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EAA AirVenture Oshkosh RSS Feed Wells Lights Up the Sky With Starjammer
Starjammer
Dave Hansen
Dave Hansen
Dave Hansen

By Barbara A. Schmitz

Elgin Wells is hoping the third time's a charm.

A musician/composer and aerobatic performer, Wells was forced to cancel his Starjammer aerial performance at the 2010 and 2011 EAA fly-in and convention due to last-minute mechanical problems with his one-of-a-kind plane.

So this year, Wells and the Starjammer are ready to light up the skies-literally-for Saturday's third annual night air show.

The Starjammer isn't your normal airplane. It sports 225 super-bright LED lights installed in the plane's lengthened fuselage and redesigned wings, Wells said. The LED lights are controlled by a musical instrument digital interface - or MIDI - that synchronizes them with the music with each light corresponding to a note on the keyboard.

"I was able to marry technology from the music world with the aviation world," he explained.

The plane also includes a five-stream smoke system - one in the center, one on each wingtip, and two on the horizontal stabilizer - to create a super-sensory airplane.

But Starjammer is also part speaker, incorporating a 4,000-watt amplification system that powers four modified police-car sirens, through which play music he composes to accompany his aerobatic performances.

It's so loud that if you're without ear protection, you'll suffer permanent ear damage if within 10 to 20 feet, he said.

"The project really started about 15 years ago," said Wells, an Atlanta-based singer, songwriter, and composer. "My dad was a pilot, and he tried to pull me into being a real pilot, but all I liked to do was aerobatics."

After his father retired from the airlines, they purchased a Decathlon, and Wells started performing in competitions and air shows. Soon he decided to create something more entertaining, and different, for air shows.

"In many cases, routines are built around what an airplane does well," he said. "That's why acts are so similar."

With many friends as engineers, he bought plans for an IAC One Design and modified it. He wanted his new airplane to be "virtually indestructible" and capable of handing plus or minus 20g's.

He also wanted to include a speaker system since he starts his show on the ground taxiing in front of the crowd. The speaker system also allows for a consistency of sound and synchronicity with the aerial performance.

Lastly, he wanted it to look different. Through its paint, smoke system and LEDs, the Starjammer almost glows in the dark, he said.

Wells said he has a surprise planned for the start of his Oshkosh performance, and added that it would be a colorful one.

He said he is "very, very excited" to be finally performing at Oshkosh.

"Playing at Carnegie Hall is the ultimate for a musician. But performing at Oshkosh is the ultimate as a pilot; it means that you've finally made it. I'm so lucky to be able to combine my two passions and show them both off here."

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