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Aero 2016: drones, aircraft parachutes and paragliding in a wheelchair

Aero 2016: drones, aircraft parachutes and paragliding in a wheelchair
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The Aero 2016 show in the German city of Friedrichshafen on the shores of Lake Constance was a success according to organisers.

Some 30,000 visitors attended the event, Europe’s largest and most important general aviation trade show, where more than 600 companies from 35 different countries displayed their latest products, from ultralights and gliders to business jets, helicopters and electric aircraft.

Whole aircraft parachute recovery systems, in other words parachutes that don’t just protect a single passenger but the entire plane, are a growing trend.

On display at Friedrichshafen was the single-jet Vision SF50 from Cirrus Aircraft, a brand new business jet. Once it receives operating approval later this year, it will be the world’s first business jet to be delivered with a parachute rescue system standard.

“The parachute that is on this airplane is call CAPS – the Cirrus Airframe Parachute System. We’ve had a parachute on every airplane we’ve ever made – that’s 6.300 planes. If the pilot is in an emergency, when all other things have failed, anyone in the airplane can pull a handle and the entire airplane will come down under a parachute,” explained Todd Simmons, Customer Experience President at Cirrus Aircraft.

Drones were also very popular at the Friedrichshafen show. With its racing drones, the exhibition’s indoor flight hall was aimed at seducing the younger, Playstation generation and electronics enthusiasts. Users wear glasses that provide them with a video image taken from the drone, giving them a pilot’s perspective.

But with an estimated three million drones circulating in Europe today, calls are growing for better “aviation awareness”.

“There are no legal restrictions. It’s the same as for model airplanes, and there are no rules for devices that weigh less than 5 kg, which means that whoever buys an aircraft like this on the internet or in a shop can just switch it on and operate it without knowing what they’re doing,” said Uwe Nortmann, managing director of the UAV Dach association.

“The pilots of these drones have to learn what they are doing and be aware of the responsibility and the risks. And this is only possible with specific training, which doesn’t exist yet. There are no regulations for licences, there is no schooling in the clubs, except model airplane associations where members teach each other and gain what we call “aviation awareness”,” he added.

Having a disability doesn’t mean you can’t fly – that was one of the messages at the Friedrichshafen show. Flight schools and associations were at hand to show off what is available for disabled people. The Rolli Flieger association from northern Germany presented its specially adapted wheelchair for paragliders to take off and land safely.

“Paragliders with disabilities, like myself, require a special wheelchair with a suspension system and large wheels, to be able to take off and land on bumpy ground,” explained chairman Michael Amtmann.

The Aero 2016 show in Friedrichshafen was also a chance for organisers to promote careers and try to motivate the next generation of pilots.

Under the slogan ‘Be a pilot’, advisors were at hand to provide guidance about future careers in aviation and answer young people’s questions about schooling, qualifications and career funding.