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Thu, Sep 10, 2009

Best of Show! The Very Best (And Worst) of Oshkosh 2009! (Part Four)

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

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 recently completed 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.

Over the last few years, ANN readers remarks have been heavily incorporated into ALL aspects of this report, and not just the Aircraft awards and such. Their contributions have been carefully considered and (in many cases) incorporated into our annual summation.

Our Annual Best Plane of the Year Selections (tentatively announced after Oshkosh and finalized at year's end) will await the end of the year but we will announce the nominees at this point, with the proviso that our opinions may change as the year develops.

So; here are our picks for the Best and Worst of this year's Oshkosh... and why we think so...

The Patience Of A Saint Award

Larry Neal of Butterfly LLC, whose Super Sky Cycle flying motorcycle was banished to the ultralight area because it has rotors. After inviting him to speak at the "Roadable Aircraft" forum, EAA then refused to give Larry a sticker clearing him to drive the craft to the forum, despite its status as the only fly-drive design actually on-sale to the public. Larry never lost his trademark smile, and drove it there anyway. Larry has since gone on to create a sensation at the annual biker rally in Sturgis, and in the coming year wants to document a road trip along Historic Route 66, and jump the Snake River Canyon. If he's ignored again next year at Oshkosh, it will be a relatively small disappointment in a very big year!

Best Marketing Slogan

'The Very Best Flight Deck in Aviation.' While we have no doubt that this is a title/slogan that will provoke some serious competition in short order from companies like Garmin, Aspen and Honeywell (or L3... who has a REALLY amazing flight deck right now that has yet to catch on), Avidyne's overtly boastful slogan is an honest one... we've flown everything, and right now, right here, NOTHING beats Avidyne's Release 9 for ease of use, brilliant workflows/methodology, and truly inspired system design. We really can't wait to see what tries to beat them.... but in the meantime, we're flying the hell out of our R9-equipped airplane. 

Same Ol' Same Ol' Award

Czech Aircraft Works and the Sport Cruiser. At the sparsely-attended press conference the company held, the staff was barely able to feign excitement, and the buzz that surrounded the re-launch of the aircraft was drowned out by the dust stirred up by passing cars. Its hard to believe this go-round will be any different than the last.

The 'Lazarus' Award

The Resiliency Of Today's Homebuilder. Yes, Oshkosh is no longer the province of the homebuilder, the community that allowed EAA to gain some semblance of international prominence... but for some reason, they return in droves, year after year, to celebrate their freedoms and enjoy the camaraderie of their fellow fliers. Homebuilding is not what it was and the experimental community seems to be on something of a decline, but it will not die and WILL survive, because it is the most personal form of aviation that I know of... the ability to build YOUR airplane, YOUR way, On YOUR terms, and flown whichever way YOU want to. God bless the experimental, homebuilt and sport flying community... true aviators in every sense of the word.

Things We Got To See Because of Our Press Pass

Even better... ANN's Paul Plack got his picture taken at the controls of the Carter PAV mock-up!

Best Kept Secret

EAA Kidventure. While our pilot population continues to take hits each year, its nice to see one solid way to get people enthused about aviation... by starting them early. This is one small solution to a huge problem we face... in that the face of aviation is too old, too white, too male, and getting rarer by the day... getting kids involved, boys and girls of all ethnic persuasions, is one answer to the solving of tomorrow's pilot population problems... and I'll bet that EVERYONE involved has a ball...

Grace Under Pressure

EACH of the GA manufacturers... who did their best to put a good face on a bad situation and keep people as enthused as they can be, in trying economic times, about the future of aviation... with the hope that the market will come back bigger and better once the folks in Washington quit screwing up the works.

Best Way To Trash A $1 Million (or More) Bill

Cessna Caravan. The big problem with aircraft ownership is that you immediately see what you don't have -- and want more... when you have four seats, you discover your need for two more... and when you can go 600 NM, you note that you really want to go 800 NM (or MORE!)... and so it goes. BUT... a Caravan kinda solves all that... load up ALL your earthly possessions, land anywhere you like (almost) and really make an impression EVERYWHERE you go. I mean, this is an airplane that not only gets you to the party... you can take the party with you...

Best Placed Aviation-Oriented Bumper Sticker

"My Other Plane Is A P-51" -- seen on a tent near a really un-Mustang-like ol' Cessna 140.

Highest Price Food Item

Most of them... there were SO many to choose from. Hey Mister, can you break a $100 bill? 

Best Food Deal

The $2.50 soft-serve ice cream comes at the food court near AeroShell Square. The cute young ladies staffing the counter obviously skipped class the day they taught portion control, much to the chagrin of the folks selling overpriced Dove Bars from nearby carts.

"Ya Gotta Be Kidding" Award

The continuing disappearing act of the once proud and bustling lightplane area at the South end of Wittman Field. In days gone by, this was THE place to spend a good part of your week at Oshkosh... but this year the only difference between it and a Ghost-Town is that the Ghost-Town makes more noise. There IS a true interest and need for small cost-effective ultralight and affordable aircraft... and this is the perfect place to display them... if an effort is made to bring such manufacturers and vendors back to Oshkosh.

Exercises In Futility 2009

Arguing For Fairness From The FAA. During the 'Ask The FAA Administrator' session this year, the discussion and questions were a bit muted but no less frustrating as the FAA told us as much as they wanted to, and mostly what we wanted to hear... and for good reason... they really don't have to do anything else. The current makeup of the FAA is NOT beholden to its users and customers, but to a few politicians who couldn't care less (as demonstrated by recent actions and inquiries) for the future of aviation. This needs to change... there has to be some sense of accountability on the part of the FAA to the aviation community and their direct interaction with pilots needs to be based on constitutional law... not administrative clown courts. While the FAA holds all the cards, we're never going to get a fair shake...so it appears that it's time to find legitimate means by which the FAA has to be responsible to the constituency it serves. Expect to hear more of this a mite later... as we think its time to dust off some concepts we've been promoting for years... starting with the Pilot's Bill of Rights.

ALL The Right Moves

AeroInnovate – Univ of Wisconsin and EAA working together to educate aviation entrepreneurs on how to bring their ideas to commercial fruition. Workshops included Top 10 Mistakes in Business Plans, Pitch and Mingle, and Lessons Learned; www.aeroinnovate.org

Give It A Rest For Oshkosh 2010

The Ever-Tipping Balance Between "Old-Oshkosh" and "Oshkosh--The Commercial Enterprise." Oshkosh has grown to become an international sensation... on the order of the Paris Airshow... but is it losing its soul in the process? The sweet, friendly gathering place for all lovers of aviation is more commercial than ever before, and many who used to love Oshkosh, most of all, for its sense of Aero-Community, miss that most of all. Oshkosh needs to redirect the balance between its necessary commercial interests and its true service to its core membership before the overt commercialism alienates EAA's greatest asset (its members) into abandoning it altogether.

FMI: Comments? Complaints? Additions? Let us have it!

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