Monday, after one of the most unusual days in the 40 years of Oshkosh, I
ran into Hartzell Propeller patriarch Jim Brown. After we made universal
comments about the soggy ground and the thousands of airplanes that
weren't here because they couldn't find a place to park, Jim, without me
asking, said Hartzell had one of the best days ever at its exhibit with
big numbers of airplane owners shopping for new propellers.
On Tuesday I was chatting with Carl Wolf
from Garmin and he volunteered that customer activity at his company's
new expanded display was better than ever.
It was the same from Dan Schwinn, founder
of Avidyne. Customers for its new traffic warning systems and envelope
protecting autopilot were ganging around the exhibit in strong numbers.
If you thought the soft ground would keep
people away from the airplanes parked in the exhibit area, wrong again.
Cessna boss Jack Pelton told me that customer traffic at the big Cessna
display with everything from a Mustang jet to a 162 Skycatcher tied down
was better than ever.
What I didn't hear from any people who
are exhibiting airplanes and equipment here is that business was down
compared to other years. Yes, everybody had to work harder to get their
airplanes and equipment in position, and there were lots of wood chips
to spread around to keep things dry, but the customers are here in large
What's up with that? Why is business so
good when the airport conditions are so difficult? The answer has to be
that Oshkosh is more than a fly-in. Even the people who had to leave
their airplanes at nearby airports have gotten to Wittman Regional
Airport by other means, and they are here to learn about what's new for
their airplane, or the airplane they hope to buy or build.
Another key factor is that Oshkosh is
more about education than selling. People come here to learn how
airplanes, avionics, and equipment work and learn it from the source-the
people who actually make the gear.
People can read about some new airplane
or avionics in magazines, on the web, or watch video. But nothing
replaces actually getting your hands on the equipment and having a fully
qualified person explain it and show you how to use it. That is
particularly important with new avionics where capability is exploding.
For example, Dynon, the maker of flat
glass displays for non-certified airplanes, is expanding the capability
of its primary flight display (PFD) almost monthly. Nearly all of the
new capabilities are software changes that Dynon owners can download and
update their system with no hardware modifications.
Aspen is also making a major change in
its IFR approach chart service without a hardware modification. Working
with Seattle Avionics, Aspen is the first to be able to display
geo-referenced charts that are based on government charts on its
multifunction display (MFD). Geo-referenced means that you can see your
position (own ship) moving over the chart as you fly the procedure. It
has been possible to do this with Jeppesen charts for several years, but
Aspen is first to do it in a certified system with government charts.
The government charts are much more economical and the geo-referenced
capability will be part of the next chart update for Aspen owners
without extra cost.
Oshkosh is so important to aviation
manufacturers that they plan and schedule product introductions around
the show. That means airplane owners and pilots plan their summer around
Oshkosh to come here to see and learn about the latest developments. If
you were looking for proof of how powerful this self-sustaining cycle
is, this year delivered the evidence. In the face of the most difficult
conditions ever at Oshkosh, the business of aviation is stronger than