Simply Unique: EAA AirVenture 2015

Everything at this event is unique. The place. The planes. The people. Because it’s all about flying, the EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh is one of the few events around the world, where even the toughest competitors meet, simply to talk and celebrate aviation. And: Where else could you find an A350XWB proudly presented by Airbus on a plaza sponsored by Boeing?

By Carl Williams and Rolf Doerpinghaus

With an attendance of approximately 550,000 (+2%), about 800 commercial exhibitors, more than 10,000 aircraft arriving at Wittman Regional Airport and other neighboring airports in east-central Wisconsin and last, but not least a total of 1,048 forums and workshops attended by more than 75,000 people, this year’s EAA AirVenture has reached once more again new record heights.

With magnificent weather and beautiful skies, the daily airshows featured everything from the F-35 to highly innovative business or private aircraft and the magnificent warbirds of WW II. Fantastic areal displays by stunt pilots added to the flights of the ICON, an all new, highly innovative, two seat amphibious aircraft that will be produced in North California.

A-350 Wingtip ImageA-350 Nose Shot

A-350 Test Item Monitoring Station


A350 XWB on demo tour

In past years, the Concorde was there, the Boeing 787 and the Boeing Dreamlifter were there and many new Airbus models have made their U.S. debut there, right on the EAA plaza, the sacred ground of the annual EAA convention. This year’s star on the famous tarmac was the A350XWB-900. After an U.S. tour visiting major airlines, Airbus brought its new bestseller to AirVenture 2015. “Airbus is pleased to bring the next generation of commercial aircraft technology, performance, and comfort to Oshkosh this year, giving the public its first viewing of the A350 in North America,” said Barry Eccleston, president of Airbus Americas. “This builds on our tradition of showcasing aircraft with the aviation community at AirVenture that has included memorable appearances by our Beluga in 2003 and the Airbus A380 in 2009.”

A-350 Tail

The aircraft used for the U.S. tour is a flight test version of the A350XWB featuring the latest in aerodynamic design, carbon-fiber fuselage and high aspect ratio wings, and new fuel-efficient Rolls-Royce Trent XWB engines. These technologies translate into a 25-percent reduction in fuel burn and emissions as well as lower maintenance costs. In order to increase passenger comfort the aircraft features wider panoramic windows, larger overhead stowage compartments and the latest in-flight entertainment and connectivity.  The A350 flight test aircraft has demonstrated its flying capabilities and was also open for public tours. As of the end of June 2015, the A350 XWB had won 781 firm orders worldwide from 40 customers. Currently, three North American customers have orders for a total of 82 A350 XWBs.

A-350 with Boeing logo


Soaring to the edge of space:  The Airbus-sponsored Perlan 2 Project

Among the many highlights at this year’s EAA convention the Perlan-2-project is really something special. It is a pressurized, high performance glider – that means an aircraft without an engine – specially designed to surf stratospheric mountain waves up to an altitude of 90,000 feet. Using the so-called Polar Vortex, this plane is designed to fly higher than any other aircraft in history – including the U-2 and the SR-71- with the only exemption of the famous, rocket-driven Bell X-15.

Establishing new all-time records may be nice and rewarding, but the real driver behind the Perlan 2 project is simply science. Perlan 2 will enlarge the knowledge on the physics of the atmosphere and will help demonstrate what is achievable in aviation with state-of-the-art engineering, materials and modern aerodynamics. The partnership between Airbus and the Perlan-2-project was announced one year ago at the EAA AirVenture 2014 and is aiming for the exploration of the upper atmosphere and the ozone layer.

A-350 and Sailplane 2

Since early 1930s, surfing mountain waves has a long tradition in soaring and has helped mankind to better understand several meteorological phenomena within the troposphere. While mountain waves are mostly limited to altitudes below the tropopause, the borderline between troposphere and stratosphere, the Perlan-2-project is aiming for the upper reaches of the stratosphere. In order to break through the tropopause, Perlan 2 will use the Polar Vortex, a strong wind with speeds up to 260 kts enabling powerful mountain waves to enter the stratosphere.

The ambitious project is based on the experience gathered by the earlier Perlan 1. Flying the mountain waves at El Calafate, Argentina, Steve Fossett and Einar Enevoldso, on August 30, 2006, reached the incredible and record altitude of 50,671 ft (15,454 m).   After fulfilling its mission Perlan I is now on permanent display at the Seattle Museum of Flight.

Appearing dwarfed by the wing of a huge Airbus A350XWB long range airliner, Perlan 2 is not a small aircraft. The high performance glider has a wingspan of 84ft (25,62 m) and a gross weight of 1,800 pounds (816 kg). The sailplane will carry a crew of two breathing pure oxygen. The true airspeed at 90,000 ft. will be 350 kts (648 km/h).  All this in unpowered flight.

Phase 2 of the Airbus-sponsored Perlan 2 mission will start in July 2016 with the final completion of the aircraft.

Phase 3 will start in May 2019 featuring the goal of exploring the stratosphere up to 100,000 feet. At this altitude flight speeds will increase to the point where the glider will need new transonic wings. Flight operations will be extended to using and exploring the Polar Vortex in the northern hemisphere. Flying in an outside environment with less than 3% of normal air density and at temperatures of minus 70 degrees Celsius comes close to emulating a flight above the surface of the planet Mars.

Man continues to push back the frontiers of air and space and the Perlan-2 will add to the growing knowledge of that rarely visited zone above the earth.

Photos by Carl Williams