A report on the 2018 Gathering at Waupaca, a recap of Oshkosh—and tips to help you plan your next trip.
Based on what I saw (and a lot of the things I didn’t have the energy or time to see this year), AirVenture is now officially on the aviation must-do map like it’s never been before. I have no doubt that whatever in aviation holds your interest, you’ll be able to find it, learn more about it or do it at AirVenture.
One of the many benefits of being a Piper Flyer Association member is The Gathering at Waupaca.
More than 70 PFA members started arriving early for The Gathering at the Waupaca Municipal Airport in Wisconsin (KPCZ) on Friday, July 20. The official welcome reception barbecue took place 24 hours later on Saturday afternoon, at a hangar at the airport.
Waupaca is 29 nm northwest of Wittman Regional Airport at Oshkosh (KOSH), the site of AirVenture. Since most inbound traffic to AirVenture is over there, flying into Waupaca is stress-free (relatively speaking) compared to the infamous Fisk VFR arrival process onto the grounds at AirVenture.
Waupaca has an RNAV approach to the runway down to 500 and a mile. It’s also so much easier to depart from Waupaca when it’s time to finally head home. There’s none of that 22-airplanes-ahead-of-you conga line action, and Waupaca’s Avgas price is quite reasonable ($4.10 per gallon when I was there).
Jennifer and Kent arrange ground transportation for members landing at KPCZ to and from the event hotel, the Par 4 Resort. But that’s not all.
The cost of The Gathering this year was a measly $110 for early registrants and $125 for those that missed the early opportunity. Where I live—and it is expensive here in California—it’s pretty easy to spend that many dollars for a good meal with wine for two. The Gathering bucks are a prudent outlay, since they include three meals, bus transportation back and forth to AirVenture for the first three days of the show, and maintenance and product seminars all day Sunday.
The Gathering provides a great value and a convenient way for members to meet other Piper owners, trade flying stories, compare purchases and get to and from AirVenture. Oh, and Gathering members are automatically entered in the door prize raffle Sunday afternoon after the presentations. This year, every Gathering attendee took home at least one door prize. It’s a can’t-lose deal.
Hotel costs for PFA members in Waupaca average a little over $125 per night for a room with two beds at the Comfort Suites Foxfire.
For the first three days of the show, members can eat a free breakfast at the hotel and then board a bus to be whisked to Oshkosh. Then in the afternoon, after adventuring, shopping, learning and getting together with old friends, everyone gets back on the bus for a no-stress ride back to the hotel in Waupaca.
This arrangement is one of the most stress-free ways to “do” AirVenture and is so cost-effective that fly-in members who attend The Gathering can scratch the cost of car rental off their AirVenture budget sheet.
One-day admission tickets to AirVenture in 2018 were $34 for EAA members and weekly passes were $125. Ticket costs were around 30 percent higher for non-members.
A little bit of weather
Despite weather cells that dumped buckets of rain in the Oshkosh area Friday and overcast skies Saturday that slowed AirVenture-bound arrivals to a trickle prior to the official start of the show Monday, over 10,000 airplanes eventually touched down and stayed for at least a day.
The numbers and facts about AirVenture 2018 are getting close to hard-to-believe. Attendance increased again, as more than 601,000 folks from all corners of the United States and many foreign countries passed through the gates during the seven-day show. Campers in tents and motorhomes packed over 12,600 sites. The number of show planes reached 2,979, and there were 867 commercial exhibitors spread across the width and breadth of the grounds.
I especially like the opportunities available at AirVenture to approach and get to know the vendors that provide information on everything from fuel cells to avionics, ADS-B options, Rajay turbocharger systems and whatever else could interest a pilot/owner. (For a list of the speakers at the 2018 Gathering at Waupaca, see Page 52. —Ed.)
If you seek face-to-face discussions with vendors of the products you use, or are planning to upgrade your airplane, interior, paint or avionics, the opportunity to confer with and compare information from vendors across the board is one of the biggest reasons I like AirVenture.
