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Aero Friedrichshafen Opens — Europe’s Top Show Takes Shape

Yesterday, after flying across the Atlantic and starting to run low on energy and affected by the time zone change, a small group of us eagerly took a walk through Aero’s cavernous 12 halls to get a early peek.

As I’ve observed many times, the night, mere hours before a show opens it appears to be pandemonium with what appears to be zero chance of being ready in time. Aside from a few well-heeled organizations—those larger companies with budgets to pay outsiders to set up their exhibits—many were scrambling furiously to be ready by opening day… which is now today. It always appears vendors have zero chance to be ready; it was already end of day and many exhibitors still still had lots of preparation.

Yet it always works, magically perhaps. Somehow, late hours turned into an open show by Wednesday the 19th, opening day. The show runs through Saturday the 22d. If you’re in Europe, I hope you’re coming. If not, I’ll do my best do show you what caught my attention.

What follows are a few images I captured as vendors continued their work (with apologies for showing how their spaces looked before all was complete). I’ll just a few words about each because I’m keen to start regular reporting. However, setting up is an essential—and fascinating, at least to some of us—airshow activity.

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Aero 2023

Count Dracula Flies! — From the producer of the all-composite Swan 103 that has interested Americans.

Yankees finally saw the model at airshows in the last year, here comes Dracula, a single seat low wing that can fold up into a trailer that looks impossibly small. I’ve already captured more images and information and will be writing about this soon. American have loved my review of the high wing Swan and those who love a low wing look will now have a choice. Plus, this Romanian company has embraced electric propulsion and offers both on their airplanes.

Rotax on RV? — Wait! Van’s Aircraft already does Rotax, although that’s only on their RV-12, their LSA model.

Most RV models predate the -12 and commonly use Lycoming or Continental. Those engines have been well established for many years and most RV buyers choose an engine they know …or at least they do in America.

In Europe, Rotax is very well known here but that’s not the main reason to choose it. Rotax is also more fuel flexible and that’s key. Around the world, avgas is rare and frightfully expensive. Since Rotax can use togas — which can be mixed with avgas in any proportion — it wins the international battle easily.

916iS Popping Up More Frequently — I’ve reported on Rotax 160 horsepower 916iS already LINK but it was the first time most had seen or heard of it.

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As airframe producers made the effort to configure the new engine to their aircraft, its appearance is becoming more common.

One of the best marketers in the LSA space, JMB Aircraft, prominently featured one of the sleek VL3 models sporting the new fuel injected, intercooled engine. They are also displaying their turbine-powered VL3 and this highlights an iungtefrexsting shift I’ve seen. Where once diesel engines for aircraft seem to be all the rage, that has clearly faded and turbine seems to be moving into the space. Weights are less than combustion (or even electric due to battery weight). Maintenance can be low with TBOs that run well beyond a piston engine. Fuel burn can be just 10 gallons per hour; while much. higher than any Rotax, they have their advances and interest appears to be growing.

Junkers A60 Side-by-Side — Perhaps you loved the A50 Junior we saw at Sun ‘n Fun, but you wanted side-by-side seating and tricycle gear. The German company—with production in Battle Creek Michigan (in the same facility where Waco biplanes are built)—has you covered.

These are somewhat specialized aircraft and they may take a certain kind of buyer. However, you cannot fault the exquisite design effort and the painstaking detail that shows in the construction.

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With adequate funding and a strong push from the owner, Junkers is back in aviation and is set to make a greater impact on recreational aviation. Who can’t like that dedication to an activity we love?

Airshow buddies! — Ask anyone who frequents airshow like I do and you will often hear how much pilots enjoy these event partly because they can run into old friends. After 25 years of attending Aero, I’ve come to know many in the European region and it is a great pleasure to have a conversation with them.

U.S. meets Germany
Maggie and Scott Severen (on left) and Daniel Guenther and Mathias Betsch (far right) of Flight Design flank Randee Laskewitz and the author at Aero ’23. [photo by Jan Fridrich]

Delicious Differences

Unlike American shows that largely take place out-of-doors, Aero commonly hosts elaborate displays possible when exhibits are protected from weather and inside where stage lighting and dramatic backdrops can be arranged. While everyone comes to look at the airplanes, you cannot help but notice the great effort (and expense!) that many companies went to as they showcase their product. That and restaurant food available in multiple convenient locations (and every a beer garden for those that enjoy such). One more mundane thing that suits visitors: indoor plumbing (and I won’t say more).

I hope you can make it to Aero but if not, keep dropping by to see what’s news at Aero 2023!

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Europe’s Aero covers developing projects better than most shows I attend, thanks significantly to my aviation journalist friend, Willi Tacke who almost single handedly brought the e-flight expo to Aero.

One interesting project that I wrote about years ago is the PAL-V readable airplane or flying car. This particular project is flying, and is seeking regulatory approval from European authorities. As. did the folks Terra Fugia say, the most challenging part is getting approval for a vehicle that can drive on the roads.

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