Alcohol Fuel Returns to Oshkosh

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An interested crowd presses in for a closer look at MOTHER EARTH NEWS' six-inch column still and an alcohol fuel demonstration.
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The world-famous Eagles Aerobatic Flight Team wowed the crowds.
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The types and varieties of aircraft on display provided quite a show.

Most folks’ thoughts are turning to visions of winter woolens and turkey fixings at this time of year, but here in Hendersonville, North Carolina we’re still humming with news about the touring summer seminars!

Last spring, all MOTHER EARTH NEWS staffers were so pleased with the success of the first two trips of the traveling alcohol fuel seminars that they began enthusiastically mapping out a third series of road shows. Throughout the hot summer months, the alcohol crew was presented away-from-home demonstrations. The first, in June, was on a southern circuit (covering North and South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, and Mississippi). The second, during July, went northward into Maryland and Pennsylvania.

But the seminar team didn’t slow down even after that two-month tour. Nor did its members confine themselves to converting only “earthbound” vehicles to run on ethanol. Instead, the crew kept right on trekking north to take a look at the world’s largest aviation event: the Experimental Aircraft Association’s annual Fly-In, held at Wittman Field in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.

MOTHER EARTH NEWS’ staffers had attended the Fly-In last year and had further stretched their wings at the “Oshkosh of the East” held in the small Tennessee city of Tullahoma. So, with the experience of two aviation events behind them, the crew immediately accepted the EAA’s invitation to attend this year’s August 2 – 9 gathering … which drew nearly half a million experimental aircraft enthusiasts as well as more than 10,000 airplanes.

Soon after arriving on the scene, MOTHER EARTH NEWS’ alcohol experts had an ethanol-powered ultralight aircraft flying with the best of the sport planes … while our other two alcohol-powered transporters — a new dual-fueled (ethanol or gasoline) Chevy van and our “old reliable” Ford pickup — offered onlookers a chance for some close-up inspection.

But MOTHER’ EARTH NEWS’ researchers weren’t the only ones at the 1980 Fly-In who were piloting vehicles powered by renewable fuel. Paul Poberezny (the EAA’s “chief”) was there to greet us with his “Pober Pixie” airplane, which had been converted to ethanol the previous summer.

And, towering over the tents and the hubbub of our car and aircraft exhibitions, MOTHER EARTH NEWS’ 15-foot, six-inch column distillery made an impressive silhouette against the clear Wisconsin skyline (our three-inch column still was on display as well). In fact, the milling crowds of alcohol fuel enthusiasts soon created enough excitement on the ground to rival the action taking place in the air!

As you can well imagine, with such an avid audience on hand (and primed by the previous successful seminar tours), our staffers couldn’t help wanting to share their knowledge. So the real hit of the EAA meet occurred when the crew shared a sampling of alcohol lore by giving a week of mini-seminars — free of charge — on homemade fuel production!

Needless to say, the response to the impromptu, information-crammed classes was overwhelmingly positive. Against the backdrop of the two alcohol stills, EAA enthusiasts soaked up every bit of ethanol information available. And — particularly important — the would-be flying alcohol fuelers were able to ask specific questions of the instructors and get detailed answers! In short, when the EAA gathering came to a close, there was no doubt in anyone’s mind that the week had been an exceptional learning experience for everyone there including the MOTHER EARTH NEWS crew.

Those of you who weren’t able to attend the EAA meet (or the summer’s alcohol fuel seminars) will be glad to know that the ethanol research team will be a full two weeks into their last series of 1980 road shows, during which they’ll conduct lecture-demonstrations in Texas, Colorado, Utah, Montana, Arizona, New Mexico, Washington, Oregon, and California. What’s more, in addition to their home-brewed fuel classes, our staffers will be holding a day-long seminar in ultra-low-cost solar systems at each location. So keep an eye on your local newspaper, and you ears tuned to the TV and radio, to find out when the tour will be in your area.