Welcome to Newsletter 22 in this issue we have……..
- Phil’s Oshkosh Report
- Update – Round the world aviator Matevz Lenarcic
Oshkosh 2004 – Report by ‘Phil from Canberra’
Oshkosh 2004 was a little disappointing this year with attendance figures well below those of previous years. We still however managed to meet many new customers and we’re now looking forward to delivering a number of new aircraft to the US market over coming months. We now have five aircraft in the US with more to follow shortly.
This year’s adventure started out with numerous challenges hitting us even before we left Australia. The two demonstration aircraft for the show were in transit but problems with the ship in which they were traveling saw the container being offloaded in Istanbul, Turkey. A revised date of delivery meant that they would not arrive before the end of Airventure 2004 so we had to make alternate arrangements to obtain an aircraft for the show. Glen Bingham, from St. George in Utah kindly agreed to provide his aircraft for display but this meant a drastic change in our plans as we organized to fly the aircraft almost two-thirds of the way across the country to Oshkosh. Of course, Phil jumped at the opportunity to fly the plane and following is his story of the journey….
My Adventure – Saint George Utah to Oshkosh
Arranging flights for overseas airshows with Michael is a daunting task at the best of times. There always seems to be something that crops up to undermine even the most thorough of plans and this year’s trip to Oshkosh was no exception. After planning my flights from Canberra to Sydney, Los Angeles and then on to Chicago and return, I thought that this year we had plenty of lead time and had actually managed to avoid the exorbitant fees when booking late or making changes. Unfortunately, we didn’t foresee the offloading of our demonstration aircraft in Turkey and so we had to rearrange our flights and pay the appropriate additional fees. So much for getting cheap airfares….
Of course, I could not turn down the opportunity to fly Glen Bingham’s Sinus across the expanse of the US so I accepted the additional expenses and started planning the long journey across a foreign nation.
Michael had enlightened me on the uniqueness of the airstrip at St George, as he explained in his newsletter back in May (Newsletter No.16), but I figured that he was exaggerating a bit. When I arrived at St George on the commercial flight from LA, I was astounded to find that everything that Michael had said was accurate!
The airstrip is located on a rocky mesa jutting up around 500 feet from the valley floor below. The approach path saw us skim the top of an adjacent mountain by a mere 50 feet as we descended to the threshold. As we crossed the mountain, then the deep valley, and finally across the threshold, we experienced moderate turbulence and I was glad that I would be departing in the early morning hours before the winds and turbulence were as prominent.
This photo does not do the St George airstrip justice – the road seen along the edge of the hangars is only meters away from the edge of a 500′ drop.
The lighter patch of ground in lower part of this photo is the top of the hill on which the airport is situated – the township of Saint George is a long way below.
I met Glen at the airport and we began discussing the plan for my departure the following morning. I have to thank Glen for all of the effort that he went to plan my routes around weather and through the mountainous Rocky regions. His local knowledge and prior planning was to prove invaluable for my trip across this foreign land. I had also asked Michael to bring along a GPS to aid in my navigation but alas, in his frantic pre-show panic, he had forgotten to pack it. Glen helped me track down a cheap Garmin 196 which would also prove its worth in the conditions ahead.
The weather reports had indicated an area of bad weather and storms from Denver, south to Salt Lake City and north-east to Lincoln, Nebraska. My first stop was to be Lincoln, to visit our dealer Larry Geiger, but with the impending weather I thought that I might have to divert further north. Initially, Glen had me planned to travel along the edge of the Grand Canyon and over a lower part of the Rocky Mountains but, with the bad weather reports, we had to amend the route to go further north and through some lower areas to pop out around Denver, Colorado.
I took off and initially traveled east for a while, gaining a nice view of the Grand Canyon in the distance. I then turned north-east and followed the valleys as far as I could without needing to climb too high as I didn’t have oxygen. The Rocky Mountains do not seem that high when compared to the ground around so it’s easy to lose track of your altitude and climb well over 10,000 feet. The new route that Glen had planned had me cruising at around 10,000 feet with the hills below at around 9,000 feet. As I traversed my route however, the cloud forced me to divert over some higher ground and I was forced up to around 12,000 feet over the top of the mountains. Even at this altitude, the hills only appear to be around 3,000 feet or so due to the high surrounding terrain and it takes concentration to ensure you don’t climb too high.
The initial track from Saint George ran along the edge of the Grand Canyon, seen here in the distance.
