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Fri, Aug 27, 2004

Best of Show! The Very Best (And Worst) of Oshkosh 2004! (Part Four)

The Very Best (And Worst) of Oshkosh 2004! (Part Four)

Compiled By The Staff and Readership of the Aero-News Network

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 report.

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:

"Ya Gotta Be Kidding" Award

NO V-22 At Oshkosh… The USMC and USAF expect us to support the $80 million-a-pop (and "pop" is just one of the many sounds you don't want it to make) Osprey, and they don't even bring the sucker to Oshkosh. (Kevin O'Brien)

Exercises In Futility 2004

Liberty Aircraft. With a much-delayed TC now in hand, it appears that Liberty has hit the wall in earning its production certificate. With a promising airplane, but increasingly erratic management, this could have been one of the industry's slam-dunk success stories… but the BS emanating from the front office is killing the credibility of the company and casting aspersions on what would have otherwise been a great aircraft.

  • Runner(s)-Up: Europa Aircraft. The know-nothing, say-nothing position this company took at Oshkosh (after reports of their European 'bankruptcy') was both counter-productive as well as worrisome. There were people all over the country calling ANN to see what was up because they couldn't get a straight answer from the company that built their airplanes. For shame!
  • Runner(s)-Up: Wes Oleszewski's futile attempt to launch his new Klyde Morris book at the show (EAA's loss is going to be AOPA's gain). I swear the self-important lady that apportions space in the NON-crowded exhibit buildings and those who run Author's Corner, had their minions hang up a "Wes-Many-Letters" wanted poster just like the ones Sun-n-Fun has of Jim.

ALL The Right Moves

EAA's Dick Knapinski. We can't say enough good things about this guy. Despite the fact that EAA has often had to bear the brunt of our editorial scrutiny and not always done well, Knapinski has always been a positive, thoughtful and wholly honest spokesman for EAA. I don't know of any EAA staffer who has done more for the organization and been so universally easy to deal with. Dick is a classy guy and if you'll forgive the fact that he's the guy who introduced ANN's Jim Campbell to the charms of Leinenkuegel (and single-handedly improved the economic fortunes of Wisconsin), he's a pretty cool guy.

"Best Actor" Award

Harrison Ford. This guy did a great job of playing the part of a man who was deeply in love with aviation and of seeing the kinds of the world get a chance to see it first-hand. OK… so it wasn't an act… but it sure was a great performance to witness. Welcome to the fold, Harrison!

  • Runner(s)-Up: Sun 'n Fun's John Burton... who made a big show of smiling and saying hello to ANN's Jim Campbell (at Oshkosh) while people were watching... but is a big part of the SnF crew who has been trying to squelch his editorial work and has been bad-mouthing him far and wide. A pretty sleezy act, in our opinion.
Worst Idea At Oshkosh 2004

FAA blindsiding everyone on the Sport Pilot medical (true, this was the week before Oshkosh).

  • Runner(s)-Up: FAA Again. For promising they were ready to correct their blundering on the LOA/LOOA issue (without ever really admitting they blundered), they managed to screw it up more. "T-37? How could we have given you an LOA for a T-37? There's no such thing!" an FAA "expert" told one frustrated jet warbird pilot.
  • Runner(s)-Up: FAA Administrator Marion Blakey.. who told Oshkosh-ers, "The President really wishes he was here." Can you imagine holding an airshow without airplanes? Cause you would be smack-dab in the middle of the 30nm peasants-shan't-fly-zone that follows leading politicians around. I support the President, but I don't want him anywhere near me while this TFR madness reigns. (Kevin O'Brien)
  • Runner(s)-Up: Monday. Many an ANN reader noted that the last day, Monday, is a total waste. Nearly every booth is closing up shop and gone by 1300. The show really ends on Sunday, so no one is sure why Monday is still considered an airshow day.
"Risky Business"

Mike Melvill. Mind you, we're not suggesting that they did not take every step possible to mitigate risk, but risk there is when you travel into space. Of course, Mike was ready to strap on the Air Force's funky Pulse Detonation Engine and fly it last year, and compared to that, SpaceShipOne seems like mature technology. Benign, even.

Biggest Oshkosh 2004 Blunder

Oshkosh Cooler Cops. ANN Reader Gilbert P. tells ANN that, "I flew my airplane into OSH on Saturday, July 24th and camped under the wing in the Classic/Antique area. About Tuesday a security person came around and wanted to know how I got my cooler, that was under the airplane, into the grounds without a security pass. I looked at him dumbfounded and then told him it came it the same way I came in-in the airplane. He then handed me an orange cooler pass that said the cooler had to remain in the campsite and the sticker must be affixed to it. We all know this has nothing to do with security. The issue was the farm that is adjacent to the Ultra-lite area that was selling ice for $1.50 vs. $2.25 at the Hangar Cafe and bottled water for $1.00 vs. $2.00 elsewhere. I really resent EAA using security as an excuse for money grubbing. They even stopped my son from coming from Camp Scholler into the grounds with sandwiches made in his camper."

