Grunloh's Oshkosh '96 Report


These comments are from Daniel Grunloh posting directly from the
grounds of Oshkosh '96.  They represent the incoherent ramblings of
someone with too much sunshine on his headbone, not the viewpoint of the
EAA or the University of Illinois.  By the time you read this they
probably do not represent even my own viewpoint.  There WILL be many
errors of fact.  Do not reproduce this letter without this disclaimer!

Dear Friends,

It's Saturday (day three) of Oshkosh and my fifth day here. Sorry I haven't written sooner but, I have found that working as a volunteer AND bringing your ultralight, and flying it regularily, and going to campsite parties and drinking beer etc., until the wee hours, cuts down on my writing time. Unfortunately I also sprained my ankle badly just before I left home and that has cut down on my sightseeing here at the convention. Maybe when I get home I'll have it x-rayed. I remember my friend Gary Coppock, who brought the first plans-built Sky Pup to Oshkosh with a cast on his leg, hobbling on crutches, and flew it during the convention.

What follows is a collection of rambling notes in no special order.

I saw Mark Smith's GT-500. At first I thought it might be a grey and flourescent pink one that is also here, but then I saw Mark's. The pink one is very new and very ugly for my tastes, but you would never loose it in the tall corn after a forced landing. Mark's looks much more like a real "working" plane.

A builder in the ultraligt area showed me photos of a full size mockup of a scale 2-man all wood FOUR engine B-17 replica which will use four ROTAX 532's..!!!!! The mockup was built to test for possible CG problems and to try out their fuselage building concept. Several experienced builders really plan to do this!

Before the convention began, Tom Poberenzy gave a "pep" talk at a meeting of the ultralight volunteers. He said...., while each different area of the convention is equally important, it is the ultralight/lightplane area that has BY FAR the greatest interest and appeal, and growth. Anyone who had doubts about EAA's commitmant to this area in the past, should instead look to our actions,.... what we are doing NOW. (that is a direct quote as close as I can recall)

Here are some interesting statistics for last year, taken from EAA TODAY, the free daily newspaper published during the convention by the General Aviation News & Flyer of Tacoma, Washington. (I am skipping the amazing hamburger and toilet paper stats)

There are 5000 volunteers.
37,000 campers at Scholler campground.
4,000 tramsient aircraft campers.

.... in a profile of EAA convention visitors.....
only 61% are actually EAA members
a full 52% are pilots! <-----
28% flew to the event
16% flew in private aircraft
68% drove in cars etc.
27% of the 803,00 gate count were first timers.
(how do they know that????)
The average visitors is 46.8 years old
the average visitor stays 3.5 days.

.... and next, excerpts from a story on Charlie Hilliard from this excellent little newspaper. There have been numerous dedications to him during the airshows here.

He learned to fly at 15 years of age.
Began Skydiving at 18 and was on the U.S. Skydiving Team.
He and Steve Snyder (Paraplane inventer) were the first to pass a baton in freefall in 1958. Started airshows in '58 with Harold Krier as his mentor. In 1972 he was the first American to win the World Aerobatic Championships. He flew wit the Eagles Aerobatic Team for 25 years (the longest ever in history).
Charlie flew 180 aircraft, peformed in 3000 aerobatics shows, was involved in 50 TV shows or movies, logged 15,000 hours.

.... sorry the above is not about ultralights but you should learn to appreciate all the greats in aviation.

.... now some ultralight stuff.....

Chuck Sluzarzyk of CGS aviation has come to OSHKOSH for the first time in many years (he usually only goes to Lakeland). He brought a legal 253 lbs. Hawk Classic which is most impressive. During the Ultralight Manufacturers Showcase (where I work as a volunteer), his pilot slowed it down and did some incredible tight flat 360 degree turns. There are quite a few newer, faster, more expensive "so-called" ultralights which could never match it's manuverability in tight places.

There are two copies of the new Javelin ultralight by Reid Howell. They fly just fine but I'm sorry I don't think I like the "goofy" twist grip motorcycle type throttle control under the left side of the seat. The second one has a more proper lever type throttle.

While I'm at it, I am wondering about sosmething I first saw on the Team Airbike and also now see on the Javelin. The stainless steel rudder cables are run through teflon? plasic tubing (not sprial housing) and follow some very shallow bends on the way to the rudder control horn. In contrast the Kolb uses straight runs with pulleys (I think). I am sceptical that these new types will continue to function as they get rain and dirt in them, and also begin to wear through the tubing at the bend points. I haven't asked any of the manufacturers about my concern.

Phill Lockwood has two "Air Cams" here this year. One of them has two turbo charged Rotax 912's ($13,000 each) and it climbs at an incredible angle. Compared to our little ultralights, these engines appear so complex they would be appropriate for say the space shuttle.

There is a Slepcev Storch demonstrating it's 15 foot takeoff roll, and nearly hovering flight in a strong headwind.

For rare ultralights, there's an INVADER low wing pusher V-tail from the early 80's

A suprising number of Dactl's, but not one Easy Riser flying.

The usuall assortmant of Quicks, Kaspers, Terratorn, Minimax, Fisher, Kolb, two Sky Pups, some amphibians, a ring wing not flying, and a number of interesting one-of-a-kind types. And these are the private owner ul's. I'll try to write later about more of the commercial ultralights here this year.

My most memorable flight ever, took place this Friday, August 2nd at the EAA Oshkosh convention and is permamently etched in my mind. I am thinking that the "Red Shirts" (the volunteers who run the airshow), must be having a tough time and are probably missing the services of their long time airboss, Mr. Hilliard. It's a very tough job I'm sure, but instead of running 15-30 minutes late on the airshow, they are an hour and 15 minutes overtime. There have been numerous dedication to his memory at this convention.

The pilots in the Ultralight/LightPlane area have been briefed and ready to fly since 6:00-6:15 but it is almost 7:20 before we get the go ahead. Incredibly, as we are signalled to taxi forward for takeoff, a small grey cloud begins to produce very light rain on our end of the airport. Are we really going to takeoff in rain? Some pilots pull over and others make strange questioning hand signals to the flagman. It's a little like the Twilight Zone. There's barely enough sprinkles to settle the dust, no wind, and the little cloud hardly seems threatening, so off we go. I catch a lively wind gust right at lift off (as do a couple ultralights behind me) but it's not a problem.

As I reach our Oshkosh pattern altitude of 300 ft.AGL, a glance to the east reveals a beautiful DOUBLE RAINBOW which frames the background of Wittman Airport with it's thousands of airplanes. It's so pefect, it looks like a huge painting, except this one has engine sounds, rushing air, and tiny little raindrops on my goggles. We 30-40 ultralight and lightplane pilots watch this incredible sight for about 20 minutes as we fly around our racetrack pattern. I learn later that some claim they had seen a faint third rainbow making it a rare triple.

I cannot possible describe in mere words the feelings, sensations, and pure beauty of this sight. You have to experience it yourself. During this flight I am suddenly struck with the sensation that this rainbow is for Charlie Hilliard,... or from him!

My hobby of flying has become so much more moving and inspiring than I ever suspected was possible. It is the people in Sport Aviation, like Charlie, who have made it so. Thanks very much.
Daniel Grunloh (grunloh@uiuc.edu)

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