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EAA AirVenture Oshkosh RSS FeedThe Business of Oshkosh is on solid ground
Weeks of rain interrupted aviation activities but not pilots desire to buy
By J. Mac McClellan
 
On 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 numbers.

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 ever.

FUTURE AIRVENTURE DATES: 2014: July 28-Aug. 3; 2015: July 20-26; 2016: July 25-31; 2017: July 24-30
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