City well represented at Oshkosh fly-in
For most Wisconsinites, the word “Oshkosh” represents a city in the eastern part of the state. For those involved in aviation, the word “Oshkosh” represents a worldwide can’t-miss industry event put on by the Experimental Aircraft Association and held for a week every summer. It’s formally called EAA AirVenture Oshkosh.
This year, New Richmond entities were represented at the annual Oshkosh fly-in — the Fairey Gannet and Engineered Propulsion Systems (EPS). The Fairey Gannet is a restored historic British war plane now based at the New Richmond Regional Airport. EPS is an aircraft engine company that recently held the first test flight for its Graflight V-8 diesel aviation engine it hopes to one day manufacture at a facility at the New Richmond Regional Airport.
Harry Odone and his wife Shannan Hendricks own the Fairey Gannet, and Odone serves as the pilot.
He said the plane departed New Richmond on the afternoon of Monday, July 28, for a grand arrival at Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh at precisely 3:53 p.m.
“We were part of the show,” Odone said. “So, we held out and we circled until we were called in. We pulled in for a low-level pass showing off the airplane. Then we pulled into a landing pattern and landed. They directed us straight into the center of the plaza at the show, which was a great honor. We were (in the plaza) for the whole week, and there’s very few aircraft that get to be there for a whole week.”
Upon arrival, Odone performed his system shutdown and showed off the plane’s unique wing folding function.
“It’s very easy to be overwhelmed,” Odone said about his mindset at that moment. “You have to keep a vision of putting the airplane first and the crew’s safety, and on top of that the public’s safety with all these people looking to get closer to the airplane. ... It was a rapture of smiling faces and applause and people wanting to speak to you from various parts of the plaza. The rush never stopped.”
And it stayed that way for the entire week, according to Odone.
“We didn’t stop,” Odone said. “We were there first thing in the morning until past sunset each day. And we had about eight of our team there constantly talking about the airplane.”
The highlight of the show for Odone was when he met with an American man who flew that very plane 38 years ago while on an exchange with the U.K. Minutes later an Australian man approached them saying he had served as a crewmember in a Gannet around the same year.
“We had two very unique occasions in one moment,” Odone said. “So we said ‘would you like to get up into the airplane?’ and we introduced the pilot to his airplane 38 years later.”
Later in the week, Odone took to the skies again for an air-to-air photo shoot of the Fairey Gannet in action, including a climb to higher than 8,000 feet to get photos of it above a cloud formation.
While the Fairey Gannet showed off the best of New Richmond’s historic aviation side, EPS was busy making an impression on behalf of New Richmond’s cutting-edge aviation technology.
According to Steve Weinzierl, vice president and chief technical officer of EPS, the company had “a very good Oshkosh” with a beautiful sprawling booth to showcase its Graflight V-8 diesel aviation engine, which made its first flight in early May with aviation legend Dick Rutan in the cockpit.
Though Weinzierl, Rutan and EPS CEO Michael Fuchs had hoped to fly the Cirrus SR22 single-engine plane outfitted with the Graflight V-8 to the fly-in, they opted to keep it at the Mojave Air and Space Port in Mojave, Calif., while testing continues.
“The aircraft is far more valuable to us as a test article than it is as exhibition,” Weinzierl said. “It would be fatal for our company to risk our reputation placing it into exhibition too soon.”
While the experimental plane wasn’t on hand, EPS was still able to maintain an impressive presence at the event with a large booth.
“It was almost like a historical perspective in talking about what we had accomplished with our propeller testing and our altitude testing, and it showed all the maturation phases of the engine,” Weinzierl said.
Weinzierl said the engine received a mostly positive reception from attendees.
“They all realize that their industry needs an engine like the one we’re developing,” Weinzierl said. “And we’re still unique in our power category.”
Weinzierl and Rutan also commented that individuals representing potential competitors spent time asking questions, which he said is a sign they are making waves.
Weinzierl said the highlight of the fly-in for him was the relationships the company was able to make.
“There are two reasons why we do Oshkosh,” Weinzierl said. “The first thing is to keep the finger on the pulse of pilots. I think it’s very important that in the future we have a grassroots movement to change the airplane engine industry. The pilots will demand the change in this country. The second thing is the relationships you’re able to cultivate there.”