By Terry Stephens
General Aviation Day at Paine Field attracted more than 2,500 visitors, drawn by scores of military and civilian aircraft on display and a “reunion” gathering for those who served in the military or worked at the airfield since it was built in the early 1940s.
“It was a lot of work but really fun,” said Stephanie Allen, past president of the Paine Field chapter of the Washington Pilots Association and the organizer for the May 21 event. “Around 270 young people got flights with the Young Eagles program and 21 vendors raised funds for charitable causes, including the Taste of Mukilteo tent where there were 15 restaurants providing food. They even sold out early.”
Allen said more than 500 pancake breakfasts were prepared by Paine Field firefighters—for a $4 donation each—to raise money for the Northwest Burn Foundation. She praised the county aviation community for its strong response to the event.
Airport Manager Dave Waggoner said the event was the best ever over the past eight to 10 years the General Aviation Day has been featured there. He credited the WPA with doing “the lion’s share of preparation for the event.”
One of the biggest attractions was the display of historic Paine Field photos in one of the corporate hangars. Scores of people who had served or worked at the airport in both military and civilian roles wandered through the hangar looking at aging photos of the base buildings and rows of P-38 Lightnings that were once based there.
One visitor to the reunion, Cliff Hudson, 86, of Everett, Wash., looked over the photos and recalled when he served at the base in 1942 when the Army first made it a military airfield, sending in P-40s and then P-38s.
“I remember the day one of the P-38 pilots raised his landing gear too soon in a turn,” Hudson said. “The propeller hit the ground and the plane wiped out 25 feet of our mess hall, killing two soldiers who had gone there early for their meal. It ended up with its tail up in the air and the nose against the storage room.”
Other photos showed the F-102 Delta Dagger interceptors of the 1960s, the decade when the airfield transitioned from its military role to a fully civilian role. It was in the middle part of that decade when the last of the fighter planes left and the new Boeing plant at the north end of the airfield began rising from the ground to begin production of the first 747 airliners.
Visitors had an opportunity to look ahead to Paine Field’s future as well as remember its past. A new video display showed the interior of the new Future of Flight Aviation Center and Boeing Tour facility being built at the northwest corner of the airfield. Due to open early in October, it will tell the story of modern airliners and display the next generation of technology being developed for the new Boeing 787 being built at the Everett plant and for other airliners of the future.
Also, Everett Community College offered tours of its maintenance technician training facility, and pilots of both private and military aircraft spent the day chatting with visitors about their aircraft and Paine Field’s historic aviation roles in the Pacific Northwest.
Sponsors of the event included the Everett Jet Center, Regal Air, Everett Community College, Norman Aviation Services Inc., Cannon Interiors and CAI Avionics, Civil Air Patrol, Future of Flight Foundation, Seattle Avionics Software, Food Emporium, Northway Aviation, Skycorp and the Northwest School of Aviation.