Some amazing rock formations jut up into the skies higher than any mountain in Australia.
As I moved further northwards, I thought that the weather would remain fine but the wind began to increase so I diverted to Montrose for a quick ‘splash and dash’. I wanted to ensure that fuel was not a problem as I weaved my way through the valleys, across the deserts and between the mountains. I had never experienced such amazing, yet inhospitable countryside and I was glad that Glen had the forethought to have the parachute installed in this aircraft. I figured that if had an engine failure, I would only have the option of a forced landing even with the Sinus’s excellent glide capabilities, this is not good flying weather being forced so low by the overhead cloud cover.
I finally crossed the deserts into the more fertile lands in the upper Rocky Mountains. I was surprised to see snow on the peaks in the distance, reinforcing the altitude at which I was flying. Only up at this height could snow still be seen in the summer. The clouds continued to close in and I began to weave, looking for a clearer route across the mountains and down to the lower regions where I thought the weather would be clearer.
Even in the heart of summer the Rocky Mountains experience snow falls. White peaks in the distance as the clouds grow thicker
The hills and surrounding terrain seem fairly flat and low – it’s hard to imagine that this photo was taken at 11,500′ AMSL.
As I crossed the final peaks of the Rocky Mountains and descended towards Denver, Colorado, I began to enter a region of rain showers and low visibility. I continued on, ensuring that I always had an escape route, and constantly checked the maps and GPS for alternate landing strips in case I was caught in a heavy shower. After hours of navigating by weaving across the plains of Colorado, I crossed the border into Nebraska. I was relieved as this signified the home stretch for the day but I still had over six hours to go before I could relax in Lincoln. As the clouds drew closer and the visibility reduced, I made the decision to land and wait until the squalls had passed. I landed at some remote airfield who’s name escapes me now and waited for about 20 minutes until the weather abated enough to continue. From here, I departed direct for Crete, near Lincoln, where I had arranged to meet Larry. Another four hours of low level flying, avoiding the rain showers as they passed and I finally came overhead Hastings. I was running a little low on fuel so I decided to top up before proceeding for the last 45 minutes into Crete.
I am really impressed by the service that the FBO’s (Fixed Base Operators) provide at the numerous airports across the US. They are extremely helpful and they provide facilities that we in Australia rarely see. Most have flight briefing computers and all provide a fueling service, allowing the pilot to relax for the 15 or so minutes that they are on the ground.
After refueling, I again took to the air for the 45 minute flight to Crete. The weather was still marginal but I managed to weave my way around the Lincoln control zone and on to Crete where Larry was waiting to greet me. A total of 10.3 hours in some pretty average weather, over strange terrain and in a plane that I had never before flown and I was now ready for a long rest.
The following day was worse than the first and so I decided to stay with Larry who graciously offered to give me a tour of Lincoln and its surrounds. We took the opportunity to visit the Strategic Air Command (SAC) museum, an impressive establishment filled with old aircraft which had been lovingly restored to near original condition.
A fully restored SR-71 Blackbird greets visitors at the entrance to the SAC museum.
Visitors to the SAC museum can sit in this fully detailed B-52 cockpit trainer.
The following day I bid a fond farewell to Larry and his daughter Mandy (Mandy – French for BABE) and headed off to Oshkosh, a mere four and a half hours east. Entering Oshkosh airspace is always an eye-opener. Pilots are required to listen out on specific frequencies but no radio calls are required. Aircraft are instructed to ‘rock their wings’ as they enter via a pre-defined approach point for identification. Once identified, they are directed to specific paths and then on to appropriate runways for arrival. Special permission has been granted by the FAA to allow aircraft landings simultaneously on both sides of the active runway and a number of colored dots have also been placed along some of the runways to allow simultaneous landings at different points along the same runway. This all sounds complex and dangerous but Oshkosh has one of the safest records and is the busiest airport in the world during this two week period each year.
Oshkosh provides a number of things to see and do and this year was no exception. Some of the favorites include the 300 mile an hour trucks, the jet assisted biplane, close formation flying and military aircraft displays. As well as these, there are four huge hangars full of vendors touting their wares and hundreds of outdoor display areas filled with the latest offerings to the US markets.
The jet trucks and bi-plane do battle on the runway.
P-51 Mustangs execute precision formation flying.
