By Patrick Panzera, Editor - Experimenter
As I sit in at the airport in Phoenix, Arizona (my connecting airport from Milwaukee, Wisconsin, to Bakersfield, California), delayed while the mechanics work out the issues with the plane's emergency oxygen system, I do so with a smile on my face. I've been a fixture at AirVenture for the past 10 years, and this year was by leaps and bounds the best I've ever attended.
The list of reasons why is nearly endless, but the major reason was simply the number and diversity of homebuilts in attendance this year. I can't quote figures at this point, but by a huge margin, there were more homebuilts there this year than I've ever seen. One potential reason that so many homebuilders came to AirVenture this year was to help pay tribute to Burt Rutan and Chris Heintz, both prolific designers of homebuilt aircraft. Now retired, both of these gentlemen have collectively designed more than 40 different models of aircraft aimed at the homebuilder market, with nearly all of them in attendance. By Wednesday, there were more than 200 Rutan-designed or -inspired aircraft on the field, and by show's end, 60 was the count for Zenith.
Both designers have inspired others to continue with their concepts, such as the Cozy III and Cozy IV being versions of the EZ (the total of which is nearly endless), the Dragonfly and the Q-200 being versions of the single-place Quickie, and the Savannah (and dozens of others) and the Sport Cruiser being versions of the Zenith 701 and 601, respectively.
Also what I think may have brought so many homebuilt aircraft to AirVenture this year is the sense of camaraderie developed through the increase in social networking. Friendships developed through the Internet, with people meeting and getting to know each other all over the world (virtually) with Internet group leaders promoting, "Hey! Let's all go to OSH this year!"
I witnessed this on several of the Internet groups I monitor, but perhaps the most prevalent display of this type of activity (besides the Canards and the Zeniths) would be the Seabees. Now I realize that a Republic Seabee is not a homebuilt, but they can be classified as experimental (when registered under the exhibition category) when a V8 engine is installed, which was the case for one N-numbered 'Bee in attendance with the three others from Canada that were modified similarly. And when the airworthiness reads, "Experimental-Exhibition," then it can be (for the most part) modified, repaired, maintained, and otherwise treated the same as a homebuilt by its owner.
But I digress.
There is truly far too much to write about, and in reality, between the various news sources reporting daily blogs on the goings-on at AirVenture this year, you might be getting a little overwhelmed by the reports. But if homebuilts are to your liking, and you'd like to read a little more about their part in AirVenture 2011, please keep an eye out for my editorial in the next issue of EAA's Experimenter e-newsletter, which will include an exhaustive image gallery. If you are not already a subscriber to Experimenter, you should be.