July 26, 2008
Oshkosh 2008 (July 2008)
OK so I jumped into 842X to take her to Oshkosh 2008 to work the X-Plane booth there and sell X-Plane and see the show. No mechanic had been able to fix that rough-running engine (which exhibits ZERO anomalies on the engine-instrument readout… I can ONLY feel it) but my maintenance guy assured me he had re-balanced the prop, re-checked and re-set the fuel and ignition systems, and that the engine really should be running well now.
So, in I jumped and off I went to Oshkosh through rain and thunderstormy activity, the G1000 showing the way for the tough-bird to power through.
I took this image coming out of Columbia, SC, working through rain IFR, showing off the easy range of this airplane. The green circle is my total range. Even with headwinds, Oshkosh was easily within safe range. Just like New York. And Canada. And the Bahamas.
The flight to Oshkosh was done at 16,000 ft. A van-driver taking me from a hotel to an airport once asked me what the world looked like from 16,000 ft.
Well, here is your answer! I told him you could see CLOUDS 200 miles away, but the ground for only 20 miles.
ANYWAY, sure enough, over Lake Michigan, the engine started to shake and kick around. All engine indications were normal, but the plane was clearly hopping and vibrating in an unsettling manner. Turning around to look at the tail, I could see it vibrating with the airframe oscillation, and the G1000s were sort of dancing around in the panel a bit. This was NOT a thing I really liked happening over Lake Michigan, mostly because my plane was trying to kick itself apart over Lake Michigan.
Now it is time to review the Oshkosh arrival procedure: Fly very very low, over trees, for a very long time, in a long line of slow-moving Cessnas, probably at a speed that is BELOW the best glide-speed of my tough-bird. This is NOT a good time to have an engine failure. As I later told a Columbia Flight-Instructor: “If I am at 1,000 ft, at low speed, over the trees, and the engine quits, I may have 45 seconds until I am eating trees.” His reply: “Really? You think you will have a full 45 seconds?”
With this thought in mind, I decided to divert to the closest big airport: Milwaukee Timmerman. This would allow me to keep my bird up high and then do a steep (power-off) descent to a big runway, never dragging the plane along at low altitude with power. I descended normally into Timmerman, all engine indications normal and the plane kicking back, left a note and the keys for the maintenance guy, and had my crew pick me up by ground and drive me the rest of the way to Oshkosh.
A day or two later, the Timmerman maintenance guy called me and told me 2 things:
1: He would not even LOOK at the engine for liability reasons.
2: He found the problem anyway.
Care to guess what it was?
I’ll say at the end of this article.
Anyway, Oshkosh was so fun it was RIDICULOUS. The F-22 Raptor performed a lot, with hi-Mach fly-by’s, 8-G turns, vertical climbs, tail-slides (sliding BACKWARDS towards the ground, controlling the plane on engine-thrust alone).. the V-22 Osprey hovered and slowly did 360-degree turns in hover like a slow, overweight Ballerina, and then dropped his nacelles to horizontal and rocketed out of there. I would say that Oshkosh is the only show on Earth where you can be looking at the latest light planes, and then hear a scream like the Chariots of Hell are bearing down on you, look behind you, and see a B-52 racing over the runway towards you at 100 feet and 400 knots. World-War-2 P-51 Mustangs flew in formation with the F-22. You have NOT heard how cool aviation can sound until you hear a P-51 and an F-22 fly right overhead in formation… the P-51 is purring while the F-22 is whistling. As you watched the show each day, you could see each pilot strutting the stuff of his airplane to his greatest possible extent, from the tail-slides of the F-22 to the slow barrel-roles of the P-51 and P-38 to the high-speed straight-line fly-bys of the B-52 to the hi-speed fly-by and pull-up of the Cirrus Jet. Everyone wanted to show off their airplane to the crowd to MAXIMUM effect, and as a result every demo flight was fun to watch. At the end of each day, as dozens or hundreds of planes would leave, the military guys would race down the runway low and pull up to the vertical just for fun even though the show was already over. Even the F-22 pilot went off of the planned routine and just SHOWED OFF on his last performance, leaving the perplexed announcer to garble things like: “Umm.. OK now I think he is coming in for another low-pass and tight-turn right in front of the crowd… and now he will open the weapons bay? No, he’s doing another over-the-crowd pass!” as the F-22 frolicked madly in front of the crowd off of any planned routine. That plane can do so much, and turn so sharp, you can tell the MOOD of the pilot by watching him FLY. On the last day, his turns were much tighter, his climb-outs yanked to the inverted sooner and faster and quicker, his attitude-changes more abrupt, as he was just having fun seeing how much he could wring out of the airplane.
Cessna, Cirrus, Mooney, and countless others are all there in force, and anything can be touched, examined, bought, etc… from a look at a Light Sport Aircraft to an in-cockpit brief on the new Garmin-Perspective system in the Cirrus’s to a walk-though of the V-22. It’s all there.
