• They came, they saw, they ate

    Posted on July 3rd, 2009 John Dorcey 1 comment
    Bill Kinsman describes the facility as, “A little grass airport out in the middle of nowhere.”  Bill is president of the Central County Airport Association and one of the airport’s biggest boosters. His description is factual, but don’t be fooled. This little grass airport booms on Fridays and a few other days throughout the year. The attraction for the Central County Airport (68C) is simple – food and fellowship.

    Take today for example.  The weather was perfect for flying and the fact that many working folks had the day off for the July 4th holiday set the stage for record attendance. Sixty-six airplanes and one helicopter arrived over a 90-minute span. These 67 aircraft set a record for Friday arrivals, but only by a few. Many others – myself and wife, Rose, included – arrived by ground vehicle.

    Some of the planes that brought diners to lunch today

    Pilots who arrive early become judges after landing and parking. Listen closely; you can overhear them as they comment on the style and technique of each landing. Olympic judges might be easier to please! Others walk from one airplane to the next, lingering at those that hold a special attraction.

    The aircraft mix was diverse – a large collection of Cessna 150s and 172s, a gaggle of Piper Cherokees, and a Mooney. The homebuilts, also large in number, included two Sonex models, several Kitfox, and at least three RVs. Antique and classic aircraft were represented by an early model Cessna 170, a couple of Stinson Station Wagons, a trio of Ercoupes, and a real pretty Piper Pacer among many others.

    Bill Kinsman, President, Central County Airport Association

    Lunch is served promptly at 12:00 – or when the food is ready. About 200 sat down to lunch today. You must be a member of the Central County Flyers Association to buy lunch. Memberships are available at the door. Price for lunch is a very reasonable $6.99. Bill does all the cooking and collects the money as diners move through the line. Six volunteers, the unsung heroes, assist Bill by handling all the other details that must be attended to during meal service.

    There are 715 members in the association as of today. They come from all over the US, from Montana to Florida, from California to New York. Bill is as surprised at the growth of his effort as anyone. He admits, “I could never have planned anything like this.” Rose and I saw lots of familiar faces, said hi to many, and spent some quality time with a few. It is this fellowship that satisfies Bill the most.

    Jet fly-bys are a rare treat and we experienced one today. A Canadair Challenger made a low pass that brought oohs and aahs from the crowd. You would have thought we were at a fireworks show. I guess we were – a show for aviators.

  • Planes, trains, and automobiles

    Posted on June 21st, 2009 John Dorcey 2 comments

    When I agreed to attend today’s Wings and Wheels event at the Sheboygan County Airport (KSBM) to staff the Wisconsin Centennial of Flight exhibit, I felt a certain amount of angst. It wasn’t that I don’t like pancake breakfasts or fly-ins. My problem is one of change. You see, I have attended the Palmyra Father’s Day Fly-in almost every year for the last 30 years. It is where my Dad, my two sons, and I have shared a Father’s Day breakfast for as long as my sons have been off baby formula. But change is inevitable and so off to Sheboygan and the 19th annual Wings and Wheels.

    Breakfast is served, Wings and Wheels 2009

    We arrived at the Sheboygan County Airport (KSBM) just before 7:00 AM. My wife, Rose, and I laid out our WAHF materials and headed to the breakfast line. The smell of pancakes and sausage quickly overpowered my desire to stay on my diet (tomorrow is another day). The EAA Chapter 766 folks greeted us with smiles, hot coffee, cakes, and sausages cooked to perfection.

    The fly-in traffic started to fill the traffic pattern before we sat down to eat. The drive-in traffic was a close second. The food line began to fill up before we finished our first pancake and didn’t slack until after 11:00. Last year’s event totaled more than 1000 breakfasts. My unscientific count indicates a number even higher this year. Breakfast was served in the Aviation Heritage Center of Sheboygan County – a first-class facility.

    Sheboygan County (KSBM) ramp, Wings and Wheels 2009

    Outside the temperature wasn’t the only thing heating up. The arriving/departing aircraft and static displays drew crowds to the flightline. Antique and classic aircraft were most common after the typical Cessna, Piper, and Beech attendees. The military was represented by a trio of T-28s, a T-6, an L-39, and one or two others that slipped below my radar. One hangar east of the Aviation Heritage Center, the Sheboygan Area Radio Kontrol Society (SHARKS) had a massive display of scale aircraft.

    The next hangar to the east provided a huge (24 x 40 foot) HO-scale train layout by the Sheboygan Society of Scale Model Railroad Engineers Limited. This large, modular layout kept the engineers busy operating trains while answering the miriad of questions asked by young and old alike. The layout was redone in 2007 and reflects the pride and workmanship of the organization’s members.

    Car Show cutie, Wings and Wheels 2009

    Just as the airside of the event began to wind down the car show took off. Not just a car show mind you, this event included classic cars, antique cars, several hot rods, steam engines, fire trucks, farm tractors (steam, gas, and diesel), and a hand-crank Calliope. Aromas filled the air as the food vendors worked hard keeping everyone fed. The alfresco setting among the planes, trains, and automobiles made the day one to remember.

    A great day for a fly-in. The weather was perfect, the crowds appreciative, and the food – well it is hard to beat a fly-in pancake breakfast. Did I miss Palmyra? Well, yes, but my Dad and sons made the trip without me, keeping the tradition alive. Where will I go next year? I’m not sure but did I tell you about the radishes at Palmyra?

  • Thunder on the Lakeshore

    Posted on June 7th, 2009 John Dorcey 1 comment

    Today my husband, John, and I staffed the Wisconsin Centennial of Flight exhibit at the Thunder on the Lakeshore air show in Manitowoc. The friendly members of EAA Chapter 383, located in Hangar 22 at the Manitowoc County Airport (MTW), welcomed WAHF with open arms so that thousands of air show visitors could learn the story of the first airplane that flew in Wisconsin, and see a quarter-scale model of that airplane.

    While John and I were there, we ran into Andrew Ovans, our 2007 Carl Guell Memorial Scholarship recipient, who has volunteered at the Thunder on the Lakeshore event for three years. Andrew stopped by to check out the exhibit, and we learned that he’s graduated from Fox Valley Technical College and is now looking for employment as a pilot or aviation maintenance technician. We also asked Andrew what he thinks about the Warner-Curtiss model. Like many others who have seen the model throughout the state, Andrew’s words were full of admiration for the EAA Chapter 60 members and the fine work they did on the model.

    Neal Darnell and his jet truck Flash Fire

    WAHF Board Members Tom Thomas and Michael Goc staffed the exhibit on Friday night and Saturday. John and I were glad to grant them a reprieve so we could meet and talk with the fine folks at Manitowoc and see a great air show (in spite of unseasonably cool weather). Perhaps the cool weather led to more men, women, and children seeing the model, for they were looking for a place to get out of the cold wind and found Hangar 22 the place to be. Not to mention, the pancakes and sausage they served at their breakfast fundraiser were delicious!

    By mid-afternoon, John and I began partial disassembly of the aircraft and loaded it back into its shipping container. With help from several EAA Chapter 383 members we got it loaded onto the trailer and transported it safely to Oshkosh. It will be on display in the terminal at Wittman Regional Airport (OSH) until June 19. Be sure to stop in to see it if you haven’t already. Better yet, come by on Tuesday evening, June 16, when I’ll be giving a presentation about Wisconsin’s first flight. The presentation is titled “The First Thing I Knew, I Was Flying”, you’ll find interesting how surprising the first flight was…to our state’s first pilot. The presentation begins at 6:00.

    —Rose Dorcey