A thunderstorm soaked the airport Saturday morning. The rain didn’t put a damper on the fun, however, and the showers soon moved off.
Some 230 aircraft landed at Beaufort, many arriving on May 20 to take advantage of better flying weather, a fuel discount, and the lively Barnstormers Party. There were approximately 1,883 visitors, many of whom drove from up and down the East Coast.
Beaufort Mayor Richard L. Stanley welcomed the fly-in visitors. Beaufort is the third-oldest town in the state, he said, and the hometown of Michael J. Smith, the astronaut who was piloting the space shuttle Challenger when it broke apart on Jan. 28, 1986. The former Beaufort-Morehead City Airport was renamed in his memory.
“This is a North Carolina first, to have an AOPA Fly-In, so we’re very proud of that,” said Morehead City Mayor Gerald A. Jones Jr.
Visitors swarmed the seven-seat, twin-engine Diamond DA62—the very same airplane that they had seen on the cover of the April 2016 issue of AOPA Pilot. Others took advantage of the opportunity to climb into a Boeing-Bell CV-22 Osprey, one of several military aircraft in the static display. The Osprey, carrying a crew of 11, had flown in from Marine Corps Air Station New River in Jacksonville, North Carolina. For routine missions, the hybrid heavy-lift helicopter merged with a turboprop airplane is staffed with two pilots, a crew chief, and a gunner.
A dozen or so airplanes brought a hardy band of campers. Hank Osborne, of Goose Creek, South Carolina, and his son Levi arrived in a Mooney M20C flown by family friend Bill Magill. Osborne set up a tent for himself and a smaller one for his son, explaining that the fly-in trip represented two milestones for Levi: It was his first trip in a general aviation airplane, and it was a birthday gift. Levi had just turned 6.
“His siblings are very jealous,” Osborne said. Levi is one of five children.
Levi burrowed in the big tent in search of a sweatshirt, but poked his head out long enough to say that his ride was fun, and a little bumpy.
Kevin McCray drove to Beaufort from Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, arriving on Friday so that he could take a special tour of Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point. McCray said he hadn’t been on the base since he was discharged from the Marines in 1986. McCray, who owns an aircraft sales and brokerage business, attended a seminar on Automatic Dependent Surveillance-Broadcast, noting that he has to stay on top of the 2020 equipage mandate so that he can assist his clients.
Charley Shumaker, an independent CFI, drove in from Milton, West Virginia. Shumaker owns a Cessna 172N. Looking over the AOPA Yingling Ascend 172, Shumaker compared its many features with those of his current airplane and quipped, “I wouldn’t mind trading.”
Photos by Mike Collins.