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Albatross, Skytrain, C-130 wow crowds at Groton Fly-In

Novelist Tom Casey and his partner Silvia Erskine have the ultimate airplane camping setup—two rattan couches fold out to make a single double bed, and a two-horsepower generator powers a couple of lights and a small heater while also charging their electronic devices. That’s a sweet set up, but put all of that in a restored Grumman HU-16A Albatross flying boat, and you’re in airplane camping heaven.

Groton Fly-In

  • Groton Fly-In
    Entertainment for the Barnstormers Party at AOPA's 2017 Groton Fly-In, the Jonathan Moody Band, takes the stage--strategically positioned in front of a restored Grumman Albatross. Photo by Mike Collins.
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    The Connecticut Army National Guard's Theater Aviation Sustainment Maintenance Group, located on Groton-New London Airport, displayed this retired--but snazzily painted--AH-1 Cobra at AOPA's 2017 Groton Fly-In. Photo by Mike Collins.
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    A Cirrus Vision jet and a Mooney Acclaim Ultra present a study in angles on the static display ramp at AOPA's 2017 Groton Fly-In. Photo by Mike Collins.
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    Steve Broussard, left, with Mooney dealer Team Aircraft of Kansas City, explains the panel of a new Acclaim Ultra to Mariusz Socha of Manchster-by-the-Sea, Massachusetts. Socha, a student pilot, attended AOPA's 2017 Groton Fly-In. Photo by Mike Collins.
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    Pilots enjoy entertainment by the Jonathan Moody Band during the Barnstormers Party at AOPA's 2017 Groton Fly-In. Photo by Mike Collins.
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    Kurt Engelmann of Long Valley, New Jersey, center, gets help trying on an immersion suit from Tom Horne, left, and Groton Fly-In volunteer Gail DeCoteau of Groton, Connecticut. Englemann attended AOPA Pilot Editor at Large Horne's seminar on water survival. Photo by Mike Collins.
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    A volunteer helps direct a Douglas C-47 to the static display ramp on Friday, the first day of AOPA's 2017 Groton Fly-In. Photo by Mike Collins.
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    Participants in a water survival seminar watch a rescue basket demonstration in the Survival Systems training facility at Groton-New London Airport. Demonstrations also were offered on Saturday during AOPA's 2017 Groton Fly-In. Photo by Mike Collins.
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    A Lockheed C-130 from the Connecticut Air National Guard's 103rd Air Wing, based at Bradley International Airport, and a UH-60 Blackhawk in for refurbishment at the Connecticut Army National Guard's Theater Aviation Sustainment Maintenance Group in Groton, were among aircraft on display at AOPA's 2017 Groton Fly-In. Photo by Mike Collins.
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    AOPA President Mark Baker, right, talks with a pilot following Baker's Pilot Town Hall on Saturday afternoon. The Town Hall session was the concluding event of AOPA's 2017 Groton Fly-In. Photo by Mike Collins.
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    A Douglas C-47, a Grumman Albatross, and a Piper Super Cub are displayed at show center Saturday morning, Oct. 7, during AOPA's 2017 Groton Fly-In. Photo by Mike Collins.
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    Morning fog doesn't deter Jack Rosen of New Bedford, Massachusetts, and Barry Inglett of Caldwell, New Jersey, from talking Saturday at AOPA's 2017 Groton Fly-In. Neighbors in the aircraft campground, they had both just wiped the moisture from their airplanes. Photo by Mike Collins.

“We’re in the master suite, of course,” said Casey, sporting a nautical theme with navy shorts, a light blue button-up, and a cap with his silver hair peeking out from under the brim, as he pointed to the couches, small end tables, and picture frames of the flying boat dubbed American Clipper. Crew quarters are in the back, and there’s also sleeping space available in the bow.

Candlewood Lake, Connecticut, is one of Erskine’s favorite places to camp out. At night, when the lakes are calm without any wake from boats passing by, Erskine said she can forget that she’s sleeping on a lake until she wakes up and looks out the next morning.

They had a prime view waking up Oct. 7 from their parking spot (on pavement) at the AOPA Fly-In at Groton, Connecticut, presented by Columbia Aircraft Sales. The Douglas C-47 Skytrain Placid Lassie to the Albatross’s right, a Super Cub on amphibious floats to its left, and a row of display aircraft lined up in a long line in front of it, ending with a Connecticut Air National Guard C-130 and Black Hawk.

A total of 6,364 attended during the two-day event, and 480 aircraft flew in. Aviation enthusiasts taking in the Barnstormers Party on a balmy New England evening Friday dined under the stars, with the Albatross and amphibious Super Cub lit up, and live musical entertainment. Hundreds of the attendees watched a trailer of an upcoming film about American Clipper during the Saturday morning pancake breakfast and toured inside the amphib; Casey said he plans to retire American Clipper at the end of the year once the flying boat film is complete.

Casey has instructed in Albatross aircraft for 23 years, helping about 40 people earn their type rating. He purchased American Clipper in 1994 and spent $1.2 million restoring it to flying condition and having it painted in Pan American Clipper livery. He flies the American Clipper about 15 hours a year because it burns 100 gallons of fuel per hour and requires a lot of maintenance. “I know this airplane well and I love these airplanes, but they’re not for sissies,” said Casey.

The flying boats were designed to be open ocean search-and-rescue aircraft in the late 1940s, but they were soon replaced by helicopters, he said, adding, “It’s a beautiful piece of history.”

Patrick Bebe and his son Elliott drove in from Mystic, Connecticut, to take in the airport event and climbed inside the flying boat. “They have really comfy seating,” the young redhead said before turning his attention to the C-47.

This immaculately restored and highly polished 1953 Cessna 170B, owned by Vincent Lalomia of Montclair, N.J., turned quite a few heads on the ramp during AOPA's 2017 Groton Fly-In. Photo by Mike Collins.

The aircraft on display at the Groton Fly-In sparked many memories for John Behene of Connecticut. A Cessna 170 restored to pristine condition reminded him of a flight in a 170 when he was about 10 years old. The Skytrain brought back memories of his college days in the ROTC when he once got to take the controls of the C-47 in the air, and the C-130 made him recall thoughts about 15 jumps that he made from the model as a Navy Seal.

Behene’s eyes sparkled as he recalled those flights, saying, “It’s fun to see the C-130” and the rest of the aircraft on display.

In addition to the unique aircraft on display at the Groton Fly-In, attendees participated in safety seminars, hands-on workshops, the exhibit hall, and a Pilot Town Hall with AOPA President Mark Baker during which they learned about the association’s latest advocacy efforts against ATC privatization and egregious fixed-base operator pricing. Those who participated in the hands-on workshops on Friday learned about aircraft maintenance, instrument proficiency, flying with companions, and water survival—even getting a chance to experience the Survival Systems USA dunk tank first hand.

AOPA members and aviation enthusiasts have one more chance to take in the fun of an AOPA Fly-In coming up Oct. 27 and 28 when the association heads to Tampa, Florida. The fly-in, presented by Peter O. Knight Airport, will feature dozens of aircraft, hours of educational seminars, a packed exhibit hall, and unique excursions and fly-outs to MacDill Air Force Base, Piper Aircraft’s factory, and the Bahamas.

Alyssa J. Miller

Alyssa J. Cobb

The former senior director of digital media, Alyssa J. Cobb was on the AOPA staff from 2004 until 2023. She is a flight instructor, and loves flying her Cessna 170B with her husband and two children. Alyssa also hosts the weekly Fly with AOPA show on the AOPA Pilot Video YouTube channel.
Topics: AOPA Events, Fly-in

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