|Helnuth Lghner with his WT9 Dynamic Rotax.
(photo by Phil Weston)
By James Wynbrandt
Flight instructor Helmuth Lehner took the scenic route from Linz, Austria, on this, his third trip to Oshkosh. He touched down at AirVenture 2012 in the midst of a round-the-world solo flight that since leaving home on May 12 has taken him across Europe, Asia, and the Pacific Ocean.
"I've had so much luck; I met so many nice people around the world who hosted me," Lehner said.
He calls this mission the Flight for Children in Need; its goal: raise money for three children orphaned by an accident last year that claimed the life of Hans Goodmann, a friend, mentor, and noted member of the European sport aviation community.
The 44-year-old pilot is flying a Slovakian made Aerospool Dynamic WT9, an experimental microlight aircraft (650 pounds' empty weight) with retractable gear and constant-speed prop. It's powered by a 100-hp Rotax 912S engine and cruises at 130 knots, with 4.5 gph fuel burn. With a custom-made 52-gallon ferry tank in the right seat of the two-place aircraft - dictated by the route he chose - the Dynamic has a 19-hour endurance.
"I originally wanted to go to Japan, then to Korea and Alaska, but Japan wouldn't let an experimental aircraft in [its airspace], so I decided, 'Let's go over the Pacific,' and I started to produce this big ferry tank."
Lehner flies at 9,500 feet, where there are "good winds and the temperature is acceptable." The longest leg of the journey was an 11.5-hour, 1,350 nm flight from Pago Pago in American Samoa to Christmas Island.
Twice after flying 750 nm Lehner had to turn back because of storms in the Intertropical Convergence Zone before finally completing the leg.
"You have to be mentally strong, especially over the Pacific," Lehner said. "Sometimes the GPS failed for 10 minutes, and the spotter [that tracks his position] didn't work in the middle of the Pacific, so you think all the time of what do you do if you have to ditch. But the Rotax engine ran quite nicely."
Lehner admits his circumnavigation is also meant to complete a round-the-world flight he attempted in 2009 that ended when a mechanical problem forced a gear-up landing on the Mongolian border, and he had to ship his airplane home by truck. "When you begin something like that, you would like to fulfill it," he said.
He also hopes the flight brings attention to the qualities of the Dynamic WT9, which he likens to a scaled-down Lancair 320. The company started production in 2000, and some 550 Dynamics are flying today, Lehner said.
"It's really a pity nobody knows about this airplane. It's the best you can buy" in the microlight category, he said.
From Oshkosh Lehner will fly home via Halifax and the Azores, and is scheduled to arrive home to a hero's welcome on August 11. Attendees can see Lehner's aircraft at its tie-down spot just past the Brown Arch and follow his journey at www.Weltumrunder.at.