A week at Oshkosh AirVenture.
“The world’s largest combined fly-in, air show, and aviation exhibition”
by: Martin Arant – Avsim Sim Technologies
Reproduced with the kind permission of Martin Arant and AVSIM.
Oshkosh is the flagship event of the EAA (Experimental Aircraft Association) and is held in Oshkosh, Wisconsin each summer because… well, Oshkosh’s Wittman field happens to be the home of the EAA.
I had never been to Oshkosh and as a confirmed Sun n’ Fun addict, I had long ago decided I would rather spend my discretionary flying dollars in sunny Florida each year than in Wisconsin. But when I had the opportunity to go to Oshkosh in my position as marketing consultant to Laminar Research (The X-Plane folks) I jumped at the opportunity.
The attendance numbers for Oshkosh 2012 are not yet published but if they meet or exceed last year’s numbers then they are staggering to contemplate. In 2011 over one-half million people attended the event. There were over 10,000 aircraft that flew in last year. When you consider there are only about 200,000 private general aviation aircraft registered in the United States, this means almost 5% of the airplanes in the USA were at Oshkosh.
Driving up to the event from the hot and muggy Alabama climate, I was looking forward to perfect 80 degree days (Oshkosh July average high 82F) and cool Wisconsin evenings. On Monday July 24th (the first day of the event) the thermometer reached 101F in the shade and it was much hotter in the metal hangers housing the exhibits.
Thankfully it was all downhill from that point… as the temperature dropped into the 70s and 80s for the remainder of the event. On Thursday a powerful line of thunderstorms blew through the site, damaging one aircraft but further cooling everything off.
Oshkosh is so huge it would be impossible to report on the event as a whole. There were hundreds of static aircraft exhibits, exhibitor booths for almost every company in aviation, and dozens of events, forums, and presentations. In addition, Oshkosh hosts some of the best aerial performances to be seen anywhere on the planet. So this report will concentrate on the subject most Avsim readers are most interested in… Flight Simulation !
First and foremost Oshkosh is primarily a pilot event and not a simulation or computer event. So most of the simulation companies represented were only showing simulation products for pilot training and proficiency as opposed to entertainment simulation products.
The two notable exceptions were X-Plane 10 by Laminar Research and aeroflyFS by Ikarus. Laminar had a mix of both professional pilots interested in the FAA certified X-Plane commercial product, as well as the enthusiast (and some pilots) interested in using X-Plane in an entertainment or mixed mode environment. The aeroflyFS product also attracted a good crowd of interested attendees. The following is a summary of the simulation companies and products presented at Oshkosh’s AirVenture:
aeroFS by Ikarus software:
This is a relative newcomer to the flight simulation entertainment market. Ikarus got its start with RC (radio controlled) software and with the introduction of aeroFS has now graduated to desktop flight simulation.
The aeroFS package has a good selection of aircraft, from gliders to fighters, and is available in both PC and Mac versions. The scenery is limited to Switzerland but the scenery is the main draw of the program. It is simply stunning and threading their F-18 Hornet through the Swiss Alps at treetop level is an experience that creates a sense of speed lacking in even many combat simulation products.
If “seat of your pants” flying is high on your agenda… then you won’t be disappointed with this product.
X-Plane 10 by Laminar Research:
The folks at Laminar occupied two full booths at AirVenture and had 15 employees and volunteers working the event. In addition, X-Plane was in use at other vendor booths, including Fly to Learn, a company dedicated to bring S.T.E.M. Education (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) to students worldwide.
X-Plane was also powering the FAA certified simulators at Precision Flight Controls, a leading manufacturer of flight simulators and associated hardware.
In addition to the half dozen systems in the booth running the new X-Plane 10 and available to the public, a new video highlighting the spectacular new lighting and other improvements in the new version was being shown on an overhead monitor.
X-Plane 10 has already been through several updates and the DVD product will install on both PC, Mac, and Linux systems.
Austin Meyer, founder and creator of X-Plane, flew his new turbine-powered Lancair Evolution to Oshkosh on a shakedown flight with several factory specialists. It must be nice cruising above the weather at flight level 280 at over 300 knots. What a way to travel to Oshkosh!
Elite Simulation Solutions:
Whenever I’ve attended an aviation exhibition over the years I’ve always been guaranteed to see my old friend John Dixon of Elite Simulation working with his team at the Elite booth. This company has been at the forefront of affordable flight simulation training packages for years and always has a presence wherever pilots gather. AirVenture at Oshkosh was no exception. Their booth showcased their Elite simulation software, as well as the numerous hardware stacks and modules sold by the company.
I’ve used their MEL twin throttle quadrant for years in both Microsoft and X-Plane simulators and it’s got to be the highest quality and most realistic feeling throttle unit available.
Redbird Flight Simulations:
If you’ve been around flight simulation for as long as I have (and that’s over 30 years) you probably remember when a motion-based simulator meant a multi-million dollar machine that took an entire bay in a building and a room full of computers to run it. Redbird Flight Simulations has reduced this all to a compact electric-motor motion platform in their MCX Simulator with wrap-around visuals at a price even a small training facility or FBO can afford.
The motion effects were simply outstanding, considering this is a portable and compact unit. Combined with the wrap-around visuals, I was quickly lost in the illusion that I was really making a crosswind landing under quite gusty conditions at Wittman field in Oshkosh.
Precision Flight Controls:
This Sacramento based company is the most prominent and well-known manufacturer of professional level yokes, rudder pedals, and simulation avionics for both the training and serious flight simulation enthusiast markets. In addition, PFC manufacturers a full line of FAA certified desktop and enclosed simulators.
At Airventure PFC premiered their new CRX-MAX cockpit system with pro-motion. But with a 225 degree 3-screen field of view, who even needs motion? With the combination of the “heavy iron” feel of PFC’s high-end hardware, coupled with the X-Plane commercial software, it doesn’t get any more real than this.
In addition to a fantastic aviation event, Oshkosh itself is worthy of a visit. The city, with a metropolitan population of 150,000, is on the shore of Lake Winnabago at the mouth of the Fox River. In addition to some historic sites and beautiful neighborhoods, it has a great variety of watering holes and a diverse mix of restaurants. If you’re ever in Oshkosh and have a hankering for a good pizza, try Cranky Pat’s downtown. You won’t be disappointed with the pizza or the selection of beers.
Finally… the people of Oshkosh are typical friendly midwestern folks. They seems to genuinely appreciated AirVenture holding the event in their city and go out of their way to make visitors feel at home. If you get the chance to visit Oshkosh and AirVenture do so by all means. It’s guaranteed to be an unforgettable experience.