The Very Best (And Worst) of Oshkosh 2005! (Part Two)
Compiled By The Staff and Readership of the Aero-News
For quite a while, we have recognized the highs and lows
inherent in the general and sport aviation community. There are but
a few places where that is more a propos than at a major event like
the Oshkosh Fly-In.
It's hard to know what really is going to make a difference and
what really qualifies as exceptional unless you've been watching
this industry carefully for several years... as we have.
Unlike past years, ANN readers remarks were heavily incorporated
into ALL aspects of this report, and not just the Aircraft awards
and such. Their contributions are specifically noted when a
particular attribute is based primarily on an individual's
Our Annual Best Plane of the Year Selections (tentatively
announced after Oshkosh and finalized at year's end) will follow
this series shortly… we're having a REALLY hard time making
a decision this year - and the reasons might surprise you.
So... here are our picks for the Best and Worst of this year's
Oshkosh... and why we think so:
No Award At This Time. We've seen some
excellent products come out recently, but we do not have enough
direct experience to render a "Best" verdict as yet. We WILL follow
up on this, though, as there is some REALLY exciting stuff on the
Nominee: Seattle Avionics Voyager. REALLY
elegant engineering here... and a feature set that would choke a
rhinoceros. We're pretty excited about trying this out.
Nominee: Seattle Avionics SmartPlates. VERY cost
effective electronic chart software that has to used to be
believed. All your charts for a fraction of the costs we used to
Nominee: Razor's Software Airplan. Very affordable
and crammed with features -- this is a full-featured worldwide
flight planner for less than a C-Note. (ANN Staff)
Best Avionics - Portable
Aloft Technologies' Clarity Aloft Headset. One
of the lightest and quietest non-ANR headsets we've ever tried, we
were amazed at how well this thing works in VERY noisy environments
and how quickly you forget it's there. The folks who market this
equipment are also proving themselves to be a class act. Very
impressive product. We have one on demo that I think we're going to
have to buy instead of returning it.
Best Accessory - Electronic
Garmin GPSMAP 396. We've only had a little time
to work with this product but our own experience and the early
owner reports are very positive. This was one of the hottest
products seen at Oshkosh in years.
Runner(s)-Up: TruTrak ADI. A highly regarded
avionics supplier to the experimental community, this company has
utilized unique and inspired technologies to build truly
superlative avionics systems... and earned a solid customer support
rep, as well.
Runner(s)-Up: Crossbow AHRS. Building solid-state
avionics reference systems for the sport and GA community, Crossbow
is earning an excellent rep for dependability and
cost-effectiveness... and this for technologies that were the
domain of the military only a few years ago... for many , many tens
of thousands of dollars more than we can buy them for, today. A
new, more cost-effective AHRS for the sport community has just been
intro'd and we appreciate their willingness to serve this part of
the aviation market. (ANN Staff)
Best Accessory - Safety
BRS, BRS, BRS: One of the few things that never
changes from year to year, although the company is working on newer
and better versions. A ballistic chute just flat saves lives. And
yes, they are working on chutes that can deploy at even higher
speeds and take heavier weights, and may one day offer chutes for
the Very Light Jet (VLJ) market.
Runner(s)-Up: AmSafe's airbag safety belts. Now
standard on Cirrus, and widely retrofittable. There have been any
number of people who survived the initial impact, but were too
disoriented by banging heads with the instrument panel to egress
the aircraft prior to postcrash fire. Those first seconds are
critical -- these belts help crash victims keep their wits in a
crash, and increases their likelihood of survival. (Kevin O'Brien,
Best Accessory - Powerplant
Kit Engine programs. With a number of engine
manufacturers, such as Superior and Lycoming, offering kit
engines now, we see a solid idea becoming a valuable proposition
for today's SportPlane builder/flyer. Kit engines are built under
expert supervision, offering a reasonably safe way for flyers to
not only get the engine they need for their SportPlanes, but to
learn SO MUCH MORE about them, in the process. This additional
knowledge can only increase a pilot's understanding (and
eventually), the safety of their flying. We strongly recommend
Best Event/Exhibit Of Show
No contest, this year's AirVenture was like a full
season of "The Burt Rutan and His Amazing Superfriends Variety
Hour." It's still a top-rated show, and audiences can't
wait to see what the cast has in store for season three.
