GA rallies to help Down Syndrome Indiana

August 11, 2011

Volunteers provided information and fun for fly-in attendees.

Volunteers provided information and fun for fly-in attendees.

Move over Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey. When it comes to putting on a show, the general aviation community knows how to put a smile on a face or two.

Youngster with balsa model“Can we go again?” “Is it over already?” These where common exclamations after flights during the Fifth Annual Fly-In and Open House Aug. 6 at Indiana Executive Airport, said John Gallo, executive vice president of Business Operations at Rolls-Royce. Gallo volunteered to fly attendees in his SR20.

The fly-in served not only as a community event but also as a fundraiser for Down Syndrome Indiana, drawing 1,000 attendees to the airport and raising $13,000. Indiana Executive and Montgomery Aviation have hosted the event for five years and helped to raise nearly $60,000 for the non-profit organization. The event featured flights in a Huey that made quick turnarounds to drop off passengers and load up again for the next flight. Aviation games with prizes including model aircraft, face painting, bounce houses, a skydiving demonstration, and aircraft display added to the excitement for attendees and volunteers alike. More than 40 children received flights.

John Gallo, center, speaks with volunteers at Indiana Executive Airport's Fifth Annual Fly-In and Open House. John Gallo, center, coordinated with volunteers at Indiana Executive Airport's Fifth Annual Fly-In and Open House.

This year, Rolls-Royce stepped up as a sponsor, donating $3,000 and dedicating more than 30 volunteers to help with the event. Gallo said the company “looks for opportunities at local airports” to work with and give back to the community.

A Rolls-Royce 250 engine, which powers fixed- and rotary-wing aircraft, on display was a hit. Rolls-Royce volunteer Anthony Woodard explained to families how the engine works but got a surprise of his own. One young man asked how the fuel turned into energy, he said. “It kind of tested my knowledge,” said Woodard, who is an avid remote-controlled aircraft enthusiast.

Gallo estimated that 15 aircraft were on hand to give rides during the event, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. And aircraft ranging from a Skycatcher to a Huey and everything in between, including singles and twins, composite and metal, warbirds and modern, and pistons and turbines were on display.

Brian and Ted von Eiff enjoyed their fifth consecutive fly-in. Brian (left) and Ted von Eiff enjoyed their fifth consecutive fly-in.

Ted von Eiff brought his 21-year-old son Brian to the event again this year—they haven’t missed a one in the five-year history. The family has been a member of Down Syndrome Indiana for many years, and von Eiff said the fly-in is the largest event that supports the organization. von Eiff, who collects books, models, and memorabilia of the Boeing 727, said one of the highlights for families is “being able to see so many different kinds of airplanes and sit in them.”