stinson Trimotors, and an
ultra-rare Dornier Do-24ATT, the only one built on the basis of a
World War II air-rescue seaplane used by Germany and the
Netherlands, which is making a round-the-world flight.
The Trimotors are already wending their way to Oshkosh -- you
have to start early when you cruise at 90 miles per hour!
It's The Pitts
And the other Pitts... and the other, other Pitts... as EAA and
the International Aerobatic Club plan to have an example of most of
the prolific biplane designer's designs on hand, as previously reported in
You've got an appointment with fifty years of incomparable
Pittses, ranging from 65 to 400-something horsepower, in the grassy
area between the IAC Building and AeroShell Square (which is the
center of things at Oshkosh). If you have time, make an appointment
to visit the EAA Museum that contains, among its remarkable
displays, even more historic Pitts Specials.
If you went to Mojave, you saw SpaceShipOne and its
sophisticated, unconventional launch platform, White Knight. If you
didn't, this is your last, and I do mean last, chance to see the
historic spacecraft before the Smithsonian gets it and locks it
away where you'll never get a good camera angle on it again. This
is a one time only deal this year -- be there in AeroShell Square,
or be square yourself.
The men who built and flewand crewed this historic machine are
members of our fraternity -- that's why they're bringing their baby
to our show. (Er, your show, Mr Poberezny. Yes, Mr Poberezny. Just
kidding, sir...). After this show, Burt Rutan and Paul Allen's, and
Brian Binnie and Mike Melvill's, great achievement belongs to the
nation and the world. During this show it belongs to us. Treasure
Some New Airplanes
A new kit airplane
being shown formally for the first time at Oshkosh after fifteen
years of development is the Barr Six. You might mistake the plane
for a Cessna 206. If you look closer, you think, "composite 206."
But it's a 200-knot, 2300-lb useful-load 206-stomper, with features
liberally lifted from the Bonanza (check out the preflight-friendly
cowling) and other planes as well -- and a mighty IO-720 400
horsepower, eight-cylinder motor.
Fuel hog? Designer Jim Barr says no: it burns less fuel per
horsepower than a 300-hp six does. The airplane was so powerful
that despite many years of flying experience, mostly in powerful
singles, Barr got lots of dual before flying it himself. Now he's
ready to show it to people who might want to build one.
And, while experimentals are the soul of EAA, the wallet is in
general aviation. We'll see new blood there, too, in the shape of
the Quest Kodiak utility turboprop, for instance.
Sometimes the news isn't a whole new airplane, but is
still exciting: for a lot of people this will be their first chance
to see the Piper Meridian with the first 3-panel Avidyne
Columbia (formerly Lancair Certified) will be going all-out to
promote their new name. We're also expecting Eclipse to pull out
all the stops to make their jet a memorable participant in its
first AirVenture. And all the usual suspects, in both certified and
experimental general aviation will be there. Will you?
And A Disappointment or Two
A couple of previously announced AirVenture attractions aren't
going to be there. One of them is a big one indeed -- the CAF's
"FIFI," the world's only flying Boeing B-29, just gave the CAF what
every airplane operator dreads -- bad news at annual.
The Boeing's wing structure is corroded, and it's going to be a
major job to fix her. This is a disappointment to all, but
especially to the handful of B-29 vets that were hoping to see the
majestic old war-winner fly again. For some of them, 2006 will be
too late, but it can't be helped.
Best of luck to all at CAF on the rebuild. If you can pitch in
on this big project, you ought to look them
up. CAF is still bringing B-24 "Diamond Lil" to the
show -- there hasn't been a B-24 here since 1995. Diamond Lil,
actually an LB-30 transport version, is the oldest existing (not
just flying) B-24 airframe.
The other disappointment is a much smaller one, but as historic
in its own way as a B-29 and perhaps of greater personal interest
to me, as our gyro fiend. That's the beautifully rebuilt Miss
Champion, last seen at Osh in 1996, can't make it because
owner/rebuilder/pilot Steve Pitcairn has a scheduling conflict. He
will fly it, one last time, to Oshkosh's Wittman Field where it
will go into the AirVenture Museum, but not until after the
This is a bit of a sad note, as it's the last flying gyroplane
that can be directly traced to a company founded by or licensed by
Juan de la Cierva. Every rotorcraft flying today owes this man a
And One Last Appointment For You
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