General aviation is dead. Long live general aviation. Despite a world gone awry, pandemics and climate change, it seems that the fantasy of flight is still very much alive. I attended my first aviation event, in many years, and it was good. There was a definite positive vibe floating around the twelve massive exhibition halls, plus the even bigger Zeppelin hangar, birthplace of the Hindenburg. However, this show did not crash and burn. With approximately 700 exhibitors, from microlights to corporate jets, and more than 30,000 attendees to soak it all in. The outside display is no Oshkosh, but the sprinkling of aircraft on the ramp, was well worth the walk. AERO 2023 can be declared a success.
“Clear prop!” is the term shouted by pilots, just prior to starting their engines. “Clear!” is used when a defibrillator is about to shock the dying back into life. This analogy comes to mind when you see many things in this industry, leaning towards electric propulsion. Two whole exhibition halls, dedicated to vehicles NOT propelled by rotted dinosaur juice. It was shocking how rapid battery technology has evolved to keep the fan up front, cooling the pilot, for longer. It’s not viable (yet) for longer distances, but there is no shortage of hybrid systems, to help bridge the gap. Let’s stay positive!
It will be a while yet, before pistons go out of fashion. The show was still dominated by planes kept aloft with traditional engines. Lycoming, Continental, Rotax et al, presented huge stands. Strangely, only a few of these manufacturers are seriously addressing the issue of leaded fuels becoming extinct, in the not too distant future. Fortunately, there’s no shortage or turbine technology to support sustainable fuels. An example is the plane I learned to fly on, back in 1988, now fitted with a small turbine. The Robin DR401 fuselage is still made of good old-fashioned wood and fabric, but the Turbotech turbine is definitely technically modern. A fine French flying machine. I want one.
Not everything at the show has a fixed wing. Rotating blades were in abundance, from 600kg gyrocopters to large helicopters. I’m not a big fan of the whirlybirds, but it’s hard to argue with the ability to get off the ground in less than 90 metres, fly at 200 km/h for 600 kilometres, and land in less than 20 metres. Plus, you can lug it around on a trailer, which obviates the need to find increasingly scarce hangarage. Another problem solved, is the coming demise of 100LL, as this machine uses unleaded fuel. Go in peace James Bond, from one roadside filling station, to another.
It’s hard to encapsulate in just one blog post, the whole of AERO Friedrichshafen 2023. While most will visit the show through the lens of vloggers, there’s no substitute for touch and feel, albeit at the cost of sore feet. Fortunately the German beer proved medicinal. As for the abundance of calories, does apfelstrudel affect weight and balance?
Whatever the interest in aviation, there is something for everyone at this exhibition. In my case, the ambition to create synergy in the aviation industry, inspires me take a stand at AERO 2024. I’m starting to imagine a welcoming centre stage, with the words Aviation Synergy, emblazoned above it. Hope to see you there >> AviationSynergy.com