Oshkosh Archive

Sikorsky X2 coming to Oshkosh, AOPA Summit

Monday, July 18th, 2011

Soon you will read in AOPA Pilot about the Sikorsky X2 twin-rotor helicopter that was flown in excess of 250 knots true airspeed in level flight, and 263 in a one-degree descent last year. I was lucky enough to be present at the helicopter’s last flight July 14 (reaching 240 knots) northwest of West Palm Beach, Fla. It will be on display near ConocoPhillips Square (formerly AeroShell Square) at EAA AirVenture in a few days, and then on display again at AOPA Summit. What you won’t see are the software displays–the stuff that makes the magic happen. After 18 months of victory tours in its special truck, the history-making helicopter is on its way to the Udvar-Hazy Center near Dulles International Airport, Virginia. AOPA Pilot has covered the X2 since it was a mere 181-knot helicopter. It first flew in 2008. With seven more flights, the X2 might have gone 280 knots true airspeed, say those close to the project, but it’s time to put the technology to use in a military Raider attack helicopter. Also on display at Oshkosh, like last year, is Sikorsky’s battery powered helicopter, Firefly, which hasn’t flown yet. With an expected endurance of 12 minutes, it must wait for better battery technology to be practical. It should fly in August. When I saw it there was no rotor, no center console for instruments, and no batteries. (It had all those parts on for Oshkosh 2010.) I saw work on a proprietary Firefly gear of some sort in progress, even as the X2 was prepped for its last flight.

By the way, I want to mention that the X2 team benefitted greatly from the Sikorsky counter-rotating XH-59A of the late 1970s and `80s, that went 245 knots true airspeed. The X2 team simply built its “house” on the XH-59A foundation, and some of the engineers who achieved the 245-knot speed, but with severe stability problems, are still at Sikorsky today to enjoy the moment. All told, there were 70 employees involved with the X2 from time to time, but no more than 30 at one time. There were 12 key players working 6:30 a.m. to 5:30 p.m., unless they came in at 4 or 4:30 a.m. Hats off to the two XH-59A pilots who sat there, fought the stability issues second to second, and went 245 knots in spite of them. It took two pilots because there were nine levers to control.

The sound of 48 radial engines

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

Arrived in Oshkosh last night after covering the DC-3 fly-in held last weekend at Sterling, Illinois. It was a fantastic event–yes, there will be a story in a future issue of AOPA Pilot–but the most memorable aspect was watching two dozen DC-3s and C-47s fly overhead yesterday afternoon on their way to Oshkosh.

Did you happen to hear that music as they arrived at AirVenture, or perhaps as they passed overhead somewhere along the way?

It was a concert that I would love to hear again, but nothing like that is on the schedule–and such a gathering may never take place again. If you missed it, there’s a slide show on AOPA Online.

Three cheers for the volunteers

Saturday, August 1st, 2009

Let’s hear it for the volunteers at EAA AirVenture. These folks are tireless and they are everywhere. Friday’s group was tasked with basically changing around the layout of AeroShell Square, and if you’ve ever been to AirVenture you know that’s not accomplished with a couple of tugs and towbars. Here’s what they accomplished on Friday afternoon all within a two-hour time frame:

  • Moved WhiteKnight2 out so that it could fly in the pattern (to the extreme delight of onlookers);
  • Got out the Airbus A380 so that it could depart.
  • Brought in a C-5, a C-17, and a C-130.
  • Brought back in WhiteKnight2.
  • And kept the huge crowds safely out of the way, but still close enough to enjoy the spectacle.

An ode to Ardy and Ed’s, kinda

Friday, July 31st, 2009

I blog today in praise of the ice cream and hamburger joint in Oshkosh known as Ardy and Ed’s. It is to the body’s circulatory system what concrete is to the builder, yet it is an essential risk. A root beer float shoveled between the lips near Lake Winnebago is the same as cabernet savignon sipped in Napa Valley. I take pills to fight what Ardy and Ed serve, and yet I return again and again. Drivers passing by get high cholesterol just from breathing the air, even when speeding. Fry my burger in a river of grease, Ardy. Pour me a bucket of root beer, Ed. Roto-Rooter will clear my veins.

CLICK PHOTO TO ENLARGE (Photo by Alton K. Marsh)

Why we go to Oshkosh

Friday, August 1st, 2008

Why do you go to events such as AirVenture in Oshkosh? Is it to stand in a long line just to walk through an Airbus, like these people are doing?

