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Leading Edge: Taking flight

Ah, the dog days of summer. A time for holidays, family outings, baseball. . .and if you’re an aviation buff, some of the best air shows in the world.

September 27, 2010  By Stacy Bradshaw

Ah, the dog days of summer. A time for holidays, family outings, baseball. . .and if you’re an aviation buff, some of the best air shows in the world.


Canadian air aficionados had a great selection of events to enjoy from coast-to-coast this summer, and you can count on more coverage of the nation’s finest air shows in future issues of Wings magazine. And while these events were tremendous in their own right, two events with significant cache set the tone for everything bright and new in the world of aviation.

Late July in Wisconsin means only one thing to aviation enthusiasts and pilots alike: the EAA Airventure show in Oshkosh. Billed as the World’s Greatest Aviation Celebration, this year’s show continued to highlight state-of-the-art technologies, new aircraft and the best gadgets for pilots of all disciplines. From the Electric Aircraft Symposium, to the first-ever Night Air Show, to the two dozen DC-3s rumbling in formation over Oshkosh, to the impressive array of pilots performing wild feats in the daily air shows, it was a spectacle to behold.

This year’s edition was my first as the editor of Wings magazine and I was overwhelmed with the array of new products, commitment to celebrating the history of aviation, and organization of the event. The numbers were impressive: 2,380 showplanes; 1,106 homebuilt aircraft; 635 vintage airplanes; 374 warbirds; 115 ultralights; 120 seaplanes and 30 rotorcraft on display.


Some 777 exhibitors took in the show, up from 750 a year ago. And more than 535,000 people filed through the gates, in spite of heavy rains that played havoc with organizers early in the week. Final attendance numbers were similar to totals from 2006 through 2008 (and just off record numbers in 2009).

Exhibitors I visited were generally pleased with the turnout, citing quality visits from attendees eager to check out the latest and greatest aviation products, technology and innovation. Personal favourites included the innovative Sikorsky Project Firefly Manned Electric Helicopter Demonstrator; the growing number of software applications for iPad users (look for more on this in a future issue of Wings); the commitment to green technology in the development of all products; and The Transition road able light sport aircraft from Terrafugia Inc. Got a great product? EAA AirVenture is the place to impress the masses.

“The Oshkosh AirVenture is the world’s largest fly-in and as such has always been the most important event on our North American GA calendar,” said Chris Throndsen, U.S. sales manager at Sennheiser Aviation, makers of aviation headsets. “In spite of the poor weather conditions for flying, the foot traffic to our booth was constant and our sales were up over previous years.”

Tom Poberezny, EAA chairman/president, said this year’s event was one of the most demanding he has ever been a part of. In the end, he was pleased with results. “The preparations for this year’s event were the most challenging in my 35 years as fly-in chairman,” Poberezny said. “We had expected to have a slightly lower attendance figure this year after last year’s blockbuster event. And this year’s weather challenges early in the week also had an effect. . . the second half of the week, however, was outstanding, especially with such activities as those on Saturday that included the night air show. We were not only very pleased with the attendance figures, but also with the positive response and the upbeat spirit from all those who attended.”

While the Greatest Aviation Show on Earth lived up to its billing, there were positive signs for Canadian business aviation at the biennial Farnborough International Airshow (FIA) July 19-25. As Peter Pigott explains in his piece “Canada on the world stage,” the nation’s economic engines were on full display at the show. From Calgary’s WAVV Business Development to B.C.’s Viking Air Ltd., to Quebec’s Bombardier Aerospace, and Mississauga’s Field Aviation, it was an impressive compilation of Canadian content.

As the summer fades and we head into the fall and the winter months, here’s hoping the industry builds on the momentum of these impressive international air shows, celebrating everything great in the world of aviation.

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