Say “Oshkosh” to any pilot – my husband, for example – and you get the same reaction as saying “Sturgis” to a Harley rider or “Vegas” to a blackjack player. Oshkosh, Wisconsin, is the home of the largest aviation show in the U.S: AirVenture, and Oshkosh is the No. 1 “bucket list” destination for aviation enthusiasts.
So imagine how hard it was to break the news to my husband that I was being sent to Oshkosh for my SolarWorld work when he couldn’t get free from his own job to join me here. He’s home in Oregon moping a bit, while I’m in the midst of introducing the future of aviation to the nation’s largest and most knowledgeable aviation audience.
SolarWorld has partnered with a German airplane designer, Calin Gologon, and his company PC-Aero to develop a solar electric-powered airplane called Elektra One, making its U.S. debut here at the air show. SolarWorld is a sponsor of the World Electric Aircraft Symposium here in the Innovation Hangar, and the plane is getting a lot of media attention, as well as close inspection by pilots and wanna-be’s.
Elektra One team from left to right: Calin Gologan, PC-Aero CEO; Norbert Lorenzen, test pilot; Dr. Birgit Weissenback, Public Relations Manager; Sasha Voithe, mechanic
The sleek white plane, beautifully tattooed with SolarWorld logos, is zero-emission, and almost silent in flight. Gologan’s vision for the Elektra One is that a solar hangar charge the polymer lithium ion batteries and that solar cells on the wings provide an additional hour of flight. Of course, that’s a vision SolarWorld can get behind: transitioning from fossil fuels to electricity at every opportunity.
With 900 credentialed members of the media at the show, Gologan has been interviewed a number of times already today and had a news conference scheduled for later this afternoon, as well as a flight on the schedule for tomorrow (assuming the forecast thunderstorms hold off) and a major presentation on Friday.
Historic air mail delivery plane – the past and future is on display in Oshkosh
Just how big is this show? I spoke to Dick Knapinski, the PR director for the show who told me that the control tower here is the busiest in the nation this week, with 3,000 take-offs and landings a day. He’s expecting more than a half-million visitors during the week-long show, which requires 4,500 volunteers and 1,100 port-a-potties on the 1,500-acre site.
So, if you don’t hear from me for a while, it’s because I’m scouting the show for a T-shirt for my husband. Something like, “My wife went to Oshkosh without me and all I got was this lousy T-shirt.”