Microlights, ultralights, light sport aircraft, powered paragliders, these are possibly the easiest and most affordable way of getting involved in flying. This sphere of flying has become more and more advanced over the years. Here at Oshkosh, you can see that lighter side of aviation combined with some of the newest technologies that make fun flying safe, economical and attractive to more and more people. I paid a visit to the ultralight field today to see what was on offer.
The Fun-Fly Park is nestled in a little nook of the Wittman Regional Airport with a beautiful grass strip of 900 feet long. In speaking with Karen Kreuger from the EAA, she informed me that this strip and its buildings are permanent in nature. Further to this, there is a dedicated volunteer force for the ultralights of one hundred and fifty people. The strip is cut and vacuumed to ensure that there is no risk of FOD to the aircraft. Along with that after each flying session by the different aircraft a FOD walk is done by volunteers. What amazing attention to detail!
The Fun-Fly Park sees a wide variety of ultralights and even an ultralight glider that was on tow behind a pickup.
One of the drawcards of Oshkosh is the people you meet. I was very fortunate to meet the team from Bathawk USA, being Gary and Vanda. They operate the Bathawk USA factory out of Atlanta Georgia. I have flown in a Bathawk previously and I really enjoyed then and again today! It is a fantastic South African product.
I was also introduced to Steve and Karen Kreuger and Laura Middlestadt who are all involved in the ultralight field operations.
Steve and Karen Krueger & Laura and Wanda
The Fun Fly Park was abuzz with activity with aircraft taking off and landing almost every 30 seconds.
One of the many aircraft having its' anniversary at EAA AirVenture is the Quad City Challenger. The type was first flown in 1983 and has since become a favourite under ultralight enthusiasts.
The Bathawks were probably the most active aircraft in the microlight circuit in that they had two aircraft operating and doing a multitude of circuits for interested customers. I was very fortunate to be invited to fly on one of these circuits.
When people say that Oshkosh is the biggest fly-in event in the world, I always had some doubt. I never knew exactly why that is, but today was going to be the day that would put those words into perspective. It is immense!
After my flight I had a moment to walk around the Fun-Flight Park to explore the various aircraft that are on offer.
One South African manufacturer at the show is Kitplanes for Africa that operates out of Petit Airfield close to Kempton Park. These aircraft are proving to be extremely popular at the show according to Stefan. These beautifully finished machines feature the latest in powerplants from Rotax, beautiful glass cockpit panels with advanced avionics and plush interiors that remain comfortable even on longer flights. They are fully customizable with big wheels for bush landings, variable pitch propellers to achieve the best efficiency and performance. I also decided at the show and in speaking with Stefan that I need to get my tailwheel endorsement, which KFA can assist with through their training facility at the school. I will document that training as soon as all of those details have been buttoned down.
Another South African manufacturer represented at the show is Skyreach Bushcat. I had a quick chat with Michael Gill about their show thus far and he informed me that there is great interest in this beautiful tri-gear or tailwheel aircraft.
Tuesday is innovation day at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh. The show started with the Wisk Aircraft. It is an autonomous vehicle that is currently in testing. This flight was conducted remotely by a pilot stationed on the ground. It is certainly a sign that the "future" is not that far away!
Keeping with the theme of innovation, Richard Browning from Gravity brought two of his jet-pack suits to the airshow. It was very unusual seeing someone flying along without a wing or a rotor attached to them. I think it's safe to say that he enjoyed demonstrating his invention to the crowd at EAA AirVenture!
The rest of the afternoon airshow can only be described as spectacular. From high performance aerobatics to 28 Harvards in formation for the 85th anniversary of the School-Master of the skies, F18's and Corsairs also joined in the fun.
What an eventful day, please remember to check for my Day Three Update tomorrow at www.pilotspost.co.za
An all-time Classic the 1929 Travel Air at Oshkosh