Fly-In returns to Jernstedt Field

Vietnam-era ‘Vampire Squadron’ visits Saturday

A new building under construction at the south end of WAAAM will be visible during the weekend Fly-In.

Photo by Patrick Mulvihill
A new building under construction at the south end of WAAAM will be visible during the weekend Fly-In.

The Western Antique Aeroplane and Automobile Museum will host the 2016 Hood River Fly-in at Ken Jernstedt Airfield on Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 10-11.

As in past years, hundreds of airplanes are expected to visit from across the Pacific Northwest and from distant places as well. The museum invites everyone to come and enjoy the spectacle and to see the new display hangar, now nearing completion. Admission to the Fly-in includes entrance to the museum and visitors are free to roam among the visiting airplanes and talk with the pilots. The Hood River Eye Openers Lions Club will serve the pancake breakfast and local restaurants will serve delicious meals all day.

Biplane rides are popular every year and will fly all day, both days. The biplane is a 1930 New Standard Model D-25 named “Stanley” that was designed with four passenger seats specifically for barnstorming. “Stanley,” with pilot Mike Carpentiero, has been coming to the Fly-in for several years and gives his passengers an aerial view of the Fly-in, the Hood and Columbia Rivers, the City of Hood River and the orchards in the valley.

WAAAM will also be honoring a group of Vietnam veterans known as the Vampire Squadron. For 40 years, this squadron and its operators were held as classified by the government and the USAF until being designated as declassified five years ago. Since that time, the group has had reunions at the West Texas Airshow in Midland, Texas, and in Dayton, Ohio, home of the USAF Air Museum.

Originally established to provide some of the first unmanned surveillance aircraft during combat, problems arose necessitating the insertion of pilots into the mix. This squadron were those pilots. Flying QU-22s (a modified Beechcraft) with many pounds of surveillance equipment and caring a .38 pistol, these men flew solo reconnaissance flights over the Ho Chi Min trail, South Vietnam and Laos, gathering data for the U.S. military, both on the ground and in the air.

This year, WAAAM invited the group to share in the celebration for their third reunion. One of their members, Tony Bailey of The Dalles, will assist in hosting the group during their stay in The Dalles and Hood River.

Fly-in hours are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. both days. Admission is at a special reduced rate of $10 for adults and seniors, $5 for ages 5-18 and active duty military personnel. Information about the Fly-in and the museum is available at the museum website or by calling 541-308-1600.

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