The General Aviation Community Gathers in Wisconsin

For the 61st year, the Experimental Aircraft Association will hold its annual summer gathering July 29 through Aug. 4. My first Oshkosh experience was in 1972 and although the Fly-In, as we then called it, has grown and changed significantly from those early days, many still consider it a must-attend event. In the early days Oshkosh was the place for General Aviation (GA) and recreational enthusiasts to exchange ideas and to show their homebuilt and restored aircraft to other like-minded enthusiasts. Today at AirVenture, recreational aviation is still proudly displayed, yet you can also see new aircraft manufacturers, suppliers, entrepreneurs, and regulators, and speak with a variety of aviation organizations, all there for the same common goal to promote and support aviation.

Over the last decade GA has experienced its share of challenges prompted by the economic downturn, high fuel costs, and unfortunately a lack of interest by new and younger people to experience or begin an aviation career in GA. Yet in this country GA continues to play a vital role in our economy. According to the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA), the GA industry contributes more than $150 billion to the U.S. economy annually and supports 1.2 million jobs. Recently, just up the road from Oshkosh, WI, state politicians joined GAMA officials for a GA jobs rally at the Gulfstream Aerospace Corporation facility in Appleton. A point made at the rally was in Wisconsin, GA contributes more than $3.5 billion to the state’s economy annually and GAMA manufacturers alone employ more than 1,100 Wisconsinites.

Many companies exhibit their innovative GA products at AirVenture. One that I have been following for several years is the development of Jet-A fueled piston engines. In this issue of Aircraft Maintenance Technology, Steven Ells describes the SMA SR305-230E-C1 Jet A fuel piston engine selected by Cessna to power its JT-A Skylane. As explained in the article, SMA took a very long view of Jet-A fueled piston aircraft engine development and elected to keep these simplest of engines, the compression-ignition cycle engine, simple.

Another GA engine article I’m sure you will find interesting is Charles Chandler’s conversation with the Lycoming Engine Technical Support Team. Charles asked them to explain the most frequently asked questions and issues from customers, along with some key field practices that Lycoming Engines would like to see maintainers in the field to be aware of.

AirVenture is not only about new technology and innovation. With the average age of the GA fleet in this country estimated to be 40 years old, maintaining the aging GA fleet is an important aspect for many GA maintainers. Also in this issue, Minnesota-based Sierra Hotel Aero Inc. provides some of its experiences along with some maintenance tips and best practices for maintaining the aging GA fleet. See you at AirVenture, Ron