Weather, volunteers enable biggest Fly-In

PLANES fill the grounds of WAAAM Saturday, and one young visitor was so happy she did cartwheels.

Photo by Kirby Neumann-Rea
PLANES fill the grounds of WAAAM Saturday, and one young visitor was so happy she did cartwheels.



A record 300-plus visiting planes landed at the Fly-In last weekend at Western Antique Aeroplane and Automobile Museum.

Food, music, beer, the trade and sale of plane gear and even vintage aviation magazines were all part of the fun at the 8th annual event at WAAAM. In addition to the visiting aircraft on display, WAAAM did its usual display of its growing collection of planes, cars, motorcycles, and more, including a wide selection of Chevy cars in the new Hangar 3.

“Everyone was safe, passengers and pilots, and we had the best weather ever,” said Ken Olsson, event chair. “It all came off that well because of the hard work of the flight line and parking crews,” he said.

A record 300 people attended the Saturday awards dinner, catered by West Side Fire. People’s Choice went to the 1936 Stinson owned by Don Stover of Seattle.

“He decided this is the best home for it, so it is now on loan and on display all year,” Olsson said.

Attendance on Saturday was 3,000, with another 1,000 Sunday — “definitely above last year’s,” Olsson said.

Olsson said 150 volunteers helped, including EyeOpener and Hood River Lions.

“There was a lot of activity, and some very high time pilots (on the flight line crew) who have a good idea of what’s going on. They’ve been at the other end of the radio,” he said.

“This is the best fly-in there is,” said Jan Wilson of Portland, who with her husband, Tuck, flew their 1948 Stinson “The Dauntless” for their annual visit to WAAAM.

“It’s got the best collection of planes, it’s got a laid-back vibe, and it’s beautiful,” Jan said.

“It attracts other airplanes that are of the same vintage and flown by loving pilots,” said Tuck. “Birds of a feather flock together? That sums it up. When you’re here, it’s very open, no guards, no high stress and people can have an interaction both with the planes and the pilots.”

Visiting pilots also included Josh Cawthra and his blindingly shiny 1946 Cessna 140. Asked his hometown, Cawthra said, “in transition, currently homeless.”

“As long as you’re not plane-less,” quipped Tom Burlace, a Hood River resident who has helped with WAAAM restoration projects.

The plane bears its original Nance and Cooper Flight Academy decal. In 1949, the plane was flown in the “Powder Puff Derby,” formally the All Women Transcontinental Air Race, by Ruth Gamber and Ruth Schultz of the Women Air Service Pilots (WASP) service.

“I also hold a record no one else in this airport does,” Cawthra said, showing a photo of crossing the home pilon at Reno Air Races — the slowest lap, at 96 knots — in 2013.

“I learned to fly and solo in an airplane just like this. He has done a remarkably good job on this airplane,” said Burlace, who is now working on his own project, restoring a 1946 Aronca Champ,

“You know what they say in airplane (restorations): ’it’s 90 percent done and 90 percent to go.’ And when they ask, ‘When will it be done?’ I just say ‘on a Tuesday.’”

Tuck Wilson has owned “The Dauntless” since 1967, and jokes, “I’m still paying it off.” He said he gave it its name a few months after acquiring it in Fairbanks, Ala.

“The entire city went underwater, inducing this plane, which I owned for three months, and it took me several months to rescue it, and upon arriving home I was so grateful to it, I gave it an enduring name, ‘The Dauntless.’”

New to the Fly-In this year were Hangar 3, built last year. Visitors were greeted by the restored Trail Drive-In sign, moved this summer to the museum entrance on Tucker Road. WAAAM acquired the old Evergreen (Vancouver, Wash.) hangar doors a few years back and they now form the entrance to the new WAAAM hangar.

Olsson said the one plane and pilot who got into a scrape, Bill Avolio aboard the 1910 Parker Pusher, are both fine after Saturday’s minor crash during the plane’s showcase flight. One wheel was damaged but Avolio was unhurt and the plane will be repaired and ready to go for the experimental airplane festival in Wisconsin next year.



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