Pilots and enthusiasts from all over the Pacific Northwest and beyond gathered at the historic Felts Field in Spokane, Washington, eager to take part in AOPA’s first Hangout.
An airfield since 1913, Felts Field, originally known as Parkwater Airstrip, was the perfect location for pilots to gather, learn, camp, and hang outwith other like-minded aviators, all while enjoying the picturesque backdrop of eastern Washington.
The laid-back atmosphere of the Hangout allowed pilots to choose their own adventure as they perused vendor booths, checked out aircraft, relaxed in the 39 Lounge, watched the short takeoff and landing (STOL) demonstrations, and took part in educational seminars.
Warbirds like Grumpy, the North American B–25D Mitchell bomber, and Impatient Virgin?, the North American P–51 Mustang, and classics like the Hamilton H–47 Metalplane were on display in front of the Historic Flight Foundation hangar across the taxiway from the 39 Lounge and STOL Corral.
Eventgoers crowded the fence line at the 39 Lounge, cameras at the ready, to watch and photograph the diverse collection of aircraft participating in the STOL demonstration. The first group of aircraft to take to the skies included a 1939 Beechcraft D17S Staggerwing, a Travel Air 6000, and a Cessna 185E. AOPA Air Safety Institute Senior Vice President Richard McSpadden took part flying AOPA’s Sweepstakes Cessna 170 in the second group, accompanied by a Piper Super Cub, and a couple of Cessna 170s.
As guests made their way to the seminars, additional seating had to be added outside the seminar tents to accommodate the crowd of attendees excited to participate in McSpadden’s “Top 10 Flying Tips” and mountain flying specialist Mike Vivion’s “Backcountry Flying” seminars on Friday.
Tents were full on Saturday as well, as pilots piled into the Rusty Pilots Seminar, presented by Philip Mandel, and the Pilot Town Hall, led by AOPA President Mark Baker.
Attendees weren’t the only ones having a good time at the Hangout, as volunteers were happy to work the ramp, check in guests, and enjoy the event attractions.
On the flight side, volunteers gushed about the diverse group of people and airplanes they’d met during the event. “The second-best thing to flying is helping out,” said Hangout volunteer Marshall Crew. “You get to see lots of planes and meet a lot of people coming all the way from California to Montana.”
“It’s worth it and it's a lot of fun,” chimed in first-time volunteer Jim Sullenburger.
Between checking in guests at the 39 Lounge entrance, volunteer Sara Schwegel said, “I just am really interested in aviation. I’m a mechanical engineering major and I want to go into aerospace so I thought this would be a great way to get involved. I volunteered back in 2019 at the AOPA Fly-In in Livermore, California, as well.”
A quick trip over to the camping area saw families and friends enjoying the scenery, sharing aviation stories, and relaxing next to their aircraft. The Mayes family of five set up their two tents next to their beautiful Cessna 205 and said they love doing this kind of traveling with their kids.
As the sun began to set on both days, attendees and campers settled in around the firepits in the 39 Lounge to mingle with other pilots, enjoy food truck fare, play games, and listen to live music. A walk down the closed runway took guests to the outdoor movie area where families enjoyed a different flight line film each night.
The two-day hangout brought together enthusiasts young and old to do what pilots love to do most: fly, hang out with other aviators, and immerse themselves in aviation.
“While this was a new style of event for us, the same commitment to our members and our pledge for engaging and informative events was on full display,” said Baker. “Our return to Spokane was a success and we look forward to our November Hangout in Tampa, Florida, and other great events like this down the road.”