AirVenture 2008 Day 2: I Can Sorta See the Future From Here, Maybe

Those of you that read my post on FSInsider entitled Of Jetpacks and Autogiros knew that I was especially looking forward to seeing the unveiling of the Martin JetPack, which happened on Tuesday morning at Aeroshell Square. The area was packed and, unfortunately, there was no clear indication as to where the event was actually going to unfold. The area is also very flat, so, unless the event were to have unfolded within just a few feet of me, there’d be no chance of seeing anything over the heads of those around me. Eventually, there was some general commotion about 50 feet away, and then Glenn Martin of Martin JetPacks gave a brief introduction and unveiled something that I couldn’t see from where I was standing. It wasn’t long before I could hear it, however, as could most of the greater Winnebago county area, as this particular jet pack is actually powered by a 200hp 2 stroke engine, driving a pair of ducted fans. From where I was standing, it sounded like what I’d imagine it would sound like to wear a gas-powered weedeater as hat. The noise, however, along with the technical absence of a jet and the inevitable bulk of the thing really don’t detract from its sheer that-looks-like-fun-itude. Check out EAA’s coverage here:

http://www.airventure.org/2008/4wed30/jetpack.html

And speaking of coverage, while jockeying for and failing to get into a position for a better view of the goings-on, I bumped into somebody. Actually, that’s not true. We were wedged together in the crowd, and it wasn’t until the crowd ebbed an inch or two and we actually weren’t connected at the shoulder that this person noticed me and said "Hi Hal!". As it happens, it was a young man named Pete Muntean. We first met Pete at Oshkosh 10 years ago, when he was a slightly shy and exceedingly sharp kid that hung around the Flight Simulator booth. All day. Unlike some of the "full-timers" at shows, however, Pete was a huge help, and could do anything we asked in the sim while we talked through our demos. Over the years, we’ve seen Pete turn from a nice kid into a good man, in spite of some terribly tough times. Pete’s a pilot now, going to school, and his latest adventure of many is an internship with CNN, lugging a camera around behind Miles O’Brien. If you happen to see CNN’s coverage of the event, and notice something unusually artistic about some of the crowd shots, it’s because Pete let me push the red button on the camera, allowing me to add "yeah, I shot some B-roll for CNN" to my curriculum vitae.

In keeping with the retro-futurist theme of the day, I had a good look at the Terrafugia Transition, one of the more solid attempts to attack the "roadable  aircraft problem" in several years. I’ll believe it when I see it fly, but it does show considerable promise. Even though the simulator model they’ve released for download is designed for X-Plane … And speaking of flying cars, I got a chance to catch up with my friend Greg Herrick of Aircraft Owner magazine and the Historic Aviation catalog. Greg’s jaw-dropping aircraft collection includes an original and flyable Taylor Aerocar among other gems. One thing I’ve missed if it’s here is the Super Sky Cycle – hopefully, I’ve just not seen it yet, along with other things I’ve somehow missed like the free lunches in the sponsor tent and the air show just about every day.

After another satisfying day of customer questions ("Can I run it on my Mac?", "Does this thing do instrument approaches?", "Is there a ‘show special’ price?", "Does it model a Tubman 601?", etc.), the gaggle of us flopped on the grass in front of a giant inflatable movie screen for the premiere of Speed and Angels. It was great to see it on the big screen under the stars. Rather, it was great to see two thirds of it on the big screen under the stars, before the stars were slowly replaced by cumulonimbus clouds, and a bit of rain, at which point they pulled the plug, promising to show the rest of after the next night’s movie. That was a disappointment, even though a few of us have owned the DVD for about a year. Not seeing the ending because they decided to stop the movie was certainly better than not seeing the ending because lightning decided to strike me, so I didn’t complain too loudly when we caught up with Paco and company in the Hilton’s Lindbergh Lounge later that night.

I didn’t complain too loudly about the movie that is. No, my too-loud barroom complaining was reserved for things like the government, people who don’t "get it", and these kids today with their iPods and text messaging. And, maybe sometime soon, their flying cars and their JetPacks.

The lucky punks.

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