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Oshkosh 2018

Oshkosh 2018

It was a huge push to prepare 4 aircraft for Oshkosh, get to the show, pretend to work all week, then fly to Albuquerque for an Air Force meeting before finally returning to Dayton to recover the aircraft. Here is the comprehensive yet brief story:

Merlin N55JZ only received it’s airworthiness certificate shortly before the show. I made dozens of test flights usually before and after the rest of the days’ hanger work.

Some of you may know I am rebranding the electric Zigolo to the Electrolite. The Zigolo fits in the ‘airchair’ category of aircraft. I could have called it the Electric Airchair, or just the Electric Chair for short but others advised against it. 

The motor did arrive and was installed in time for the show however the battery packs arrived during the show so too late for installation. We are also installing the Siemens electric motor to my demo Merlin so I pulled the 582 just prior to loading. Two Merlins and the Electrolite were packed and ready for transport to Oshkosh while I prepared N55JZ for the flight. We had beautiful weather right up until it was time to pack, drive, and fly to the show. I had a 300 to 500 AGL flight most of the way with several 180s and plenty of time waiting for improved conditions.

Somewhere Indiana the valve stem broke from my nosewheel tube while taxing around looking for a tie down slot.

View from the cockpit for most of the flight to Oshkosh. Yes, all that luggage and fortunately a tool box fits inside the Merlin.

Note the improvised jack using the rear tiedown. I Uber’d to a farm supply store and found a perfect tube match in the garden tractor tire/tube section. Even after the time for this repair I still had to wait a few hours before I could fly. The worst part was yet to come.

Oshkosh, and most of the Midwest, was IFR for the weekend prior to the Monday start of the show. The field went VFR Sunday afternoon and hundreds of aircraft that had been pinned down now were ready to fly in. The Notam procedures and the FAA were not designed for this kind of overload. In the 38 years I have attended Oshkosh I have never been in a more dangerous environment (and that includes the 3 forced landings I had with ultralights in the 1980s.

The tower usually has two runways open with three aircraft landing on three different col0red dots. Sunday they had only one runway open and even that was not available due to airshow and warbird arrivals. The FAA was only trickling a few aircraft in from FISK. Their instructions: EVERYONE TURN LEFT. ANYONE THAT HAS NOT YET PASSED RIPPON DO NOT PROCEED. EVERYONE TURN LEFT.

So there was a holding pattern over FISK and another one over Green Lake near RIPON. Plus dozens of aircraft arriving to Ripon with some trying to join the holding patter and others trying to fly to FISK and some returning from FISK. All at different speeds, altitudes, and trajectories. Clearly more than just a few pilots did not have or fully read and understand the NOTAM. Sheesh. And I had aircraft to unpack and a booth yet to set up.

Once I did land it took another 1/2 hour to taxi to the display area and another 45 minutes to tow to the booth. Then I discovered the show tent contractor had put the Korean’s two huge tents smack in the middle of my booth leaving me a postage stamp corner for my 4 aircraft. Sigh.

The Electrolite and the E-Merlin at Oshkosh. We also had the new Merlin I flew in on display as well as Don Kessler’s QBK. Don brought his fuselage to the show along with some tools and managed to assemble a considerable amount of his aircraft over the week. 

The show did go on and without too much more drama. Dan Johnson filmed a couple more interviews so watch for those in due time.

Here is what Aviation Week wrote:

On show for the first time was the all-electric E-Merlin PSA (Personal Sport Aircraft) from Aeromarine-LSA, of South Lakeland, Florida. The kit-built single-seat aircraft fits the experimental-amateur built rules; powered by a Siemens electric engine it also features batteries housed in “drop tanks” under the wing that can be jettisoned in the unlikely event of an inflight fire. Each pod also contains a parachute to soften its descent, says Aeromarine CEO Chip Erwin. Plans include full-streamlining pusher propellers on the rear of the pods, driven by electric motors, and replacing the Siemens motor in the nose with a small piston engine for cruise flight. The aircraft would take off as a trimotor and shut down the electrics on reaching cruise altitude.

Erwin says the battery pods can be quickly installed, meaning an owner could have a spare pair to charge on the ground and eliminate the 2.5 hr. it takes to recharge the E-Merlin. “In fact, you could have them with fixed base operators all around your area,” he says.

Deliveries of the E-Merlin, which has a 1-hr. endurance, will start “in a couple of months,” and orders stand at 35 to date, he says.

Erwin notes that the E-Merlin is a practical solution to electric flight, unlike others “that you cannot buy, are not legal or don’t work.”

Had I known it was a journalist I was talking to maybe I would have rephrased a few of those quotes.

First I snuck into Oshkosh then I snuck out of Oshkosh. Stealth Merlin. Don’t ask for details. For the “One Week Wonder” with 1,000 builders here is the 2 week wonder with only 2 builders…. And for the C-5 “caution, wake turbulence”.











Chip W. Erwin
South Lakeland Airport
Lakeland, FL

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