General aviation heats up at Oshkosh

The Experimental Aircraft Assn.’s (EAA) 2015 AirVenture Oshkosh drew an estimated 550,000 visitors, 2% more than in 2014, and recorded more than 10,000 show-related aircraft arrivals and hosted 2,668 official showplanes and 800 exhibitors.

The Experimental Aircraft Assn.’s (EAA) 2015 AirVenture Oshkosh drew an estimated 550,000 visitors, 2% more than in 2014, and recorded more than 10,000 show-related aircraft arrivals and hosted 2,668 official showplanes and 800 exhibitors. Held July 20-26 at Wittman Field in Oshkosh, WI, US, the show proved, as always, an important world stage for aviation in general. The 63rd annual “fly-in” marked the first civilian US air show appearance of Lockheed Martin’s fifth- generation F-35 Lightning II fighter. It joined an historic B-52 Stratofortress and an F-22 Raptor (top photo) in the air shows throughout the week. Also on the tarmac July 20 was an Airbus A350 XWB flight-test model that was open to visitors while on display and participated in the air show.

At Oshkosh, significant signs of compos- ites life were on display in the post-2008- 2012 recession general aviation market. ICON Aircraft (Los Angeles, CA, US) gave a press conference to announce the first customer delivery of its A5 amphibious light sport aircraft (LSA, see bottom photo) made from carbon fiber composites and celebrated the occasion by reducing the deposit for an aircraft from $5,000 to $2,000 until July 26. TenCate Advanced Composites USA (Morgan Hill, Calif., US) is a key supplier of advanced composites to the A5 program, and ICON is currently ramping up A5 production at its new facility in Vacaville, CA, US. The customer was EAA’s Young Eagles program, which introduces young people (8-17) to general aviation through volunteer pilot flights. EAA board chair and former Cessna Aircraft CEO Jack Pelton said,

“After flying the A5 myself and seeing it perform first hand, I can say unequivocally that it’s incredibly easy to fly, safe, forgiving, and ridiculously fun. Not only is it the perfect aircraft to introduce young aviators to the thrill of flying, but I’m getting one myself.”

On hand at the Innovation Center was the amphibious AKOYA aircraft from Lisa Airplanes (Le Bourget du Lac, France). The company emphasized its innovative design elements, which includes “seafoils” (hydrofoils) for better aerodynamics, with improved fuel efficiency. The Lisa AKOYA is made with carbon prepregs supplied by Cytec Industries Industrial Materials (Heanor, Derbyshire, UK).

At a press event, Mooney International (Kerrville, TX, US) discussed progress on its two new composite aircraft, the M10J and M10T. Developed using state-of-the-art 3D visu- alization, computational fluid dynamics and finite element analysis software, both planes have carbon composite airframes, and are equipped with diesel engines, but the M10J offers higher performance and retractable landing gear, says the company. Assembly of the proof-of- concept M10 is in progress at the company’s Chino, CA, US plant, with first flight slated for later this year and FAA certification set for 2017. Chief techni- cal officer Neal Pfeiffer and program management officer Shanling Yang recently completed wind tunnel test- ing at Wichita State University (KS, US) to verify aerodynamic and stabil- ity performance and address improve- ments that could be made, leading to certification. Mooney, founded in 1929 and known for fast (metallic) designs, is now owned by Chinese investors, and the new composite models will eventually be made in China, says company CEO Dr. Jerry Chen, to serve Asian markets.

Given EAA’s role as a resource for homebuilders of aircraft, the show offered 1,048 forums and workshops, which attracted more than 75,000 attendees. Among the highlights was infusion expert Russ Emanis (Innegra Technologies LLC, Greenville, SC, US), who demonstrated how to layup and infuse a complete full-scale aircraft fuselage in one shot. The hands- on/audience participation session attracted great interest, and several composite materials suppliers were on hand, including Oxeon (Boras, Sweden) with its TeXtreme spread tow carbon reinforcements.

A forum with a most unusual title, “From Highway to Runway: Automotive Carbon Fiber in our Airplanes,” was hosted by consul- tant Sandy Munro (Munro & Assoc. (Auburn Hills, MI, US) on Friday. Munro described his team’s efforts in the disassembly and benchmarking of a BMW i3, to determine as much as possible about how the car was assembled. The group discussed the use of carbon fiber on the car, and how out-of-autoclave infusion can be, and is, used in aircraft structure. Of interest was a historical fact, that B-24 Liberator aircraft built during WWII were made significantly faster at a Ford automotive plant (one per hour!) compared to a traditional aircraft plant in San Diego, which turned out one plane in seven hours.

See the ICON A5 video: www.iconaircraft.com/theiconexperience

For more, visit the AirVenture Oshkosh 2015 channel on YouTube: www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLVvZnw5UWV 

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