Mark Mondello spotted the fire, and with help from a passing jogger began pulling airplanes to safety, including an original 1909 Blériot that makes occasional hops during airshows at Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome. His 911 call summoned fire companies from Rhinebeck, New York, and surrounding towns, and they stopped the Aug. 20 fire before it reached beyond the on-field gift shop and model museum.
That structure housed Cole Palen’s stick-and-tissue models and vintage aircraft fabric dating to World War I were lost, along with credit card readers and point of sale terminals. A photo published with various local news accounts shows the building fully engulfed in flames. The nonprofit organization’s leadership posted a detailed account of the fire, with a fundraising appeal, on its website.
“The Aerodrome’s founder, Cole Palen, was no doubt one of the greatest optimists this earth has ever seen. His reply to adversity was one of ‘No problem!’ and ‘We just have to keep moving straight ahead.’ We adhere daily to this mantra and his principles of keeping the ‘old planes in the air’ and presenting them in a traditional setting,” the statement reads in part.
Straddling the towns of Rhinebeck and Red Hook along the Hudson River, Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome remains open daily, with weekend shows and biplane rides planned through the final show of the fifty-sixth season on Oct. 11, which coincides with a pumpkin bombing and fall festival. The museum will close for the season on schedule Oct. 25. AOPA Online paid a visit in 2012 for a firsthand look at the collection of replicas and vintage aircraft, automobiles, and staff in period dress who immerse the audience in aviation’s roots with a little melodrama to build a story into their ancient flying circus.
“The Aerodrome would like to specifically thank museum employee Mark Mondello for his prompt recognition of the fire and his efforts to save aircraft and automobiles parked in hangars adjacent to the fire. After calling 911, he, along with a helpful jogger passing by, pulled to safety our original 1909 Bleriot monoplane, two other vintage reproductions, as well as our original Ford Model T, Baker Electric, and Renault Taxi automobiles,” the organization’s online statement continued. “To the anonymous jogger on Norton Road we wish to say an immense thank you to you also! Fire Department companies who responded include Red Hook, Rhinebeck, Milan, Tivoli, Hillside, and West Clinton.”