Most Anticipated But Not Yet Ready For Primetime
The AES/V Aircraft Engine V220 and V300T V-6 Aero
Engines. Just a little flight time and a lot of discourse
with the company building this new generation of piston engines
convinces us that they're on the right track... but we sure wish
they'd get this motor on the market.. we need its efficiency,
technology and performance... NOW.
The Most Educational Booth/Display
Continental/Lycoming: Both major engine
manufacturers had engine assembly/disassembly classes on-site at
Oshkosh. These were whole day classes that touched (literally) upon
all parts of a horizontally opposed piston engine. While we (and
probably many others who hung around the disassembled engines) did
not spend the whole day at the class, nor plan to ever rebuild our
own engine, the chance to see the insides of an engine, and see
things such as cam lifters or thrust bearings exposed seemed to
intrigue many. Kudos to the manufacturers for this idea! (Nadav
Best Promotional Literature
Aeroshell's hysterical "Hayviator" poster
spoof. Each year at Oshkosh, these folks pull off a cow
spoof of some sort and clearly have a ball doing so... and we all
get a grin out of it. Good for them.
Columbia Aircraft. Their massive transporter
not only sported all kinds of interesting things to gander at, but
there is now an upstairs observation area that makes for a GREAT
place from which to catch the airshow. VERY cool.
Best New ANN Feature
ANN Aero-Casting/Podcasting… Sure, it
cost all the ANN correspondents lots of reporting time recording
sound at the Theater in the Woods, the forums and doing interviews,
but it brought our readers right to Oshkosh, giving a more direct
feel for what it is like to be here in person. More important,
we've heard from thousands of you in the last few weeks and it's
obvious that ANN "Aero-Casting" is a big hit. You're going to see a
LOT more of it... soon.
Pete Combs (again): Pete led the way into the
terra incognita of podcasting. If you heard the podcasts, you know
why we say Pete is not on TV cause he has a radio face. (If you
didn't, what's keeping you?). I ought to mention that Pete wasn't
even in Oshkosh for the whole show because his morning drive-time
radio show in Charlotte, NC couldn't spare him. So he organized and
ran the Aero-News newsgathering operation by remote control for the
first few days. You're still reading us, so he must have done
something right. (Kevin O'Brien and UNANIMOUS Staff Vote)
ANN's Rookie Of The Year
Rob Finfrock: Never has a decision been easier.
Rob Finfrock just-flat-rocked. After learning his "day gig" was
selling building materials, I named him Sheet-Rock Finfrock. It
should have been Solid Rock Finfrock because that guy was
everywhere with an indefatigable energy that I wish I had... heck,
that I wish I HAD had when I was his age. You'll be seeing more of
Rob. (Kevin O'Brien and a UNANIMOUS Staff Vote)
Outstanding Personality (Commercial)
XPrize Boss Peter Diamandis: The guy who
dreamed up the XPrize challenge that brought Mike Melvill and Brian
Binnie past the edge of space, and recently made it possible for
regular folks to enjoy Zero-G hijinks is hardly done. His upcoming
XPrize Cup and some other events (that we are sworn to secrecy
about... for now) will continue to delight dreamers the world over
and expand our horizons well beyond earth's gravity well.
Strong Runner(s)-Up: Barry Tempest. As Marion
Blakey opened up the floor at the Ask the Administrator event, a
compact man with a white beard and a British accent set on her like
a pack of hounds. It was an unequal sparring match, to say the
least. That was our introduction to Barry Tempest, whose history
includes heading the GA end of the British CAA (their equivalent of
US FAA), and decades of aerobatic competition, and evidently
conceals a talent for stirring up mischief.
