By Terry Stephens
The success of this year’s Northwest Experimental Aircraft Association Fly-In at Arlington Municipal Airport last month already has set the stage for next year’s 39th annual event, said Executive Director Barb Tolbert. Known for years as the third largest general aviation event in the nation, after EAA AirVenture Oshkosh and Florida’s Sun ‘n Fun, the five-day NWEAA show draws more than 50,000 visitors each year.
Tolbert said the new Splash-In at Lake Goodwin, promoted by the Washington Sea Plane Pilots Association, had nine planes registered; three other float plane pilots who weren’t members visited.
“It definitely was a success and the association will be promoting it again for next year,” she said. “It adds a fresh element to the event. We offered a shuttle between the lake and the air show and that worked out well, too.”
Anchored buoys were set up near the new community park and beach for seaplane tie-downs and two 150-foot-long docks were available. A full-service store and deli was open at the Lake Goodwin Resort and meals were available at the nearby Road House Bar & Grill.
“Lake Goodwin now is one of the state’s designated seaplane bases,” Tolbert said.
Silver State Helicopters, a flight academy based at the Arlington airfield, once again provided helicopter flights for scenic views of the Cascade Mountains and the valleys and rivers of Snohomish County.
Sport pilot planes were a focal point this year at the “display mall” where several of the new aircraft drew a lot of attention. Tolbert noted that it was the first Northwest opportunity for visitors to see a side-by-side comparison of some of the new planes coming into the market.
There was a lot of interest in this array of new sport pilot aircraft, even though some of the 20 vendors who signed up weren’t able to fly in due to weather early in the five-day event that made it difficult for some of the VFR-only planes to arrive as scheduled.
“Also, not many of the people selling the planes own them,” Tolbert said. “They have to borrow one for some of these shows from one of their buyers and sometimes that can be a problem. We had several of them on hand, though, and they drew a lot of attention.”
Tolbert expects to see sport aviation generating tremendous interest in the Pacific Northwest. That anticipation has spurred plans to break ground soon for a $2 million, 25,000-square-foot Sport Aviation Park at the airport. The center will be able to provide space for 100 indoor trade show exhibits during the annual NWEAA Fly-In. Also, there will be space for classrooms for educational programs during the event, year-long promotion of aviation programs and new offices for the NWEAA Fly-In staff.
The organization continues to sell personalized tiles to raise funds for building its new sport pilot and conference center at the airport.
“Many more were sold to business and individuals,” she said. “That project is moving ahead.”
Overall, 1,600 planes flew into the air show, and daily flying performances were “a big hit.” Paul Allen’s nearby Flying Heritage Collection of rare World War II aircraft was on display. A free shuttle took visitors from the display tent at the event to the nearby hangars housing the rest of the rare warbird collection. The collection includes a P-40, P-51, British Spitfire and F6F-5 Hellcat. Allen has just added two new planes to the display, a P-47D Thunderbolt and a Messerschmitt Bf 109E-3. Two of those planes, the P-47D and a German Fieseler Storch Fi 156-C2, performed a flyby and one of the retired German Air Force Alpha Jet fighter planes being refurbished for the Canadian Air Force by Abbatare Inc. at nearby Arlington Airpark provided an impressive flyover.
The popular event provided daily two-hour air shows, helicopter rides, displays of famous warbirds, trade show exhibits, pilot programs and evening outdoor movies at the “Runway Theater.”
The afternoon air shows were a major attraction again this year. A variety of pilots gave polished performances. Those included Bud Granley and his son, Ross, flying their Yak fighter planes; Airbus A320 captain Renny Price in his Russian-built Sukhoi SU-29; Terry Burch flying a Czech Zlin 50 for his aerobatics show; and Dr. Kathy Hirtz, founder of WingOver Aerobatics in Creswell, Ore., and a general practice and sports medicine physician, flying her Pitts S-2B biplane. The Arlington-based Black Jack Squadron, a civilian formation flying team, performed flyovers for the crowds, including a 20-plane formation that Tolbert believes is “a world record for the team,” which usually flies 12- to 16-plane formations.
For pilots, there was great interest in the opening of the first branch office of Wicks Aircraft Supply of Highland, Ill. The Arlington Airport facility opened because of a friendship that developed over the past two years between the owner of Wicks and Jim Scott, manager of the Arlington Fly-In and operator of an aircraft engine repair facility at the airport.
Scott and his wife, Denise, who’s also a pilot, opened the Arlington Airport-based store at the 38th Annual NWEAA Fly-In last month on the west side of the airport. Scott said the aircraft parts and service center received a warm welcome at the airfield and from the thousands of fly-in visitors.
“We’re already discussing an expansion of the store to display and sell more of Wicks’ products. We were packed in here during the air show,” he said. “There’s no place close that carries the wide range of aircraft parts, flight instruments, manuals and other items available from the store or Wicks’ 450-page catalog.”
For more information, visit [http://www.nweaa.org].