“YOU CAN’T LEAVE EAA AIRVENTURE WITHOUT WANTING TO BECOME A PILOT”: Ryan Densham

When encountering the hundreds of thousands of aviation enthusiasts – many of whom are avid PT6 fans – at EAA AirVenture (aka Oshkosh), Ryan Densham takes an appreciative tone: “The annual convention and fly in of the Experimental Aviation Association is my grounding point for the year… it refills my batteries and lets me see the fruits of my labour.”

Ryan, General Manager – Marketing, General Aviation at P&WC, will this year attend his 10th EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, Wisconsin, July 23 – 29. He says the week-long celebration of all things aviation offers a vast array of special events and activities, but the daily air shows remain the cornerstone event that draws immense crowds. The diversity of the aircraft in flight and the capabilities they demonstrate create an aviation wonderland for the nearly 600,000 enthusiasts expected to attend AirVenture 2018. Once again this year, P&WC is co-sponsoring the daily air show in partnership with Quest Aircraft.

“We give access passes to our OEMs for them to distribute to their customers,” says Ryan. “We also give some away directly through our social media channels. Our tent is right on the flight line and it lets people get out of the sun and enjoy some cold refreshments. Operators are super happy to see the show in comfort. We have 150 seats for each of the seven days.”

He says he still remembers previous AirVenture air shows where the F22 Raptor fighter aircraft (powered by P&W) took to the air in a display of military might, and the War Bird Spectacular when the skies darkened and the air rumbled with dozens of aircraft from World War II.

Ryan has also seen numerous unique development aircraft at the show, some of which never make it into production but highlight the incredible innovation of the general aviation industry.

“At its heart, AirVenture is all about education, with countless seminars and demonstrations,” says Ryan. “It’s a master class for those interested in joining the aviation community in whatever capacity. The bottom line is that you can’t leave AirVenture without wanting to become a pilot.”

Ryan says he’s looking forward to re-connecting with his fellow avgeek Mike Patey, who just might qualify as the world’s biggest PT6A fan. “Many aviation enthusiasts dream of building or modifying their own aircraft and might spend the better part of a lifetime doing just that. Mike, on the other hand, seems to churn one out every couple of years or so and lately they have been invariably powered by a PT6A engine.”

AirVenture: A Patey Family Affair

Mike spoke to The Nation the week of July 9 from his home in Utah where has was waiting for officials from the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) to arrive that week to give their blessing to his rebuilt Wilga bush plane. Nicknamed “Draco,” the Wilga is powered by a PT6A-28 engine. Needless to say, he plans to fly the Wilga to Oshkosh later in the month, after about five months spent modifying the aircraft, rebuilding 60 – 70 per cent of it in addition to replacing the engine. His new PT6A engine is 135 pounds lighter than the engine it replaces and will goose the aircraft’s power from roughly 250 horse power to about 680 horse power.

“This will be my 15th consecutive AirVenture and for us it is always a family affair,” says Mike. “While I will be flying to the show, my wife – a real trooper – will be driving the family’s 45-foot RV hauling a 46-foot trailer loaded with the family’s recreational toys, over to Wisconsin – a 35-hour drive – with our four kids. Our kids have grown up at Oshkosh and this trip has become a summertime ritual for us all.”

Mike’s twin brother, Mark, who also has four children, will be attending the show as well. Together, the brothers own an aircraft tug company (tugs are those motorized machines that move aircraft around an airport) whose wares will be on display at AirVenture in a booth that is staffed by the Patey families.

“There’s no doubt that aviation runs in the family blood,” says Mike. “Mark is also a pilot as are both our wives and most of our children are ready to follow in our footsteps.” Coming to AirVenture for the Pateys seems to be what visiting Disney is to other families.” Mike says he’s also a big fan of the daily air show where he has seen some remarkable sights over the years.

“What really impresses me is some of the unique aircraft you get to see,” says Mike “You look at some of these inventions and wonder how they can possibly fly, then you see them up in the air and they’re travelling at a couple hundred miles per hour. It’s amazing.” Mike’s previous project was a rebuild of a Lancair Legacy kit (dubbed “Turbulence”) in which he installed a PT6A-42 engine that allowed him to set North American speed records. He plans to fly Draco in the STOL drag races at the High Sierra Fly In to be held in Nevada later this year. Read an in-depth interview with Mike.

The Nation will be on the ground at AirVenture to speak with Mike and other aviation enthusiasts. Stay tuned.


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