A walk around the grounds
Passes can be purchased online (and printed at home) or on-site near the main gate. You’ll take your ticket to a booth near the main gate in exchange for a wristband. An EAA staff member will put it on for you. It’s your gate pass for the day, days or week. Once you have a wristband, there are other show entry points. (A link to a map of the AirVenture grounds is in Resources.—Ed.)
Be sure to gather your group together for a photo under the big sign that marks the entrance. From there, the show spreads out as you walk east along Celebration Way toward Boeing Plaza where the really big and significant airplanes are parked. Most of the big companies (Piper, Lycoming, Continental, etc.) exhibit on or near Celebration Way.
Four large buildings (A, B, C and D), located halfway to Boeing Square, are where you’ll find a tight concentration of vendors. After passing through Boeing Square, you’ll arrive at Wittman Way. A left turn will take you to the Homebuilt and Warbird areas; a right turn will lead to the Vintage and Ultralight display airplanes.
The AirVenture app
Anyone attending AirVenture will benefit greatly by downloading the AirVenture app onto a smartphone. The app lists the location of all the vendors and provides information about buses (not the Gathering bus) that run regularly to the seaplane base and stores near the site.
The app helps users distill the event into manageable portions. There’s so much to do and so much to learn that I believe it’s impossible to take it all in during one week.
Want to learn to weld; work wood, sheet metal and composites; tear down and reassemble a Lycoming engine; catch up on no-lead 100-octane Avgas progress; learn how to grow your EAA chapter; explore an ag pilot career; learn how to efficiently lean your engine or any of a thousand other topics and subjects?
You’ll need a roadmap so the next shiny airplane or gadget doesn’t pull you off your path. That’s where the app comes in. Select the events, vendors or demonstrations that interest you, and they’re moved to a day-by-day calendar in the app.
The app also provides information about the free shuttles that run often to different areas on the grounds. Unless you have the endurance of a triathlete, the shuttles are a must if for nothing more than touring the different reaches of all that is AirVenture.
The latest in…ADS-B
Foreflight and Sporty’s introduced Sentry, an ADS-B In receiver that has it all. Features include a 12-hour battery life (so there’s no need to plug into a backup battery during a long cross-country), a pressure altitude sensor, weather replay, a backup attitude source (AHARS), a carbon monoxide monitor and alarm and a built-in WAAS GPS. Every Sentry is shipped with a RAM suction cup mount and will support up to five devices on its Wi-Fi network. Price is $499.
Head-up displays (HUD) got a lot of attention at AirVenture, and at least three companies had HUD products on display. While I’m not an active IFR pilot, I can see how a HUD would be a real asset while flying a low IFR approach.
The Epic Optix Epic Eagle 1 connects to all major electronic flight bag (EFB) apps from either an iOS or Android phone or tablet via Wi-Fi. The Epic Eagle 1 displays a wealth of flight data, including synthetic vision, onto an infinity-focused screen that is part of the 1.6-pound unit that mounts on the airplane glareshield. The unit measures 7.8 inches by 12.8 inches by 4.7 inches. The Epic Eagle 1 was sold at AirVenture for $1,699. (Currently, it’s listed for $1,799 on the Epic Optix website.—Ed.)
The Epic Eagle 2 connects to modern avionics equipment through both Wi-Fi and HDMI and is now set up for the Garmin G1000. The Epic Eagle 2 requires the installation of a GPU (3.7 inches by 2.8 inches by 1.5 inches). It has more capabilities and costs more than the Epic Eagle 1. The HUD is $1,999 and the GPU is $1,500. (This version is not yet listed on Epic Optix’s website.—Ed.)
According to the FAQs on the company website, approval is not needed to install or use the Epic Eagle. It is secured on the glareshield using a variety of mounts. Power (it draws less than 2 amps) is supplied through a cable to the airplane cigarette lighter. According to Epic Optix, a USB power port does not supply enough power for operation.
Textron Aviation is listing the Epic Eagle on the options list for new Beech and Cessna aircraft. If it works at all well, it seems to be a bargain at $1,999.
