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Wed, Jul 16, 2003

Rotorcraft Festival Brings Out the Best

Mentone: Be There, or Be... Normal

By ANN Reporter Kevin "Hognose" O'Brien

There is a great convention every year, where homebuilders, and those who would sell to them, gather, looking at the latest in products and the years best-built and cleverest flying technology.

Of course, I'm talking about Mentone, and the Popular Rotorcraft Association's 41st Annual Convention. This takes place at PRA Mentone Airport (C96) in Mentone, Indiana, from July 23rd to 27th this year.

The PRA is to rotorcraft -- gyroplanes and helicopters -- what the EAA is to sport aviation. It's an organization of eager enthusiasts who design, build, fly, (and dream about), their own rotary winged aircraft.

The PRA was started by the father of homebuilt rotorcraft, Dr. Igor Bensen, in 1962, and has operated continuously since then. If you're seriously interested in homebuilt rotorcraft, you will benefit from involvement with PRA. It produces an excellent magazine, Rotorcraft, for members; it also has local Chapters in 30 states, plus DC, Puerto Rico, and five foreign lands.

"Mentone" to rotorheads has a cachet similar to "Oshkosh" for the rest of you: it means a place where like-minded souls gather and enjoy the flock of homebuilts, meet the luminaries of the sport, and catch up on new and improved technology. Of course, individual rotorcrafters will be showing off their design and workmanship feats (and submitting them to judging). For those already immersed in the sport, or preparing to dive in, there's a full schedule of forums on rotorcraft construction, operation, and safety planned.

Because getting involved in rotorcraft is like joining a minority group, Mentone lacks the scale of an Oshkosh. This has pros and cons: you can meet the designers and manufacturers face-to-face; you can look at the machines close-up, and see them fly (maybe even catch a ride) without trying to wedge into a miniscule time-slot. What you don't get, is the teeming throngs of people who have no deep interest in aviation, and the benefits that these throngs bring: things like extensive consumer services, and stuff to entertain non-flying family members.

If you have your own homebuilt gyro or helicopter, you probably know about Mentone already. If you are a stiff-wing pilot, someone looking for a new adventure, or just curious, you might look into it.

There are only seven days left (at this writing) to Mentone. Be there! But if you can't be there, be here -- at Aero News -- we'll report it for you.



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