Nothing against Jet Blue, but I go to airshows to catch up on industry news, talk with other pilots, and see cool airplanes. Boeing and Airbus airliners can be cool in their own right, especially when you’re the person flying the airplane (or flying the simulator). But one of the reasons that I fly general aviation airplanes is to avoid lines like this.

Maybe these folks were just seeking a few minutes in the air conditioning, and a respite from the heat of the ramp….

De-hyping of the Jetpack

Thursday, July 31st, 2008

The Martin Jetpack has been hyped by one and all, including me. Now it’s time to go the other way.

First, as fellow Senior Editor Dave Hirschman notes, it can’t fly as high as Michael Jordan can jump. I wanted more altitude today during the demonstration at EAA AirVenture. Second, it seems a bit wobbly, difficult to control. It came to airshow center with two people assigned to hover by its side during the flight, grabbing training handles on either side to steady it should that be necessary. So if you buy a Martin Jetpack (really it’s a ducted fan), my question is this: Do you have to hire two people to follow you as you scoot just above the ground? Would I pay $100,000 for one? A better investment is to get in shape like Michael Jordan, and learn to jump. Or as Dave Hirschman says, “Buy a trampoline.”

Aw, how cute

Wednesday, July 30th, 2008

I didn’t appreciate how cute stuff like this was until I became a father.

150 marks UND’s 40th anniversary

Wednesday, July 30th, 2008

Surrounded by much newer–and, except for the Cessna 162 Skycatcher, much larger–airplanes in the Cessna Aircraft exhibit at Oshkosh is a meticulously restored Cessna 150. Even the interior plastic looks brand-new, and the glareshield proudly sports the as-delivered pilot’s rear-view mirror (remember those?).

In September 1968, N50405, a Cessna 150H, was one of the first two airplanes delivered to the University of North Dakota. UND was just launching its aviation program, which marks its 40th anniversary this year. UND sold the airplane in 1973, and the UND Aerospace Foundation purchased the airplane in April 2007. The two-place Cessna had spent the intervening 34 years only 150 miles away from UND’s Grand Forks campus. The 150 was refurbished over a 12-month period.

Today UND Aerospace operates a fleet of more than 120 aircraft, including a Cessna Citation Mustang. The restored 150 won’t be used for primary training, however; a UND representative said the airplane might be used to provide spin training for CFI candidates, and the university’s flight team would no doubt love to use the airplane for precision landing competitions.

The Fly Market

Wednesday, July 30th, 2008

One rather unique Oshkosh feature is the Fly Market. It’s row after row of unique, largely independent exhibitors. Think part flea market (get it?), part county fair, part warehouse of parts. Because the exhibit rates are cheaper in this area, the goods are usually cheaper as well. But it’s also where you usually find the U.S. Air Force, thanks to the discounted rates. Some of my colorful favorites from this year include gold chain by the inch, numerous hammock exhibitors, and all the unique and crazy windsocks. It’s a fun place to get lost for awhile.

Engines make funny sounds over open water

Wednesday, July 30th, 2008

It’s amazing what a little water crossing like, say, Lake Michigan will do to heighten
your sense of awareness to engine performance.

You did check the oil right? Actually, twice. Is that the right fuel pressure reading? Yep, it’s normal. Is it just me or did the engine suddenly change pitch? Nope, it’s just you. AOPA Pilot Senior Editor Dave Hirschman and I made the pilgrimage to Oshkosh in AOPA’s company Piper Archer (not to be confused with the sweepstakes one) on Tuesday.

The questions I was asking myself and my own answers to them were bouncing around in my head as we made the crossing. We were heading for Fond Du Lac, Wisconsin, and over the radio we heard a P-51 Mustang requesting an overhead pass into the airport.

Although I’ve made water crossings before, my mind shifted back to World War II. Both of my grandfathers worked as engineers, building fighter planes. Another relative of mine was lost in a storm in a P-51 during a raid over Iwo Jima. Anyway, one of my grandfathers told me once how they gold plated engine parts in the P-47 in case pilots ran out of oil. It would give them a little extra burn time.

What’s astounding to me is how pilots flew tremendous distances over open ocean water to find enemy ships. Then they attacked. It’s also hard to imagine dog fighting without land in sight. As it turned out, though, the Archer did just fine and the only enemies we saw were phantoms.