Strong Runner(s)-Up: Trade-A-Plane's Carolyn
Flick. One of the first things we have to accomplish,
at these shows, is to stop by the Trade-A-Plane booth to collect
our daily (or more) hug from Carolyn Flick. This classy lady is
easily one of the most pleasant faces we see all year and a true
aviation entrepreneur. Mind you, the rest of the gang at T-A-P is
really cool... but no ones gives hugs like Carolyn. A class act.
(Jim Campbell, Kevin O'Brien, ANN Staff)
Outstanding Personality(s) (General)
Mike Melvill. He is just about the most decent
guy in aviation. Er, make that space travel. Mike will continue to
work in developmental test flight on future Scaled air and space
Runner(s)-Up: EAA's Dick Knapinski. This guy
juggles an amazing plethora of activities and concerns as one of
the most pivotal members of Poberezny's senior staff and brings
with him a sense of professionalism and the ability to get things
done that leaves him nearly without peer in this industry. He's
also the guy who turned us on to Leinenkuegel... for which the
Wisconsin economy should be eternally grateful.
Runner(s)-Up: Jamail Larkins. Once a 'young' Young
Eagle, this fellow has grown into an erudite accomplished spokesman
for the joys and value of aviation. We're proud to call him a
friend, and even more proud of the way that he presents aviation to
the general public. Jamail is also a class act.
True Gentlemen of AirVenture
Mike Melvill and Scott Crossfield at the Theater in the
Woods: Informative and entertaining. Melvill’s
entrance crawling across the floor to set up his computer before he
was introduced as that night's featured speaker was hilarious.
Greatest Improvement Over Previous Oshkosh's
The schedule. Monday->Sunday just flat
works. Especially when the EAA can bring in a really big
draw on the first day -- this year it was SpaceShip One. I wouldn't
want to be Tom Poberezny, sitting on his motorcycle and trying to
figure out how to top this next year, but you know that's exactly
what he's doing and thinking. With the last day being Sunday, the
departure of most of the camping planes and many of the show planes
is less big a deal, because locals in their thousands come in to
see the show. (If EAA wants to get even more people out on Sunday
in coming years, they ought to print a discount coupon in the
Northwestern [the Oshkosh paper], or circulate it through local
merchants, about two weeks in advance. You could give them big
bucks off admission and make it up on the concessions).
Dead Grass/Eroded Concrete Award
Eclipse 500. OK... no grass could grow under
these birds (being on a concrete ramp) but at the same time, there
was always a line in front of either prototype and even the
interior mockup. The "littlest bizjet" has caught the public's
attention in a big way... and it's not hard to figure out why. It's
a beautiful bird.
Runner(s)-Up: Diamond DA42. Like last year, the
presence of the first new light twin in ages captured a great deal
of interest and killed some serious plant life.
Runner(s)-Up: Powersport had not one, but two,
RV-8s showing off their high-tech Mazda rotary (Wankel)
engine conversions. The thing is, these planes were showplane
finished and painted in warbird colors.
Runner(s)-Up: Jeff Ackland's Radial Rocket. It was
at Osh last year, but this year had a gorgeous paint scheme that
accentuated it's nouveau retro appeal.
The Steel Cojones Award
Oshkosh Controllers. Mind you, they've always
done a super job but after spending an hour navigating the arrival
pattern in a 500HP turboprop, sandwiched in between RVs, Pacers,
Twin Cessna, and Mooneys; their unparalleled competency was made
even more apparent. These guys (and gals) are more than good, they
The 'Lazarus' Award
Symphony Aircraft. They not only have come back
from the dead, but they've come back strong. Their
newest additions include BRS chutes, Avidyne flat panels and
no-nonsense management. We think they're back to stay.
Runner(s)-Up: Mooney Aircraft. Still doing well
after being counted out, Mooney also looks like their regeneration
will have staying power.
To Be Continued...