Oh, what an Oshkosh! 2016 AirVenture attracts 565,000 to aviation’s Mecca

About 10,000 aircraft made the trip to Wisconsin for EAA AirVenture 2016. Warren Liebmann Photo
About 10,000 aircraft made the trip to Wisconsin for EAA AirVenture 2016. Warren Liebmann Photo
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The 2016 Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) AirVenture Oshkosh was another outstanding aviation success, thanks to the efforts of 5,500 volunteers who made the largest airshow in the world possible.

This year’s event attracted approximately 563,000 attendees and approximately 10,000 aircraft to Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh, Wis., and local area airports.

In the sky, there was plenty of red and white Canadian content in this year’s airshow, thanks to the appearance of the Canadian Forces Snowbirds air demonstration team, Coulson Aviation’s Martin Mars waterbomber and the Canadian Harvard Aircraft Association aerobatic team.

On the ground were several aircraft in the experimental, warbird, vintage and ultralight display areas, including several with Canadian ties.

Red and white airshow

The Canadian Forces Snowbirds was the first military air demonstration team to appear at Oshkosh back in 1976. It’s been 33 years since the team last appeared in the skies over the Wisconsin show.

The nine-aircraft aerobatic team received a very warm reception from the appreciative and knowledgeable aviation audience.

Snowbirds team members were also thrilled to attend, with two of the pilots electing to camp in a tent next to an RCAF CT-114 Tutor parked in the vintage aircraft section!

During the half century the Martin Mars was on the frontlines as a waterbomber in British Columbia, the aircraft was always based near the forests it was paid to protect. However, with no current contracts, Hawaii Mars was able to attend Oshkosh for the first time. The EAA has a long history of showcasing rare and unusual aircraft at its signature show, and in 2016 the massive aircraft landed at the EAA seaplane base on Lake Winnebago.

Both the EAA and vintage aircraft enthusiast Kermit Weeks helped sponsor the trans-continental flight, with the Coulson Group welcoming the exposure since Hawaii Mars and Philippines Mars are both currently for sale. Priced at about $3 million each, the aircraft generated lots of interest at the show.

This year marked the 70th anniversary of the first flight of the de Havilland Canada DHC-1 Chipmunk trainer at Toronto’s Downsview Airport on May 22, 1946. Almost a dozen aircraft from Canada and the U.S. converged at Oshkosh for a reunion.

Business focus

Beneath the surface, Oshkosh is not just a “love-in” for aviation enthusiasts, but a serious place to do business.

Tens of thousands of pilots attending the show are interested in buying, building or upgrading their aircraft. This was the core audience for more than 1,000 aviation seminars offered at Oshkosh over the seven-day show.

The “experimental” segment of the general aviation fleet has been growing at a faster pace than the certified aircraft segment, according to Jack Pelton, the EAA’s chairman and CEO.

Owner-built aircraft comprised 15.9 per cent of the active U.S. fleet in 2014, including experimental and light sport category aircraft, up from about seven per cent in 1996.

On the good news front, the United States market share of new aircraft deliveries is increasing as the U.S. economy rebounds, which is a positive development for kit and certified aircraft manufacturers exhibiting their latest models at AirVenture.

Worldwide new piston aircraft deliveries were down 6.5 per cent in 2015 compared to 2014, according to the General Aircraft Manufacturers Association, but two-thirds of sales were in North America, up from 55 per cent a year earlier.

Turboprop deliveries declined five per cent from 603 to 557 aircraft in 2015, but deliveries in North America increased by five per cent.

Jets, turboprops and piston aircraft

The HondaJet first appeared at AirVenture in 2005 as an experimental concept aircraft and returned in 2016 as a fully certified jet.

The personal jet spotlight now shifts to the single-engine Cirrus Vision Jet SF50, which is undergoing FAA certification flight testing at the OEM’s factory in Duluth, Minn. Cirrus anticipates producing 20 to 50 of the $1.93 million jets during the first year of production and between 75 and 125 annually in subsequent years.

On the first day of the airshow, Textron Aviation revealed full details of the new clean-sheet Cessna Denali single-engine turboprop, the latest development in the growing market segment.

The new $4.8 million Denali will be of conventional aluminum construction and have a 285-knot speed, 1,100-pound payload with full fuel, and a range of 1,600 nautical miles at high speed with a pilot and four passengers. Its large cabin will accommodate six people in normal configuration, and nine people in a high-density set-up. For added versatility, the aircraft will be equipped with a rear 59 inch by 53 inch cargo door.

It will feature a Garmin G3000 avionics suite and be powered by a new General Electric 1,240-horsepower FADEC-equipped turboprop driving a five-blade composite McCauley propeller. This is GE’s first major challenge to the P&WC PT6 in the single-engine market.

The Denali is a new challenger to single-engine turboprops produced or in development by Piper, Daher, Pilatus, Epic Aircraft, Evolution Aircraft and Kestrel Aircraft, including owner-built models.

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At the Piper booth, the first production $2.85 million M600 turboprop was on display following FAA certification in June 2016. The six-seat 274-knot aircraft has a Garmin G3000 cockpit, a maximum range of 1,484 miles (2,748 km) and a new clean-sheet wing design. It is powered by a PT6A-42A.

Pilatus introduced the PC-12 NG with a higher cruise speed and better takeoff and climb performance in May 2016. The upgrade features a more efficient composite five-blade Hartzell prop with scimitar shaped blades and numerous small aerodynamic improvements. The Swiss aircraft maker delivered its 1,400th PC-12 in July and the fleet recently surpassed five million flight hours.

Daher introduced the TBM 900 with an integrated keyboard controlled Garmin G1000 cockpit in 2014, and the TBM 930 with touchscreen Garmin G3000 avionics in April 2016. The 900 series features a number of safety enhancements and many aerodynamic improvements that provide the equivalent of a 50-horsepower increase in engine power and a 10 per cent increase in cruise speed. Both aircraft are powered by the 850-horsepower PT6A-66D. The TBM 900/930 is now available with a rear lavatory.

In the piston market, Canadian light aircraft manufacturers Diamond Aircraft, Zenair and Murphy Aircraft all showcased new models, the latter two in the kit aircraft category.

Diamond Aircraft has delivered six new twin-engine diesel DA62s built in Austria to U.S. customers through its London, Ont., factory since the latest Diamond model was certified in March.

The OEM has diversified its business base since the collapse of the general aviation market in 2007-2008. The Canadian factory is building new DA40s, refurbishing older DA42s still equipped with Thielert engines, building the composite structure for the Dornier Seastar twin turboprop amphibian and working on an undisclosed design and production project for Lockheed Martin.

With so much to see and do, this year’s Oshkosh was one of the best ever. But aviation aficionados are already looking to top it next year, when the show roars into town once more from July 24 to 30, 2017, with Canadian band Barenaked Ladies already booked as the headline musical act.

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