For a week or so every summer, Wittman Regional Airport in Oshkosh, Wisc., becomes the destination for aircraft enthusiasts. That's because it's the venue for the annual convention of the Experimental Aircraft Association. The group's name notwithstanding, the EAA AirVenture show is as much about aviation heritage as it is about cutting-edge machines. This year's event began Monday, and it runs through the weekend.
The odd-looking bird seen here is the Virgin Mothership Eve, the aircraft that will carry Virgin Galactic's SpaceShipTwo rocket aloft for a midair launch of tourists into orbit. Also known as the WhiteKnightTwo, "Eve" has a wingspan of 140 feet. The SpaceShipTwo will be mounted between the twin fuselages.
Powered by four Pratt and Whitney PW308A engines and made almost entirely of carbon composites, Eve has a maximum altitude of 50,000 feet. Virgin Galactic says the aircraft could launch four spacecraft every day. The company unveiled Eve one year ago this week.
Eve flies by the Wittman airport control tower. The EAA says that the Oshkosh show is hosting more than 10,000 aircraft, along with more than a half-million visitors. For a look at life in the tower during the EAA event, see Wired.com's account, "Inside the World's Busiest Air Traffic Control Tower."
This view from above shows some of the larger aircraft at the EAA show, including the Airbus A380 jumbo jet, Virgin's Eve, a U.S. Air Force C-130 (center), and an orange Erickson air-crane helicopter (behind the C-130).
The Terrafugia Transition falls squarely into the experimental category. While the folks at Terrafugia, including CEO Carl Dietrich (in cockpit), refer to the Transition as a "roadable aircraft," the catchier description would be flying car. The Transition made its maiden flight in March in proof-of-concept form; the first delivery to a customer is expected in 2011.
According to the preliminary specifications from Samson, the Switchblade will be about 15 feet long and 5 feet wide and tall. The roughly 1,400-pound vehicle will go 90 mph on the ground (at 60 miles per gallon) and 134 mph in the air (22 mpg), on regular unleaded, the company says.
For travel on the ground, the vehicle's main wings will fold forward under the fuselage, switchblade-style, and will be "protected from road grunge and rock dings by a clamshell case and a structural keel that takes impacts," Samson says. The Switchblade is designed to seat two people side by side and also to offer "room for golf clubs."
The Erickson S-64F Air-Crane heli-tanker isn't nearly as sleek as the Switchblade or as oddly elegant as Virgin's Eve, but it's a design that's been flying for years. And with a nickname like Elvis, it's always up for an airshow performance...
Earlier this month, NASA marked the 40th anniversary of the first moon landing. The space agency is still on a barnstorming tour to celebrate the lunar-focused Apollo mission--and to tout its efforts to get back to the moon, and beyond.