EAA 1457: A Little Bit of Oshkosh Every Month

10:32 PM

Bill McWhorter and his 2005 Quicksilver
I've made six trips to the gigantic airplane party that the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) throws each July on the shores of Lake Winnebago. Each time I step onto the grounds of Wittman Regional Airport after it has been transformed into a glistening wonderland of aviation goodness, I'm reminded that as aviators, we need to occasionally adhere to certain unwritten rules.

There are responsibilities every licensed pilot should strive to accomplish as part of holding the ticket and enjoying the freedom to fly we have earned. These things should be etched on a giant stone slab at show center in Oshkosh, for all to see. And while the items that this list contains might include the obvious, like the instruction to take plenty of kids flying, at the top of this sacred list of commandments shall be this decree:
Be it resolved that all humans who have earned the privileges therein appointed to holders of a Sport or Private Pilot license granted by the Federal Aviation Administration shall upon issuance of said ticket become paid members of both EAA and AOPA.
Yes, I believe these two organizations are that important. If not for the advocacy work EAA and AOPA does in Washington defending our flying privileges, we the people with yokes or sticks in our paws would have very little chance of arguing our case on The Hill. I include NBAA in this group as well, their work cannot be ignored in this conversation, but membership in their organization is not always a perfect fit for the Average Joe or Jane piston pilot.

Up until last month, I was nailing one half of that decree. Not kidding here, in 1996, I actually placed my AOPA wings in the back window of my truck’s cab in the parking lot of the FBO where I have just passed my private check ride. Being an AOPA member is that important to me. Despite being a paid member for months, I literally would not place the wings on my truck until I had passed the check and earned the license.

But while I've been a devoted AOPA member for 16 years, I had never signed up as an EAA member. Maybe it was my lack of mechanic’s skills, but I assumed (incorrectly) that EAA was primarily all about building experimental flying machines. That changed recently when I went to my very first meeting of EAA Chapter 1457 at Mahlon Sweet Field (KEUG) where my Cherokee 235 is based. The fact that I was based at this field for years and did not even KNOW it had an EAA chapter does not speak well of the almost non-existent pilot community at my home field:
EAA 1457 meets at the Oregon Air & Space Museum, and the group of pilots in the club are right out of central casting. Nearly all of them is now building or has built some sort of experimental plane, with a few exceptions. Meeting inside a giant hangar full of aviation artifacts, EAA 1457 is made up of the kind of aviators you will find at AirVenture, They are devoted to flying, extremely jovial, always welcoming to fellow aviators, and willing to give you their tools with a smile. With these guys, their beer is your beer. Need an engine hoist? Don’t go buy one, just ask the guys sitting on either side of you at an EAA meeting, and watch them coordinate to make sure the hoist gets to your hangar or home. At this meeting, you’ll learn miniscule factoids about building airplanes that to non-aviators might seem mundane. How many times can you really talk about rivets? Attend a few EAA meetings, and you’ll learn that rivetology and the discussion of fasteners in general are not only acceptable chatter, it’s somehow a requirement - someone MUST talk about rivets before the meeting can be adjourned.
At a recent meeting of EAA 1457, one pilot who did not talk about rivets was Bill McWhorter, who educated the room about Ultralights, and in particular, the joys of flying his 2005 Quicksilver Sprint. The Quicksilver is powered by a two-stroke, twin cylinder, Austrian-made Rotax 447 engine making all of 40 HP, and has conventional 3-axis controls. We learned it stalls at about 20 MPH, cruises in the low 30s, and has rarely seen 50 MPH.

For a room full of fixed wing guys – some who fly Lancairs – hearing McWhorter describe his adventures in (on?) the Quicksilver was very, very interesting because few if any in the crowd had any experience with Ultralights. McWhorter said this:
“I have flown the entire Oregon coast and most of the Willamette Valley over several trips from Daniels Field just east of Eugene, and to Diamond Peak and Crater Lake as well. For these longer trips, my wonderful wife follows in the car with extra gas. My tank holds about five gallons, which is good for about 75 miles, and I can carry a plastic container with another five gallons to refill at stops. I’ve also trailered the Quicksilver to Mt. Shasta, Alvord Desert/Steens Mountains, the Three Sisters area, the Crooked River Gorge, and all over Wallowa Range.”
The presentation was very well received, and we all learned something new. After watching amazingly graceful videos shot as the Quicksilver effortlessly meandered low and very slow south down the gorgeous Oregon Pacific coastline, McWhorter set up the final video of the evening:
“My wife and I plus our dog trailered the Quicksilver from Eugene and camped on the Alvord Desert, a dry lake bed below the Steens Mountains south of Burns, Oregon. The lake bed is over 4,000 ft. in elevation, and the Steens are almost 10,000 ft. For these high-altitude flights, I change the main jet on the carburetor. The flights were less than one hour each, and during one video run, the "bounce" off the lake bed seen in the video was intentional.”

Watching the video above makes me want to run out and buy a Quicksilver. This is amazing footage, shot as McWhorter hand-held the camera, producing a really REALLY dramatic shadow effect. I have never seen anything like it, a few minutes of aviation video bliss that is not possible from anything other than an Ultralight.

Yes, I am glad to now be EAA, and to have a generous dose of Oshkosh to enjoy each month is priceless. The camaraderie is there at the EAA Chapter 1457 meetings, and so is the wall-to-wall aviation fellowship. All that is missing is the World’s Largest Grill with a couple thousand Brats sizzling in the late July sun.

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