WomenVenture Success

Ten-thirty a.m. August 1, in AeroShell Square at EAA's AirVenture 2008—anyone there found their way blocked by a sea of pink-shirted women that covered the concrete from the KC 135 Tanker to the Ford TriMotor to the DC-3s. An estimated 1,000 women pilots turned up to be seen and photographed in an effort to set a record as being the largest gathering of women pilots in one place at one time, ever.

"This idea, spawned by EAA consultant Patricia Luebke, has taken off," said Elissa Lines, V.P. of Development for EAA. "We hope that the sheer number of us gathered here today on AeroShell Square will inspire other women and girls to take a chance on aviation, or even just to try out flying for fun, or more."

[sc:ad180 ] So, who was there? Patty Wagstaff, Julie Clark, Debbie Rihn-Harvey, Jill Long, Jackie Warda - all air show greats, stood shoulder to shoulder with Women Airforce Service Pilots who ferried WWII aircraft and trained cadets in the 1940s, as well as engineers such as Anna Mracek Dietrich (Terrafugia) and educators, including Dr. Peggy Chabrian, President of Women in Aviation, International. Mary Grady, from AvWeb, and this reporter, despite her feelings about pink, made the trek to the square, too.

Where did they come from? All over the U.S., and abroad, too. Michelle Bassenesi, a flight instructor, flew in from Rome, Italy, where she teaches, just to be counted. Another flew her 1996 Pulsar (which she built and has flown for 1,000 hours) from Oregon, to be at this show. Two more teamed up and arrived for the first time on their own in a Cessna 172. Denise Waters, an A&P; mechanic and constant presence in the EAA KidVenture tent during the show, came to honor the spirit that drove her to build a Wheeler Express with her father.

And what did they prove? That women who fly (and several who build) do come to EAA AirVenture, and in numbers that can influence the next generation of general aviation pilots, who might just be women, too.

Still Here After 22 Years, Jerry's One Man Band

Sure, just uttering the word "Oshkosh" among a bunch of pilots brings expressions of contemplative bliss to most of their faces. I'm no different, I've made the annual pilgrimage over 20 times myself. Yeah, the aircraft and aviation products are a huge draw, but I always get a smile on my face when near a certain out of the way corner between the exhibition hangars and a long line of Porta-Potties. You just can't help but get a little spring in your step when passing by, because there's no avoiding the constant serenade from Jerry Sleger, of Jerry's One Man Band.

Part accordion virtuoso, part garage sale, and flavored with a bunch of Rube Goldberg, Sleger has been occupying his spot at AirVenture for the last 22 years. And for those of us who sometimes feel that this world is moving way too fast for us to keep up, one steadfast constant is Jerry Sleger, who tirelessly dispenses toe-tapping polkas and waltzes year after year. After year. And I'll even admit it's not just the music - I'm a sucker for the mechanical monkey and hula-girl who keep time to Sleger's offerings.

OK, Sleger has made some concessions to modern technology. Since 2002, he's been offering CDs as well as cassette tapes of his music, if you're so inclined. But for a measly fin, you can still get a cassette. A CD will set you back four bucks more. In an environment where expensive aviation goodies and expensiver airplanes abound, Sleger's music is an absolute steal (although some would argue that accordions are incapable of producing 'music' at all).

Whatever. I just bought all three CDs, and I fully intend to share them (quite liberally) with my friends while were driving the rental back to the airport in Chicago (they can thank me later). But I'm already looking forward to our next AirVenture visit next year, and not just because of all the neat airplane stuff. There's a little musical oasis here, as constant as the sun, where one can sit on a bench in the shade and experience a simpler time. And it won't cost you a dime.

A Dream Comes True at Oshkosh

I’ve been coming to the EAA convention in for almost 30 years, and it has long been my dream to wing walk. Finally, after years of wondering if the ram air being forced up my nose would cause me to suffocate, I can report that it is not a problem—at least not at the speeds I was flying.

But let’s start at the beginning. In 1979, my then boyfriend and now husband, Barnaby Wainfan, convinced a wonderful gentleman to give me a ride in a Breezy, which looks like a cross between a Mitchell Wing and a jungle gym. Despite my concern that my long blond braid would get caught in the propeller 2 feet behind me, I enjoyed the flight tremendously. There’s nothing like Wisconsin flies splatting on your goggles to give you a feel for true EAA flying.

That flight convinced me that standing on top of an airplane rather than sitting on it, with the flies coming at me even faster would be exceptionally fun. In 1993, we were building Barnaby’s design, the Facetmobile, in California at the Chino Airport (motto: more cows than Wisconsin and more BS than Oshkosh). In the hangars behind us were not one but six Stearman biplanes, many of them with wing-walking rigs. I inquired as to the possibility of finding standing room over the wing and was informed that due to liability issues, it would be very difficult for me to walk on a wing in California. Bummer.
I followed several other leads: the first was a picture in a ladies’ room of an ultralight with a wing walking rig; this was followed by several conversations with the country’s leading aerobatic pilots, some of whom said they'd seen a Stearman with a wing-walker in place make an inverted about 6 inches too low. I also had a long correspondence with a curator of the Smithsonian who sent me a wonderful article about wing-walking. None of these contacts discouraged my desire or provided a clear cut path to the top of a wing.

So here I am at Oshkosh, with about a million people, and I see my chance. I’ve developed a new approach, kind of a pick-up line if you will: “Hi. I’m a rocket scientist and I’m doing research on the aerodynamics of nasal inlets. How about giving me a lift?”

