AirVenture, the yearly aviation blowout organized by the Experimental Aviation Association (EAA), offers the throngs who gather in Oshkosh, Wis., a mixed bag of delights. You've got restored classics, new technologies, and a few blue-sky flights of fancy. Here are some favorites from this year's show.
The hands-down winner in the gee-whiz category is the Akoya, a light sport airplane by French manufacturer Lisa Airplanes. With an engine mounted high atop the tail, finlike hydrofoils, and retractable gear that combines ski and wheel, the Akoya can take off and land on three types of surface: land, water, and snow.
Lockheed Model 12 Electra Junior
The air show happened to coincide with the 115th birthday of Amelia Earhart, who disappeared while flying one of the most gorgeous aircraft ever produced, the Lockheed Model 10 Electra. Peter Ramm spent five years refurbishing this spectacular Lockheed Model 12 Electra Junior, an offshoot of .
The EAA, which puts on this air show, was founded to promote homebuilt aircraft. In the realm of kit planes, Van's Aircraft reigns supreme. It has sold more than 7000 over the years. The company introduced its latest model, the RV-14, a two-seat side-by-side plane with a larger cabin designed for comfortable cross-country flying.
Piper J-3 Cub
The Cub turns 75 this year. To celebrate, an unprecedented number of the iconic yellow aircraft flew in from the around the country—though slowly, to be sure, since the little trainers can barely break the highway speed limit. From a small wooden tower erected near the Cub parking area, visitors can take in the unique spectacle of yellow wings stretching out into the distance.
X-Plane 10 Global
Inside one of the merchandise hangars, a crowd buzzed around the X-Plane booth, where Austin Meyer was displaying his latest version of his flight-simulator software. X-Plane 10 Global features landscapes rendered in amazing detail, right down to cars and trucks driving around on simulated roads. I sat in the big-screen simulator and tried to duplicate Capt. "Sully" Sullenberger's Hudson River ditching
. In my attempt, however, the plane didn't just crash but skipped, nosed into the water, turned turtle, then bobbed up and down for a while before slowly sinking.
This Austrian all-carbon-fiber gyroplane with an enclosed cockpit is called the Arrow Copter. It cruises at 103 mph on its Rotax 912 iS (a new model also introduced at the show), but can also mosey along at just 18 mph—the perfect vehicle in which to show up at your high school reunion.
Cessna Skylane NXT
One of the biggest threats to aviation, especially recreational flying, is the high price of fuel. So it was a big deal for Cessna to unveil the Skylane NXT, a diesel-powered version of its venerable . Equipped with a 227-hp French-built SMA SR305-230E engine, the NXT burns 30 to 40 percent less fuel than the gasoline version.
Vertical Power VP-400
The last thing many homebuilders think about is avionics. After all, Orville and Wilbur didn't need any fancy electronics. But Vertical Power, a company out of Albuquerque, N.M., might change that way of thinking with its new VP-400, a device that integrates into a plane's autopilot and, in a state of emergency, can locate and guide a plane to the nearest suitable airport.
Seeing a rare old aircraft you've never laid eyes on before is one of the great pleasures of Oshkosh. This year, the Rimowa luggage company of Germany showed up with a venerable , the German contemporary of the DC-3. Visitors were invited to clamber aboard the aircraft, which features a narrow aisle, a surprisingly high ceiling, and a 1–1 seating configuration—every seat both window and aisle, with no middle seats! Someone ought to look into that.
Twin-engine aircraft are a rarity in the homebuilt world, where simplicity and low cost come first. Velocity, a kit manufacturer in Sebastian, Fla., is bucking that trend with its new Velocity V-Twin, a delta wing with canards and two pusher props. Two 160-hp Lycoming engines propel the plane to a 175-knot cruising speed while burning just 12 gallons an hour. Yes, it's strange looking; but that's what we love about Oshkosh.