The tours were open to the first 100 attendees to register for them and both included lunch, camaraderie, and a chance to swap hangar stories with fellow pilots. This second of four AOPA Fly-Ins during 2016, also features seminars, exhibits, and great food and will continue Aug. 20 with good weather expected.
Retired U.S. Navy pilot and AOPA Air Safety Institute Senior Vice President George Perry helped escort attendees aboard the Stennis warship and answer questions about life aboard an aircraft carrier.
A cloudless blue sky greeted pilots arriving early to Bremerton National Airport to take part in a Barnstormers Party Aug. 19, where dozens of children played at the airport’s newly opened playground with an aviation theme.
Local resident Christy Olson supervised her son, Oliver, as he climbed into a mock control tower topping the playground while an Eclipse jet taxied to the ramp. The small jet joined a Beechcraft Staggerwing; several other taildraggers; and a host of Cessna, Piper, and Cirrus aircraft arriving early for the Fly-In.
“My favorite airplanes are P-51 Mustangs and Corsairs, but I also like the B-29 because my great grandfather was trained to be a tail gunner in one during World War II,” said the 10-year-old.
The Olson family was already acquainted with GA aircraft because they relied on small airplanes for medical and supply transportation when they worked as missionaries in Indonesia before moving to the Pacific Northwest.
Flight instructor and Ercoupe owner Matt Wallitner surveyed arriving aircraft while straddling a mountain bike, a common mode of transportation in the valley surrounded by the Olympic and Cascade Mountains. Like a lone sentry, nearby Mount Rainier and its snowy slopes anchored the view toward Puget Sound and Seattle to the east of Bremerton.
At the aviation museums, Flying Heritage docent Bob Anderson told stories about the collected aircraft as visitors walked under a replica of SpaceShip One at Paul Allen’s Flying Heritage Collection, which shares Paine Field with the Historic Flight Foundation and Boeing.
“I had a quick finger,” said Lyn Siebold, who watched a clock when registration opened for the special tours at Paine Field to make sure she and husband John could attend. The Vans RV-7 builder from Boise, Idaho, said “it was a once in a lifetime experience” that he didn’t want to miss. He also complimented AOPA for being “instrumental in pushing third class medical reform through.”Cessna 182 pilot Jim Taylor listed attentively with Darva Derr while a docent recounted the history of a North American B-25 Mitchell in the collection.
“My father said ‘whatever you do, don’t miss it,’” said Derr. Taylor said it “was a hard call between the aircraft carrier and the Boeing tour,” but walking among the giants at what is widely known as the world’s largest building by volume won him over.
After lunch the group took part in an impromptu Q&A hosted by the Historic Flight Foundation’s John Sessions, who talked about the 15 working aircraft the foundation keeps in the air, including the latest acquisition, a Grumman TBM-3E Avenger.
Sessions said the foundation’s “period of study here is 1927 through 1957,” beginning with a Beechcraft Travel Air.
“Imagine the people, the dynamic engineering, and the war,” said Sessions as the crowd ate lunch under the wing of Bad Kitty, a Grumman F7F-3 Tigercat. Trevor Steinle ran a cleaning towel over the aircraft’s cylinders and its wings in the background as Sessions briefed the group on expected departure procedures, wind, and weather. About half flew their own airplanes to the event.
“We’ll be firing up Grumpy in a few minutes, our B-25, to take over to the Bremerton Fly-In, at least that’s our plan,” said Sessions, and with that, attendees scrambled to take photos of the twin-engine aircraft as smoke belched from its cylinders.
Boeing’s Taylor fielded dozens of questions about the large airliners before the group boarded buses for their once-in-a-lifetime tour.
“It was all-world,” said pilot Reid Sherard, of Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, who said he “arrived via Boeing 757” and was preparing for a red-eye return to the East Coast. “After seeing that, man, it’s unbelievable. The scale is hard to describe unless you see it for yourself. There’s no question this was the best tour I’ve been on of any kind.”