AirVenture 2006 - More aircraft, more ideas, more ways to fly

By Kevin Psutka

Oshkosh AirVenture is all about “more,” and this year’s event was certainly no exception.

I arrived the day before opening day in order to be in place for the anticipated unveiling of Cessna’s concept Light Sport Aircraft first thing on Monday morning. From that first event, it was non-stop announcements throughout the week from many manufacturers, all trying to outdo each other with new stuff to entice us. This article is a photo-pictorial of some of the highlights of the show.

AirVenture has its roots as a showcase for amateur building and it continues to do that but in recent years it has expanded into a more of a showcase for developments for all of general aviation. Here are a few examples of new developments that were announced:Cessna’s CEO Jack Pelton unveiled the proof of concept LSA. At 1,320 pounds, all metal, with a Rotax 912 engine, the LSA was on display to get direct feedback from customers to help refine the aircraft.

There was no name presented but the registration is N158LS - perhaps a Cessna 158? After removing the wraps from the LSA, Pelton mentioned another aircraft in the works. He said that it is so secret that no photos are available yet, but then he said if we'd like to get glimpse, we should turn around. As he said that, a Cardinal-like aircraft flashed by, backlit by the sun. We managed to get a few shots of the aircraft.

The engine sounded like Lycoming, it has a castering nose wheel, fixed gear and a front and back door. Could this be the rumoured Cirrus killer? More information is expected by early next year.

The LSA mall was packed with new aircraft. Last year at this time there were 14 aircraft approved in the Special Light Sport Aircraft category, according to Dan Johnson of the Light Aircraft Manufacturers Association. The number now stands at 38.

Diamond Aircraft unveiled its entrant for the Very Light Jet market, the Diamond D-jet. It had been officially unveiled at the Diamond plant in London, Ontario a few weeks earlier, but it flew to Oshkosh for one day to give people an up close view of the aircraft and a flight demo to illustrate how quiet it is.

Diamond also had a mockup of the interior at their booth to show off the spacious interior and cockpit that is on the leading edge of technology. Diamond also unveiled its newest variant of the DA40.

It has a shorter wing with winglets for more clearance in a standard hangar, it has more power and Garmin’s new autopilot is integrated into the G1000 glass cockpit.

Eclipse eclipsed everyone by flying the first production Eclipse 500 at the show and received a provisional type certificate from the FAA Administrator.

Eclipse also announced that it includes upset training for Eclipse owners, using a company owned L-39 jet trainer (shown behind the Eclipse 500 photo) to demonstrate unusual attitudes.

Cirrus released a turbo-charged variant of the SR22 to pull this popular aircraft even higher and faster. Cirrus continues to lead the pack in deliveries of certified aircraft.

Honda announced that it will proceed with the Honda jet and collaborate with Piper is sales and service for the new VLJ.

I had the opportunity to fly Columbia Aircraft’s top of the line certified Columbia 400. Complete with an optional G1000 panel with integral Garmin autopilot, climate control and other features aimed at convenience, comfort and safety, this aircraft is a real performer. During the short demo flight, I saw 185 knots TAS at 6,500 feet in cruise. With a nearly full load, it climbed out at over 1,000 feet per minute. Handling was surprisingly easy for a high wing loading sportster.

I found the cockpit to be spacious and my son and COPA member John Quarterman reported that the rear seats were comfortable, they had lots of room and the ride was very quiet, thanks to features such as inflatable door seals.

The attention to detail and quality of construction are obvious in the example that we flew.

Final numbers are not yet released by EAA but from my observation it appeared to be a successful show. The show was not overcrowded; there was always aircraft parking and camping space available. It was hot, but not as oppressive as some other years, and the weather for the most part cooperated, with rain at night and VFR every day.

Next year’s AirVenture dates are 23-29 July, 2007.