Airplanes were arriving in Bartlesville, Okla., under clearing skies on June 3 from as far away as Michigan and California for the twenty-third annual—and final— Biplane Expo. The National Biplane Association’s grand finale takes place Thursday, June 4, to Saturday, June 6, in the northeastern Oklahoma city.
“This has been one of the most successful, most unique, and most coveted fly-ins anywhere in the country,” Association Chairman Charlie Harris told volunteers assembled at Bartlesville Municipal Airport on Wednesday evening. “The weather for Thursday, Friday, and Saturday looks wide open. We will see numbers of aircraft that we haven’t seen in years.”
The event’s record attendance is more than 130 biplanes, and it has averaged 100 biplanes per year. Because of poor weather and the rising cost of operating aircraft, however, the Biplane Expo drew 58 biplanes in 2007 and only 31 last year. “At the same time, we had an aging pilot population, and an aging volunteer population,” Harris said.
Last fall the association’s board came to an emotionally difficult decision, voting to discontinue its aviation activities. Although the organization remains financially healthy, Harris said in a Dec. 17, 2008, letter that the board’s action was based on the downward trend of activity at the Biplane Expo, the ever-greater costs of conducting the event, and increasing challenges from a staffing standpoint, as well as an acute awareness of emerging general economic considerations.
A feature article on the event will be published in a future issue of AOPA Pilot.