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Contact! Port honors local ace

The final touches are being painted on the new Ken Jernsted Airfield sign that will be unveiled at the renaming ceremony on Saturday.

In June, the Hood River Port Commission moved to change the name of the former Hood River Airport to honor Jernstedt, 84, Oregon's first flying fighter ace and long-time legislator.

"I can't think of a guy who deserves this more," said Commissioner Don Hosford.

In World War II Jernstedt earned the Distinguished Flying Cross as a member of the elite Flying Tigers. He was one of 100 volunteers recruited from the U.S. Marine Air Corps in 1941 to pose as a civilian and protect the Burma Road, a vital supply route into China, from Japanese invasion. Over a six-month period, the Flying Tigers destroyed an unprecedented 296 enemy planes and Jernstedt is credited with shooting down more than 10 of these. Following his military duties, Jernstedt served as an Oregon State Senator for 20 years and in the House for two years before that. He was also the mayor of Hood River from 1959-60 and again from 1989-90.

The airport's namesake will be honored during an official christening ceremony at 10 a.m. That event was planned in conjunction with the Hood River Fly-In, which takes place locally every odd-numbered year.

The 2001 fly-in, sponsored by the Columbia Gorge Aviation Association and Flightline Services, will compliment Jernstedt's achievements by commemorating World War II. Organizers have contacted pilots from across the region to attract airplanes from that era. Dozens of aircraft will be located outside, including warbirds, antique and experimental planes, kit models, gyroplanes and more. The Oregon Air National Guard will bring a Chinook helicopter and the local National Guard unit will feature one of its armored Humvees. The event is also expected to include a Bonneville Power Administration helicopter and a Federal Express airplane, as well as antique cars and even an antique steam engine.

Anne Yannotti, spokesperson for Flightline Services, said the day will be more meaningful if it's well attended by local residents with military backgrounds.

"We would certainly like to have the veterans in town at the airport," she said.

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Saturday Fly-in Facts

There is no charge to attend the fly-in, which begins at 7 a.m. with a breakfast cooked by the Hood River Eyeopener Lyons Club. The morning meal will be offered until 11 a.m., followed by a kielbasa lunch served until 4 p.m. by the Hood River Valley Adult Center. Barbecue sandwiches will also be sold by the aviation association and desserts by area youth groups.

From 7 to 9 a.m. there will be demonstrations of remote control models, power parachute and ultralight aircraft. Aviation items will be on site throughout the fly-in, which lasts until 5 p.m., and memorabilia will be displayed inside different airport buildings.

Airplane and helicopter rides will be offered for a small fee during the event -- and visitors will even have the opportunity to take off in an antique, open-cockpit biplane.

The Ken Jernsted Airfield is part of the Federal Aviation Administration's National Airport System. There are 76 aircraft based at the site; many are housed in private hangars and others are stored in the port's 36 T-hangars. There are 13,700 take offs and landings annually on the air strip, an average of nearly 38 per day.

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