AirVenture 2011 is now past the halfway point of the world’s greatest aviation celebration and what better way to mark the midpoint than to honor two of the greatest aviation legends. The weather held out for most of the day unlike on Wednesday, with rain finally moving in toward the evening and expected to clear out by nightfall. The parking areas were still in good condition, but the grass roadways were muddy but open. The general aviation parking was reported as 90% full with the general aviation parking area at 80%.
The day focused on Burt Rutan, a legendary designer of aircraft, some of which are more known for how unique they appear than anything else. AirVenture features over 100 Rutan designed aircraft in a special parking section of the homebuilt airplane area. The collection is considered the largest and most diverse collection of Rutan designed aircraft ever assembled. There were also additional displays in the Conoco Phillips Plaza. Yesterday, Burt even spoke of his latest ‘hybrid’ design, the BiPod, now handled by Scaled Composites. It was a hybrid airplane/car as well as a hybrid gas/electric powerplant.
Burt held a plane talk forum in the afternoon and, at 8 pm, at the Theater in the Woods, a tribute was held to salute him for his tremendous contributions to aviation and to reflect on the impact they have had on the world of aviation.
Brig. Gen. Chuck Yeager was also honored today, giving a talk and presentation at noon. Chuck Yeager can arguably be labeled as one of the best pilots in the world and definitely one of the most well known pilots in history. Officially becoming the first man to travel faster than the speed of sound by breaking the sound barrier and reaching Mach 1.07 in the Bell X-1. Over his long and highly decorated Air Force career, Chuck Yeager flew over 341 airplanes and became one of the best Air Force test pilots of the time.
The day wasn’t without unwanted excitement as, around 11 am, an Alabama Air National Guard F-16 ran off the end of runway 18/36 while landing. The pilot was able to walk away from the airplane and was taken, in apparantly good condition, for medical evaluation. The incident had little impact on events throughout the day. A local news station PIX 11, has a series of photos showing the overrun and resulting shower of dirt as the airplane dug into the ground. It was estimated the airplane entered the grass at the end of the runway around 70 mph and no word from the Air Force on any preliminary cause.
The day ended with another movie at the Ford Fly-In theater. In continuing with the legendary theme, ‘Airplane!’ was aired on the big screen and was introduced by Robert Hayes.
Tomorrow will prove to be a very busy day as Boeing will be flying their brand new 787 Dreamliner in and opening it for the first ever public tour of the airplane in the United States.