Podcast: What's New This Year At Oshkosh
Aviation Week's Jeremy Kariuki, Bill Carey, Molly McMillin and Mike Lavitt discuss highlights from the 2023 EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.
Jeremy Kariuki: Hello, and welcome to the BCA Podcast. I'm Jeremy Kariuki, associate editor at Aviation Week, and I'm here today at AirVenture 2023, the largest general aviation show in the world in sunny Oshkosh, Wisconsin. And I'm joined by my colleagues, Bill Carey, Molly McMillin and Mike Lavitt. Today, we're discussing some news and events from around the show, which set some new records. Molly, could you tell us more about this?
Molly McMillin: Sure. Well, for one, pre-show sales were at record highs. They beat out last year, which was a record as well. They're expecting over 600,000 people. During the show, the exhibits are sold out. They had to open up an extra campground because they don't want to turn anyone away if they can help it. So it's a busy show. You can see that in the number of people that are just everywhere and attending all sorts of events.
Jeremy Kariuki: And there were many debuts this week. Bill, what new things did you find at the show?
Bill Carey: Yeah, thank you, Jeremy. There have been some debuts and some new developments of existing aircraft at AirVenture, which is it has a reputation for. I'll just list a couple of those. Garmin has announced that it's close to certifying its Autoland and Integrated Auto Throttle capabilities, and the Beechcraft King Air 200 and 300 series. Textron Aviation debuted its Beachcraft and ally turboprop, which is equipped with the Garmin G3000 flight tech, which also will be AutoLand enabled. The HondaJet Elite II made its US debut, I believe. It was first rolled out for public display at the EBACE conference. That aircraft II is equipped with the Garmin G3000 suite and again, will feature AutoLand capability. Lastly, I paid a visit during the day to Honeywell, which is exhibiting a company owned Pilatus PC-12 turboprop that's fitted out with its fifth-generation Anthem flight deck.
And that's designed with connectivity and autonomy as core tenets to make it more simple and intuitive for a pilot to operate. And that is a flight deck that has been selected by three advanced air mobility platforms, Supernal, Lilium, and Vertical Aerospace. And Honeywell promises that additional announcements will be made in the next coming months to fit that avionics suite on additional AAM and general aviation platforms. One of the highlights of AirVenture for me anyway, was the first public meeting, I believe of the EAGLE Initiative Executive Committee. And EAGLE stands for Eliminate Aviation Gasoline Lead Emissions. The executive committee is a collaboration of all of the major general aviation trade associations in the FAA and the co-chairs are Mark Baker of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association and Lirio Liu with the FAA Aircraft Certification Office. And what they did during AirVenture was report on the progress of the EAGLE initiative to eliminate leaded gasoline from the entirety of the piston engine aircraft fleet by 2030. Approximately 30% of that fleet still requires high-octane leaded fuel to operate safely.
The EAGLE initiative was originally announced in February of 2022. And what the executive committee did was bring forward the four developers of candidate high octane unleaded fuels to report on the progress of their efforts. And the takeaway message for me after the presentation was that the market will decide which of those four developers and perhaps more than one will ultimately succeed in delivering a high-octane unleaded fuel as a drop-in replacement for 100 low-lead in time for the EAGLE initiative goal of 2030. But it's a complex problem and there's a long way to go.
Jeremy Kariuki: That's really great. So Mike, there were many firsts during AirVenture this year. You witnessed one on Tuesday when you saw the first public fight of Wisk’s autonomous two-seat aircraft. Tell us about it.
Mike Lavitt: Wisk brought its series five demonstrator here to Oshkosh. Now, the demonstrator is not new. It's made more than 1,600 flights, but this was its first public flight as you said. The series five demonstrator has some significant differences from the series six version that Wisk plans to certify for carrying passengers. The series five is only designed to carry two people, first of all, and it has 12 lift rotors and then it has a rear pusher propeller. The series six, which is in the Wisk chalet, is a four-passenger version. It's being designed for certification. It will depend on six forward propellers that will rotate forward for forward flight and then six rotors on the rear of the wing that will contribute to lift and will lock perpendicular to the wing while in forward flight. There's no rear propeller.
