by Harold Green
EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, also known as “Oshkosh,” took place this year in Oshkosh, Wisconsin,
July 28 thru August 3, 2014, as it has each summer since the early 1960s. In the early years the fly-in convention was known as “Rockford,” and held in Rockford, Illinois. It is the annual convention of homebuilders, warbird owners, classic airplane aficionados, and just generally anyone nutty enough to think that airplanes, and things that fly by whatever means in general, are worth devoting a large portion of their time and resources to. I just happen to be in that group myself.
If you have never attended one of these happenings, you should. With thousands of airplanes and hundreds of thousands of people involved, there is nothing else like it on this planet. AirVenture attendees are courteous, civil, thoughtful of others, and even keep the grounds clean throughout the weeklong event. It is absolutely astounding when you think of it. This atmosphere is a tribute to the people who attend and to the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) that produces the event… It is also a tribute to the organization’s founder, the late Paul Howard Poberezny, who set the standards high and the pleasant mood for AirVenture for generations to come.
Since the focus of this column is “training” and “education,” most of my time was spent looking into training aids and programs offered by various vendors at the event. These included avionics vendors, aircraft manufacturers and book publishers.
The avionics vendors, as usual, were emphasizing new gadgets and improvements on the old. The emphasis was on “glass cockpits” and the biggest difficulty was getting close enough to the equipment to check it out due to the number of people that gathered around each exhibit.
ADS-B was once again at a high level of visibility and interest with FAA’s 2020 deadline for ADS-B Out glaring at us on the horizon. There were no apparent new approaches in terms of training aids or programs. However, there were advances on previous offerings.
Books have become more polished and some have even gotten away from a total dependence on reprinted FAA manuals.
The advent of technically advanced aircraft has added a new dimension to flight training. We now spend as much time on the avionics of an airplane, as we do on flying the airplane. Frankly, vendors of such equipment seem to ignore the fact that not only do pilots have to know how to use the equipment correctly, they also need to know how to correct their errors without becoming distracted from their principal task of flying the airplane.
I have yet to check out a pilot on advanced aircraft that he does not make a mistake during set up and entry of data. This invariably results in loss of attention to flying the aircraft, while the pilot sorts out the problem with the avionics. Printed material seems intended to espouse the capabilities of the equipment, rather than firmly guide the pilot in its use in flight. I saw no evidence of vendors addressing this issue, even though their material is generally good with respect to the set up of the equipment.
When checking on the offerings of aircraft manufacturers, the results were interesting. Questions I asked of the folks manning the booths that related to the training available to purchasers elicited a range of answers. The results were very divergent. All of them offer glass cockpits, either as standard or as an option. Interestingly, the amount and extent of training is directly correlated with unit sales volume of the aircraft.
In short, the top selling aircraft seem to come with training in use of their advanced avionics, while the lesser sales entities either don’t offer training or offer a re-hash of the standard aircraft checkout. As with any equipment purchase, one has to be proactive in getting trained in its use, be it a glass cockpit or an iPad and their related programs. It is just nice when educational materials are available to reduce the time it takes to use equipment to its fullest.
AirVenture is a great place to showcase general aviation to the non-flying public. A non-pilot I know took his father, an aviation buff, and his two young pre-teenage sons to AirVenture for the first time this year. They came away impressed with not only the airplanes, but equally important, the people they met. Everyone was willing and eager to tell them about the airplanes they own, and was very friendly and open with them. The boys got to meet members of the military color guard and have their picture taken with them and came away enthusiastic about airplanes and the whole experience in general. This indicates that inviting a non-flying acquaintance to join you at AirVenture is not only fun, but advantageous for general aviation as well.
Occasionally a student begins flying without an awareness of what they are becoming a part of. Flight instructors would certainly not be remiss in suggesting that their students attend AirVenture.
In summary, EAA AirVenture Oshkosh is both a pleasure and, if we choose to use it as such, a tremendous opportunity for all concerned.
EDITOR’S NOTE: Harold Green is a Certified Instrument Flight Instructor (CFII) at Morey Airplane Company in Middleton, Wisconsin (C29). Email questions or comments to: firstname.lastname@example.org or call 608-836-1711 (www.MoreyAirport.com).