AirVenture 2008 – Day 1: Other Shoe Steadfastly Refuses to Drop

It was  a good day. The Flight Simulator  booth opened officially at 9:00 AM, to a disturbing lack of last minute crises. The hardware and software worked all day, nothing overheated, the 100% CoolPlus Hang ‘Em Dry Space Age Moisture Wicking technology of our new trade show shirts wicked as promised.

Speaking of shirts, here’s a tip for anyone preparing for an event like this (not that there are any): don’t go out of your way, as I unwittingly did, to make your shirts the same color with the same color embroidery as the event staff. Unless, like me, you think it’s actually an odd sort of fun to give strangers rides to and fro in a golf cart. The best part is when it finally dawns on them that I’m not event staff, that I’m just some guy from Microsoft who said yes when they asked for a lift. My favorite fares of the day were the guys that I named "the three mugs from Philly." They flagged me down, and one of them said "Yeah, where do they keep the vintage aircraft?"

The answer was "turn right and go half a mile." What I said was "Ok, just tu-" at which point Mug 1 interrupted with "Oh for cryin out loud!  You could drive us there in the time it’s gonna take you to friggin’ explain it." I took a breath, said nothing, took another breath and said "Why not?" On the drive, Mug 2 reported that he was glad to be on the trip to "geddawayfromdawife", and that when he told her he was planning to come to the show for a few days, she strongly suggested that he stay for the entire week. Mug 3 managed to earn the trip for all of them when, (at my urging), he told me that it was "wicked cool" of me to give them a lift.

As it always does, the landscape of the show morphs as more airplanes arrive, and, surprisingly, some actually leave. Boeing’s modified 747 Dreamlifter, a landscape unto itself, was the largest arrival, easing into Aeroshell square with with the steady patience of continental drift while a DC-3 called Duggy smiled nervously. At least one USMC Harrier came in, hovering on a smokey pillar of racket, as did more Mustangs, homebuilts, antiques and classics. Our friend Stephanie Allen of the Washington Pilot’s Association, along with her husband Rich, brought their ’58 Bonanza, and their ’69 Cessna 172, unquestionably the prettiest 172 in existence. Stephanie told me this evening that she actually removed the engine in order to detail it for the show. Addison Pemberton’s Boeing 40C was on display, looking nothing but pleased to be flying again after an 80 year nap, and the Tiger Moth count was increased to three.

At the booth, a gentleman came up with what ended up being the single most satisfying version of the "will this simulator software of yours run on my computer?" question I’ve ever had. When I asked him what kind of computer he had, he just said "here" and handed it to me. Even better, it was remarkably well equipped for a laptop that had been purchased by somebody who didn’t have Flight Sim in mind at the time.

It’ll run just fine, sir.

I met a nice Canadian fellow (that’s almost a redundancy, but I do know a few that are a little rough around the edges) who confessed to being a fan of the FSInsider newsletter. This was convenient for me, since I was naturally a fan of his collection of L-29 jets, and his previous career flying the magnificent Martin Mars firebombers in British Columbia.

The person I was happiest to meet, however, didn’t actually own or have access to an airplane I wanted to fly. It was a young man named Kevin Query, whom we called out briefly on FSInsider last January. Kevin, an 8th grader at the time, took it upon himself to go and visit the oncology ward at his local hospital, and brought a laptop running Flight Simulator that he started using to educate, entertain, and distract the patients, taking them on virtual flights all over the world. What began as a simple idea and a nice gesture has become a rapidly growing program that’s expanding to help bring Kevin’s idea to hospitals in other areas around the country. It was my pleasure to meet Kevin face to face, to load him with a bit of swag, and to take him shopping at the CH Products’ booth (See the picture at right: Kevin Query, seated, and Michael Sexton of CH Products). You can learn more about what Kevin and his supporters are up to at the aptly named Sky High Hope website.

Tomorrow opens with a jetpack and closes with Speed and Angels. The AirVenture continues …

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