The most important thing about Wisk is it's designed to be autonomous with human supervision, but there will be no pilot, there are no controls in the cabin. It would be wrong to call it a cockpit because there are no controls. The passengers each have a screen, so they can monitor the progress of the flight. Also, VoltAero has a full-scale mock-up of its Cassio 330 hybrid electric aircraft. This is designed to take off on batteries and fly up to 100 miles on batteries. VoltAero is certifying the aircraft under European Union Aviation Safety Agency rules initially. Later on, they'll follow up with FAA certification.
On longer flights, the gasoline burning power plant, which is based on a Kawasaki Ninja H2R four-cylinder motorcycle engine, will kick in to provide power and recharge the batteries. The 330 develops 330 kilowatts of power, which is about 440 horsepower. And the gas engine can also power the aircraft if the electric power system fails.
All versions of the Cassio have a canard in the front and a pusher propeller. They have an Avidyne avionics suite. VoltAero is planning larger versions that will carry six and later 12 people. Kawasaki is developing a six-cylinder inline piston engine that leverages technology from that Ninja motorcycle engine to power those versions. Eventually, VoltAero wants to replace gasoline as a fuel with liquid hydrogen using a Ninja derivative engine. The liquid hydrogen tank and the associated hardware are about the size of a medium to large picnic cooler,
and they have a timeline of iterative versions and improvements that take them out to 2030.
Jeremy Kariuki: That's awesome. It sounds like it's a really exciting time for UAM and AAM. And when it comes to manufacturers, Molly, you spoke with a number of them here at Oshkosh. What are they saying about the market?
Molly McMillin: Yes, I was able to talk to several manufacturers here. Then they describe the market in a variety of ways, like it's normalizing, it's stable, various words to describe it. One called it robust and still above pre-COVID levels of 2019. But they all mentioned that it's not the frenetic pace that it was right during COVID or post-COVID. Supply chain is still an issue, but one mentioned that it has improved in the past year. Workforce restraints remain an issue. Daher mentioned that where supply chain was its biggest challenge, that's still a challenge, but now workforce is its biggest challenge. And as anyone who's been in the industry for many years knows that aviation is a cyclical industry. So to that end, Piper announced a manufacturing subsidiary that it has formed called Piper Industrial Manufacturing Company. And in the last three or four years, it had invested literally millions of dollars in new technology and equipment.
So now, they set this business entity up to be able to offer those manufacturing services to outside customers. So they will still make Piper products in-house, but they'll bring customers in or bring work in from other customers like to, I guess put their excess manufacturing to work. The training market remains robust. There were a couple of really large orders that Piper announced during Oshkosh. One, I guess it was one large order, but it was actually three orders from three flight schools in India where there's a big demand for commercial flights and they're needing pilots. So they ordered Archer DX aircraft from Piper. And then on Tuesday, Piper announced an order for 50 Archer TXs from Sierra Charlie Aviation in the US. Cirrus announced a private pilot program basically for people who want to learn to fly, but they want to learn to fly a Cirrus.
And they mentioned that a quarter of Cirrus SR sales are to people who don't know how to fly, but they're from buyers who aren't pilots. So this is a way for them, one, to learn to fly and become a private pilot, and two, learn how to fly a Cirrus. Although they may not end up buying a Cirrus, but they'll still learn to fly. So it speaks to expanding the industry, needing more pilots and just trying to teach people how to fly and get into aviation. Textron Aviation, besides debuting the Denali, is also has on display their new interior and paint that they announced recently for the 172, 182 and 206. They've got a 172 with the new paint and the new interior to show. ICON, Daher, Diamond and others had a variety of announcements. So it's been a busy time at AirVenture.
Mike Lavitt: AirVenture is also to kickoff for the Aviation Week photo contest. I moderated a panel discussion on Tuesday with three well-known aviation photographers. Larry Grace is president of the International Society for Aviation Photography. Jim Koepnick is the former EAA chief photographer and has won the best of the
best in our contest, at least twice. And John Slemp is an award-winning photographer who spoke about a new category we're introducing this year called photo illustration. We had about 50 people at the session and almost none of them had entered the contest before. That means we're casting a wider net and expanding the flock rather than preaching to the choir. Search for Aviation Week photo contest to learn more, or if you want to enter.
Jeremy Kariuki: And we couldn't possibly cover everything that happened at Oshkosh this week, but if you want to check out more of our coverage, please go to our website at aviationweek.com. Don't miss out on the next episode by subscribing to us wherever you listen. And if you're listening on Apple podcasts and you want to support us, please leave us a star rating or write a review. That's all the time we have for today. Thank you everyone for listening. We'll see you next time.