7:52 PM

Air Show

Several years ago, I was asked to attend an International Council of Air Shows meeting by the late Lee Hansen, promoter of a number of Air Show events in the San Joaquin Valley of California. This meeting was held at Beale AFB, and for two days, I was surrounded with the likes of Wayne Handley. Jim LeRoy and a bunch of other aerobatic stars. I was allowed into the inner circle of air show performers, and to this day, I enjoy watching the "business side" of air shows.

So it was with great delight that I discovered Infinity Entertainment's Turbine Toucan Biplane act, set to descend (rapidly) on the 2008 Air Show Circuit. This is not your usual Air Show act, no, this is like nothing that has come before it. Infinity has a long history of working in and around the digital entertainment fields, with projects at Disney's Epcot Center dating back to 1984. Their literature says they "push the boundaries of entertainment marketing through immersive brand experiences such as the Turbine Toucan", and it is the Turbine Toucan that has now propelled the company into the air show industry.

So just who is behind this project? Good question:

David Kervinen not only designed and built the aircraft and systems but he also designed the identity and paint scheme. David worked in conjunction with Kevin Kimball for all the engineering and feasibility studies. Under contract, Jim Kimball Enterprises created many of the components that made the Toucan possible. Instrumental in the building process of the Turbine Toucan was Butch Pfeifer, who tirelessly worked with David to complete the aircraft in record time.
O.K., with that out of the way, let's generate some drool:
Turbine Toucan:
General performance specifications:
Rate of Climb : 9500/fpm.
Roll Rate: 350 degrees/sec.
Stall Speed: 64mph
G loading: +6/-4 routine
Horsepower: 750shp
Propeller: 4 blade composite 100” dia.
Fuel Capacity: 94 Gal. Jet-A
Thrust: 3300lbs.
This is a "blank sheet of paper" airplane, designed to do two things very well: (1) It is meant to entertain air show crowds, and (2) It is designed to claim the "world's Fastest Biplane" record now held by Italian Fiat CR42B at a speed of 323 mph:
From the conception of the Turbine Toucan, one major goal, though not a principle reason for building the plane, was to break the world’s fastest biplane record. If we can take 215kts indicated up to 32,000ft (under waiver) we will true out at 362kts @-35ºF. This number translates to 407mph TAS. If we can pull it off, we'd be the only biplane in history to break the 400mph mark.
O.K., you might be thinking that a really fast, really agile new biplane won't exactly set the Air Show world afire? If you think that, you don't know Jack about marketing:
Team Toucan is already busy readying for the 2008 Air show Season with the acquisition of a custom tractor trailer specifically designed for air show/sponsorship hospitality. Our goal is not only to provide entertainment in the sky but entertainment on the ground. We believe providing access to the aircraft, the team and support equipment makes for a much richer at venue experience. The 53' trailer consists of custom VIP sky deck for the best seat in the house, high speed satellite uplink, pilot/crew lounge and dedicated area for our sponsors. We are now in the early stages of designing the graphics package for a complete tractor trailer wrap.
I am very, very impressed with the overall package of the Turbine Toucan. Someone has thought this through to the very end, and from their web site, it already looks like they've signed a long list of sponsors. I hope they make gobs of money selling Toucan shirts, hats, models and beer steins...because in the Air Show business, anyone making a dime is ahead of the game.

This is a first-class act we all need to watch next year.

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