MEMBER ALERT: AOPA is closed today, Dec. 10, due to inclement weather and will reopen Dec. 11 at 8:30 a.m. Eastern.
September 14, 2011
By Dan Namowitz
Photo credit: Scott Shekels.
Nothing turns an aviation enthusiast's head or transports you back to the barnstorming era like the sight of a Stearman biplane passing overhead or resting in the grass. Imagine the effect that a gathering of 139 Stearmans at the fortieth annual National Stearman Fly-in at the Galesburg, Ill., Municipal Airport had on crowds.
Enthusiasts toured the flight line, took airplane rides, and enjoyed performances by pilots of this classic that has served in roles from military trainer to aerial applicator to show aircraft since 1934.
The National Stearman Foundation organized the event, which stretched from Sept. 5 through 10, with a goal of “200 in 2011” for the number of Stearmans expected. However, the same weather that diminished turnouts at aviation events in the eastern states hindered some aircraft from making the trip to Galesburg. Attendance was unofficially estimated at 139 aircraft.
That didn't mean that the enthusiasm of aviation fans was down.
“It was packed. They had cars parked from one end of the airport to the other,” said Scott Shekels of Minneapolis, Minn. Shekels, a private pilot, has been a spectator at the fly-ins almost every year since 2004. He said he has ridden in a Stearman, and now has made taildragger flying a goal.
Shekels is an adopted-by-chance member of the extended Stearman family. After he became a pilot, a friend offered to introduce him to a relative who was involved in aviation. The person Shekels met was Marilyn Stearman Carr, the daughter of aircraft designer Lloyd Stearman.
“She made me feel at home and sort of adopted me into the family,” he said. Carr continues to serve as a director of the National Stearman Foundation and attends the fly-ins.
“Of course the Stearman folks love seeing her,” Shekels said, adding that when Carr walks the flight line, she is familiar with many of the individual aircraft and describes rides she took in them.
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