The MGF SkyDisplay HUD-LCD180 was also featured at AirVenture. The system projector is mounted to the roof of the cabin; the screen is suspended from an arm that’s connected to the projector. Information from installed avionics is fed through a display processor before being sent as video to the projector. Certification is expected in late 2018. Prices start at around $15,000.
The Valkyrie HUD from Alpha System AOA is a glareshield-mounted “adjustable beam splitter” that provides a small head-up type display for either of the Alpha Systems angle-of-attack indicators.
I noticed a couple of new small-footprint com radios from Trig Avionics and TQ General Aviation. Both companies sell very capable coms that can be mounted in a round 2.25-inch hole—the small-sized instrument hole that’s often used for a clock.
…electronic ignition systems
The team at Electroair announced two advances. First off, the company’s EA15000 ignition switch panel is now approved to replace all key-type magneto switches. The EA15000 can be mounted vertically or horizontally. Removal of the key switch system eliminates AD 93-05-06, a recurrent AD for certain Piper ignition switches.
Electroair also announced it has obtained approval to install its electronic ignition system on turbocharged Lycoming engines (TIO-540, TIO-541 and TIGO-540 series) and on classic Continental engines (O-300, GO-300, E-165, E-185 and E-225).
…electronic flight instruments
Aspen Avionics introduced its low-cost building-block Evolution E5 Dual Electronic Flight Instrument (EFI), which takes the place of both the vacuum-driven artificial horizon and directional gyro instruments. The E5 Dual EFI has a backup battery to power the unit if aircraft power is lost and provides ARINC 429 and RS-232 busses that allow it to interface with some autopilots.
In addition to a built-in air data computer and attitude heading reference system (ADAHRS), the E5 can be reconfigured and upgraded to include all the features of the Evolution 1000 Pro and further to the Pro Plus PFD, which features an angle-of-attack indicator and ADS-B and synthetic vision capabilities. Aspen also announced improvements to customers’ previously-installed Evolution flight display units. The E5 EFI is approved for installation under an STC and is priced at $4,995.
Don’t expect PAFI to approve a new unleaded 100-octane Avgas soon.
The testing protocol administered by the Piston Aircraft Fuels Initiative (PAFI) was suspended in June 2018. Neither of the two candidate fuels—Shell and Swift—proved able to meet all the requirements.
Consequently, the FAA invited other fuel providers to submit fuels. Phillips 66 and Afton Chemical announced that they had teamed up to create their version of an unleaded 100-octane Avgas. According to the presentation, the Phillips/Afton fuel will be almost identical to today’s 100LL except that a manganese additive (HiTec®3000) will be blended instead of lead.
…Rajay turbocharger parts
If you’ve been looking for a source for new parts for your Rajay supercharger installation, look to Rajay Turbo Products. The company is also working to supply a hose kit that would terminate the repetitive five-year inspections required by AD 81-19-04.
I admit this is not a very comprehensive report, so I suggest you start saving now to get yourself to the 50th anniversary of AirVenture in 2019. I can guarantee EAA will be pulling out all the stops.
As I write this in mid-August 2018, there are only 49 weeks and one day before the show starts July 22, 2019. Attendees and show volunteers will begin arriving days and even weeks before the start date.
At my age, I live by the rule, “The days seem long, but the years whiz by.” Now is the time to start making plans to attend AirVenture 2019.
Steve Ells has been an A&P/IA for 44 years and is a commercial pilot with instrument and multi-engine ratings. Ells also loves utility and bush-style airplanes and operations. He’s a former tech rep and editor for Cessna Pilots Association and served as associate editor for AOPA Pilot until 2008. Ells is the owner of Ells Aviation (EllsAviation.com) and the proud owner of a 1960 Piper Comanche. He lives in Templeton, California, with his wife Audrey. Send questions and comments to .
EAA AIRVENTURE INFO
Piper Flyer Association
Trig Avionics Limited
TQ Systems GmbH/TQ General Aviation
ELECTRONIC FLIGHT INSTRUMENTS
Aspen Avionics Inc.