The ‘Rocket Racing League’ was there. The rocket racers are Long-EZs with liquid-fuel rockets attached to them. They CLAIM to race by hitting their rocket engines and blasting around a course, running their engines for part of the race, and gliding for much of the race. But here is the problem: UNLIKE Reno and Red-Bull air races, the course is NOT physical. You can NOT see any course that they race… they are flying through GPS-defined aerial checkpoints, with no actual physical course to follow. As a result, all you see is a Long-EZ flying around in the sky, but not on any visible race course. As well, for safety I guess, they only let ONE place on the course at a time, and TIME the laps. Dude. This is NOT a race. This is claimed to be a race, but raced by guys (or organizers) that are too scared to race an actual physical course, and too scared to be on the track at the same time as someone else. My GOD! I don’t think I have ever heard of a racer saying that it is too dangerous for him to race on a track with other competitors!!!! So, all you see is a Long-EZ doing an aerial demonstration, and then he lands, and then another Long-EZ does an aerial demonstration. Apparently, the winner is the one who does his demonstration fastest… though there is no way you could tell from watching one demonstration that lasts 1:45 that it is faster than another guy that took 1:53. I just imagine the Italian Ferrari-racers of old saying: “It is too dangerous to have a REAL track, you must simply imagine points on the parking lot for us to drive through, and for safety, only one car may be in the parking lot at a time!” My God. Gimme a break.
The rockets are cool to see because the tail of the plane lites up in this BRIGHT flame (MUCH brighter than any afterburner, by FAR) and the noise is like a roaring jet engine, and the plane climbs vertically, or near-vertically… so it is kind of cool to see for about the first 30 seconds… but then the engine shuts down with a huge farting sound “ROOOAAAARRRRRR-SQUEAK!” and the plane just glides around for a while. I am sure the pilot is intently trying to fly through imaginary points in space to “complete the track” but all it looks like is some guy up there by himself gliding along in a Long-EZ.
After that, the old Reno warbirds came out to race, and they came closer to actually RACING, since 3 birds were running laps to see who could WIN! This was really close to stock cars but in 3-D, pretty decently fun to watch, and would be more so if they really flew around pylons (which they DO, at Reno, just not at Oshkosh).
Cirrus flew their jet there (now called the SJ-50 Vision).
Here is the guy from “There Will be Blood” (catch-phrase when he steals other people’s oil with his sideways-aiming drilling rig: “I drink your milkshake!”)
And now me in front of the Cirrus-Jet. My message to Microsoft: “I DRINK YOUR MILKSHAKE!” 😉
OK and here is our booth at Oshkosh. You can see the cool promo videos on the left, the mega-Eclipse cockpit on the far right, and bits of more X-Plane sims hidden behind the people clustered around the booth.
And another shot of our booth with people checking out the sims.
What do those buttons do?
Nothing but farmland…
Below, the Laminar Research Oshkosh team… this is the group that worked the booth.
Helmut and Darlene (who rent us the house we stay in each year) would play the accordian as an alarm each morning.
Trust me. It is REALLY hard to wake up in a bad mood when your alarm clock is a German guy playing an accordian outside your door.
The last day of the show, we had some pretty weird clouds!
Ok the show was great. Now time to go home with a now-fixed plane. (OK I will tell you what the problem was. A WHEEL FAIRING was loose. Yup. It had NOTHING to do with the engine. When going fast enough, the wheel-fairing would flutter, kicking a vibration back through the airframe that made it FEEL like the engine was running rough, even though it was running PERFECTLY. You can’t TELL WHERE the vibration is coming FROM. You only FEEL VIBRATION. Is it coming from the engine? The tail? The control surfaces? The fairings? You can’t tell, since whatever it is shakes the whole stiff little airframe. NOW I know that at the speed involved, any loose AIRFRAME components can buffet, not just the engine!)
So, off to Green Bay to update a customers X-Plane Eclipse sim and then from Green Bay back to South Carolina!
Here is the trip enroute… IFR conditions ahead for the mid-route, and a hurricane building over East Texas.
OK and now a few really hi-res pix so you can see some details:
Coming out of the clouds at 17,000 ft, I noticed a little something surprising on the wings, and quickly descended to melt it off:
… and another something you don’t see every day: A 747 in cruise configuration in flight, sailing by like an old Galleon, London to Chicago at Mach 0.85.
So anyway, there you have it.
Oh OK one more thing. Here is a pic I did NOT take. This was taken by Sandy Padilla. http://www.gallery.digitalworx.us
This picture shows just exactly what it is like to fly in the summer in a light plane in the Southeast. This is the type of thing you see all the time in the thunderstorm season, and this is just what it looks like from the air, only in the plane you are just lots CLOSER… right up IN it. You often have clear sky with towering white cotton billowing wildly out of the central-point of the thundertorms, and your options are to turn around, go (way) around it, or punch through it. But, even if you DO go around the major cells you see, what lurks BEHIND them? XM radio can show you the precip, and this is what you see out the windshield to help you decide what to do next.