Well, it worked. I passed a very expensive camera to my 10-year-old daughter Julie and literally told her to take her best shot. The pilot, Steve Hay, showed me where to put my feet so as to not damage anything on me or the aircraft. I buckled in to an ancient leather belt attached to a rusting post—Steve reassured me that “although the belt appeared old and weathered, it had securely held many a wing-walker in its day,” and it would hold me also. Then with the engine running and smoke spewing forth we were off. I now realize that I am the center of attention and an important item in an ongoing show.

I consciously tried to release my grip on the rear support and attempt a friendly smile. Having succeeded at that attempt, I relax somewhat and remember the queenly wave I’d learned from being in three Rose Bowl parades: to avoid wrist fatigue, rotate your hand as if you’re screwing in a light bulb. This was beginning to be a fun fulfillment of a childhood dream.

So we’re off, but not yet airborne. We are taxiing and I am gripping, and screwing a light bulb, and Julie takes what I think is a particularly unflattering picture. At this point I’m having a ball, but I remember my concern about the ram air pressure up my nose. I yell down to Steve, but he can’t hear me over the noise of the engine. As we accelerate across the ramp, I figure it’s best not to worry too much; if I’m going to die, I might as well not die all clenched up.

Fortunately, we don’t get going that fast and I am reminded of my wedding day. I’d been looking forward to it for years, it was very enjoyable, and before I know it, it was over. Steve was helpful, actually grabbing my feet and guiding them down every step of the way. The flight service was better than any FBO I’ve ever visited.

Oh, I guess I should mention the type of aircraft I walked on. It’s not so much an aircraft as an ornithopter (from the Latin word meaning “acme flapping bird”). Its performance characteristics are less than stellar: top speed 5 knots, max altitude 0 feet above ground level, and I haven’t had more fun in a flying machine since I flew the DC-3. But that’s another story.

Get Them While They're Young

Walking around EAA AirVenture this year, I saw the next generation of airplane enthusiasts being brought up. There are some who are concerned that the population of the aviation faithful is increasingly getting older with fewer young people joining the fold. However, for some aviation has been part of their lives since birth. Coming to airshows like AirVenture helps start a lifetime of interest.

My parents started me young—I spent nearly every weekend of my life at an airport until I was five, while my parents were building their Experimental plane. The first time I remember coming to AirVenture with my dad was when I was nine. For a few years afterwards, when my parents left for Oshkosh they tried to get me and my younger sisters to stay with grandparents, but I had caught the bug. Eventually, my nagging must have gotten the better of them, and now the whole family gets to come every year.

Airshows have something to fascinate everyone. The sheer number of different colors and size of airplanes are exciting for the youngest children, and as they get older the fun comes from learning about the planes—what each one is called, what they can do, what makes them different. The wonderful thing about general aviation is that there is always something more you can learn. Now that I am in flight training to get my license and part of a group that is building a plane of our own, new layers of interest, understanding and questions have been revealed.

With the increasing price of fuel and the expense of flight training, there are more and more excuses to put off things like finishing up the license or project. But seeing the looks on the faces of the kids at AirVenture can remind us of the first time we caught the airplane bug and why we still have it.

Beyerdynamic Introduces HS 600 Digital ANR Headset

Beyerdynamic debuted its new HS 600 DANR (Digital Adaptive Noise Reduction) headset at AirVenture, offering a discount to the first 50 "test pilots." Using proprietary software, a microprocessor in the headset adapts to the noise level in the cockpit and reduces background noise. The digital design will allow product updates to be accomplished as needed.

Alan Feckanin, Beyerdynamic’s business unit manager for the Aviation Division, explained: “When you first turn the unit on, you don’t hear that typical ANR unit sound. It’s quiet and waiting to hear noise first.” It also comes with an audio box with an MP3/cell phone interface. The unit may be powered from the panel, using a two-wire, three-pin cable (included), or from two AA batteries, which will be good for approximately 25 hours of use.

Feckanin added that the show price of $599 was available to the first 50 test pilots to get pilot feedback on the units; they may be purchased directly from the company. After the release date, estimated for October 1, the headsets will be available for approximately $699-$749. He noted that the 11-ounce headset’s design had its genesis in the audio studio, where earcup and headband comfort was paramount for the audio engineers who wore them for many hours at a time.

The HS 600 DANR carries a five-year parts and labor warranty, and the German-manufactured units may be serviced in the U.S.

Beyerdynamic plans to offer the “Manufaktur—Build Your Own” program for the HS 600 DANR in the near future. Using the wizard on the company's web site (www.shop.beyerdynamic-usa.com), you can select the color of the ear cups, ear pads, headband and aluminum design parts. You may also have text printed onto a metal plate on the headset.

For more information, call 239/283-7880 or visit the web site.

DeltaHawk Awarded LoPresti Innovation Prize

LoPresti Aviation has announced the winner of the first annual Roy Lopresti memorial "Innovation in Aviation Award" to DeltaHawk Engines for their development and refinement of heavy-fuel piston engines over the last 12 years. The late Roy LoPresti made significant aerodynamic improvements to light aircraft during his career, including the Grumman American line of singles and twins, the Mooney 200 and 300 series, the LoPresti (Swift) Fury, and even contributed to the Lunar Lander. His life's work of developing refinements for GA aircraft continues to this day by LoPresti Aviation.

The much anticipated DeltaHawk engine line is a liquid-cooled, inverted V4 design that burns Jet A and develops between 160 and 200 horsepower. Dry weight is claimed to be 330 pounds. According to Doers, DeltaHawk engines will be undergoing the FAA certification process shortly, and will only be offered for sale to the public once the engine installation infrastructure is fully in place to insure that finished installations are properly performed.

Doers accepted the award during a press conference held at AirVenture. LoPresti Aviation COO R.J. Seigel said of DeltaHawk "This small company has worked tirelessly for 12 years to bring a great design to market. The persistance and creativity of this company is something of which Roy would have approved."