  • Runner(s)-Up: Crass Commercialism. ANN Reader Gilbert P. also tells ANN that, "I noticed that many of the traditional vendors of used aircraft parts and hardware were missing from the Fly Market. They were replaced vendors selling cheap jewelry, shoe orthotics, recliners, back massagers etc. Oh and you could also by a tractor, a cement mixer, a $1.5 Million RV (not one of Van's) or a Ford car. More and more space seems to be going to vendors other than airplane. If I want to buy a tractor I will attend a tractor show. If I want to buy a car I will visit a car show and if I want an RV Camper I will attend an RV show. I want to look at airplanes and airplane stuff when I go to an airplane show. After a quick trip through all of the commercial areas I confined myself to looking at airplanes and talking to their owners. I made it a point to buy absolutely only what I needed to eat and nothing for my airplane."
    This year I did not even buy gasoline at OSH for the airplane, I flew down to FDL and refueled. The volunteers were great, the food boring, the airshow was great and visiting with the people was great. The commercialization sucked."
  • Runner(s)-Up: Crass Commercialism Part II. ANN Reader David also tells ANN that, "I don't like the way the Fly-Market is turning into a preponderance of t-shirt and other non-aviation related booths."
Weirdest Rumor

That the two pax in the second qualifying XPrize flight will be Young Eagles or Chuck Yeager and a bottle of Jack Daniels...

Biggest Party Pooper

Who asked Mother Nature for all that rain? Not us! At least she let up enough for the afternoon airshow, but at least one ANN staffer could have done without walking around wearing an over-sized trashbag to stay dry. Of Course, even a wet day at Oshkosh beats a sunny day at work.

Bozo Of The Week

(Rant Mode "On") Yup… he's STILL at it. Ultralight Aviation's Ever-Present Clown/Part-Time Rip-Off Artist, Chuck Slusarczyk of CGS Aviation (Repeat Award). Every time we go to these events, this clown parades around this silly "Zoom Free Zone" sign trying to intimate that he is being picked on by ANN's Editor-In-Chief, Jim "Zoom" Campbell. Campbell has written extensively about the problems experienced by a number (but not all) of Slusarczyk's customers. While a number of CGS Aviation Hawk owners are rightfully happy with their aircraft (which can be a delightful little flyer), this character still pulls enough shady moves that we can not recommend him and whenever we note this, a new round of personal attacks, falsehoods and other crapola emerges.
Fact: A number of CGS customers have had unpleasant experiences with the company and Mr. Slusarczyk.
Fact: A number of people have NOT gotten what they paid for and/or been cheated by CGS.
Fact: A number of people who have complained about CGS and/or Slusarczyk have been the recipients of personal attacks and threats from same.
Fact: CGS has been successfully sued by unhappy customers and is still in the process of defending itself against same in other venues.
Fact: What "Zoom Free Zone" really means (to us and many others) is that the person who displays this nonsense is an immature fool (IMO) who won't make good for his "shortfalls" in customer service and will NOT get a positive recommendation from Jim Campbell or anybody else at ANN until he satisfies those aggrieved parties and all the personal attacks, threats, imbecilic signs, and rumor mongering by Chuck and his cyber-terrorist buddies will not change that (but it will keep us laughing our asses off at this deluded, pathetic character). This guy is more in need of a dose of reality than anyone we know… (Rant Mode "Off")

ANN's "Above and Beyond" Award

Pete Combs, ANN's Senior Editor. Pete did something that has never been done before... he organized the Oshkosh editorial process better than any previous Editor… by far. Where others lacked the necessary leadership, Pete succeeded with good humor and patient expertise… Especially with our rookies.

  • Runner(s)-Up: The Make-A-Wish program at Oshkosh. EAA's Randy Hansen clued us in just this morning about this amazing project. He tells us that US Customs agent Dave Grantham was EAA's AirVenture host for the kids, while he was the EAA coordinator for the program. From Tuesday to Friday Dave hosted EAA's first ever International Wish child, Raviv, who came all the way from Israel to spend time at AirVenture as his "wish". On Saturday Raviv was joined by 5 other wish children from Wisconsin for a full days worth of events, including flights in an Ultralight, flights in the Ford Tri-Motor w/Gen. Yeager, visits to KidVenture and the museum's KidVenture Gallery, and an afternoon watching the airshow with the performers... What a wonderful effort.

Biggest 'O' at Oshkosh

Sport Pilot's Long-Awaited/Long-Delayed Publication. Well... it's here. But... is the long-awaited (and awaited...) Sport Pilot announcement a case of "O Wow!" or "O Crap?" The jury's still out... but I have a feeling that it's going to be a little bit of both before things settle down.. though we have high hopes for the long-term.

To Be Continued...


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