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Osh Kosh, Dad and the Flying Motorcycle.


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Jumpseat - November 2006


By Les Abend




Osh Kosh, Dad and the Flying Motorcycle.


It wasn’t until one of the very last stops and the very last day of my visit at Oshkosh that I really understood that I still lead a sheltered airline life. The revelation didn’t sink in until my jaw went slack after catching a surprised glimpse of Larry Neal’s flying motorcycle exhibited in the Ultralight area. For those of you as in the dark as I was, the flying motorcycle is a form of gyroplane (or gyrocopter; the difference escapes me). I hesitate to use the term contraption, because it is a well thought out and engineered design, but my first flying impression offers a vision that has me doing something unmentionable in my shorts. The flying motorcycle is intended for the sky and the road; the rotor blades lock into position to allow for street travel. Although the similarity has been overused, the flying motorcycle puts the Jetsons closer to reality. I don’t see Harley fans canceling their Fat Boy orders, but Larry Neal’s concept does allow room in the garage for both.


There is an interesting simplicity and complexity to the flying motorcycle. It is proof that aviation technology continues to develop. All one has to do is keep up with the developments. Despite my general aviation background and the exposure through this magazine, Oshkosh proved that I have a lot of catching up to do. And not just with new stuff. I have to rekindle my relationship with the old technology, too. Not being involved with general aviation on a regular basis, I have forgotten some of the basics of my roots.


On this particular occasion, my 82-year-old father accompanied me to AirVenture. He had always indicated a desire to participate, but the timing never quite worked. Bruce Stein, a non-airline friend of mine from Connecticut, had bought a ticket and flown into Chicago with me. The three of us joined forces for the drive to Oshkosh. Bruce is the president of my soaring club and a much more knowledgeable general aviation buff. He owns a 170 and a high-performance glider. As we began Day One of our tour, it became apparent that I wouldn’t be able to answer all of my Dad’s questions unless I fine-tuned my embellishment skills. I suppose it would have been a way of getting even for typical fatherhood stories, but it just didn’t seem quite right being the only aviation aficionado in the family. I hoped Bruce would back me up.


The first stop was to climb one of the observation platforms on the field. It would afford my Dad the opportunity to orient himself and realize the expanse of the show. That was my first mistake. A variety of airplanes were lining the taxiways in preparation for takeoff. Although I identified an F-4 about to depart the north/south runway, I confused an F-86 with an F-something else. Dad took a picture anyhow.


Our next visit was to the Albatross that I had flown aboard during last year’s engine fire escapade. Although not by direct correlation with the fire, the engine had been replaced. Don Rhynalds, the retired airline captain owner, had obtained the spare as part of the original purchase. I thought that was only possible in the movies. It’s always nice to have a spare, especially when a round engine is involved. Don was a gracious host. Dad got the royal tour. He squeezed himself into the left seat. I explained my limited Albatross system knowledge. Dad took a picture.


We climbed down from the Albatross, expressed our gratitude to Don and then ambled toward the fighter flight line. Fortunately, Dad’s questions stayed in the “What’s that?†spectrum. I was thankful for the information plaques on the stands in front of the airplanes. Although Dad was in the infantry during World War II, he recognized the thunderous symphony of a P-51. He halted our walk to watch a couple of the airplanes taxi by. And yes, Dad took a picture. After lunch at Flying’s Aeroclub, our threesome sauntered off to visit with the Flagship Detroit. We shook hands and got a brief private tour of the DC-3. I thought of the total lack of familiarity I had with the airplane. I looked forward to the day when I would have time to spare in order to attend ground school as a Foundation member. Dad bought a T-shirt. And yes, he took another picture.


I disappeared for a brief period and ran a couple of errands. Bruce and Dad wandered around the static displays of the Aeroshell area. When I returned, the airshow was about to begin. We found a spot along the flight line. Dad watched with awe as various airplanes puffed out white trails of smoke, performing acts that defy both gravity and the laws of basic aerodynamics. Bruce and I shook our heads, accepting the fact that we were observing stuff that was just not possible. Once again, I found something else I could not explain. Dad took a lot of pictures.





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