This year we were treated to a visit by Matevz Lenarcic, a Slovenian aviator flying a Sinus motorglider around the world. Matevz had traversed two thirds of the globe to visit Oshkosh on his journey and was due to travel north through Canada, Greenland, Iceland and back home to Slovenia through Europe.
Unfortunately, troubles with US visas prevented some of his stops in the Bahamas and Mexico and Canada required high levels of insurance so the Pipistrel team visiting Oshkosh banded together to assist Matevz in his final arrangements before departing for Canada. Matevz was inundated by the press and was given priority parking in a prime position reserved for round-the-world aviators.
Matevz is greeted by the Pipistrel team. From left to right, Larry Geiger, Michael Coates, Matevz Lenarcic and Robert Mudd.
A cramped cockpit is home for the numerous months spent on the journey around the globe.
After a grueling week of long and tiring days at Oshkosh, we needed to relocate the Sinus demonstration aircraft to our Ohio dealer, Robert Mudd’s, home airfield at Marion, Ohio. So I again took to the air on, what I thought would be a nice leisurely flight along the big lake. Unfortunately, an inversion layer near Chicago caused thick haze and limited visibility above 1000 feet so, rather than risk the 100nm transit over Lake Michigan, I decided to hug the shoreline and pass by Chicago over water at 500 feet. The 4 hour flight was uneventful and pleasant, albeit in hazy conditions, and I finally found Marion airport without any issues. This marked the end of this year’s flights across the US, totaling almost 20 hours and covering over two thirds of the distance across the widest part of the continent.
Regards Phil Allen
Round the World Flight in a Sinus Update
Matevz posing for press and publicity shots
Matevz Lenarcic is making excellent progress after being forcibly grounded in Russia for quite some time due to various paper wars and misunderstandings. Now, everything runs smoother than planned and Matevz has already passed the two-thirds point of his World record attempt and journey around the World. Covering more than 19.500 km (10.500 NM) his routing was as follows:
Ajdovscina (Slovenia) -> Ptuj (Slovenia) -> Szeged (Hungary) -> Donetsk (Ukraine) -> Atyrau (Kazahkstan) -> Karaganda (Kazahkstan) -> Ulgii (Mongolia) -> Ulan Baator (Mongolia) -> Choibalsan (Mongolia) -> Chita (Russia) -> Habarovsk (Russia) -> Magadan (Russia) -> Anadyr (Russia) -> Nome (Alaska – U.S.A.) -> Anchorage (Alaska – U.S.A.) -> Fairbanks (Alaska – U.S.A.) -> Whitehorse (Canada) -> Vernon (Canada) -> San Francisco (California – U.S.A.) -> Oshkosh (WI – U.S.A.).
Yes, Matevz finally made it to OSHKOSH on Thursday (July 29th, 2004) in the early evening! Upon arrival, Matevz and his Sinus were warmly welcomed by the team from Pipistrel USA, members of world media and the huge crowd that gathered at the annual Airventure event.
Representatives of all major world general and aviation media are briefed with the details of the Around-the-World flight, Matevz’s pilot profile and of course his Sinus and Pipistrel’s background during several press conferences every day of the event.
Notice the sign as we do a quick engine service and check
Mary from the EAA interviewing Matevz for the EAA magazines
I was even happy to report…. ” We have been allocated a special parking spot for Matevz right in front of the tower on the grass – this area is only used rarely and it’s indeed an honor to be offered the best spot in the whole of Oshkosh for the display. There will media from around the world attending and it will give both the journey and the aircraft some fantastic exposure! ”
Now this has become a reality! Matevz and Pipistrel’s Sinus was one of the major attractions of this years Airventure 2004. The area around the aircraft is crowded with people from around the world every day, all who have come to see the aircraft awarded with the longest distance traveled to Oshkosh.
The Pipistrel USA stand was also a magnet for the visitors and buyers. They admire the shape, design and quality of finish of the aircraft. To say people are impressed by the performance of Pipistrel’s aircraft is an understatement – most are simply amazed.
The team polishing Matevz’s plane, it had been about 3 months since the last good polish !
Fueling the Sinus before departure
To follow Matevz’s progress and to find out more about the project, please log on to http://www.rtvslo.si/protisoncu/index.php which is the project’s official homepage. There you will be able to follow Matevz’s daily progress and exact location, see up-to-date photos and read Matevz’s comments as he continues around the world.
As always please come back to me with any questions.
Take care Michael Coates