Stearman pilots take aim with flour bombs

Webmaster’s Note: This story appeared in the Sept. 6, 2007, edition of The Register-Mail, Galesburg’s daily newspaper, and is posted here with the publication’s permission.

By CIGI ROSS
of The Register-Mail

Watch out for flying flour bags!

An annual Galesburg Stearman Fly-In activity is flour bombing, a test of flying precision and long-distance aiming abilities. The competition was at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday at the Galesburg Municipal Airport, but results won’t be announced until Saturday.

Pilots were each given a small plastic bag filled with flour. Two miles down the runway, a queen- or king-sized sheet was spread across the grass midway with a barrel in the center for pilots to target. The only rule was pilots could not fly below 100 feet when they reached the target, said Mike Lowe, event organizer.

The pilot who landed his or her flour bag closest to the center will be declared the winner on Saturday. Trophies will be awarded to the first-, second- and third-place finishers.

The flour bomb contest is just for fun, Lowe said, but the idea dates back to World War I when military fighters dropped bombs out of open cockpit planes.

Quentin Marty, of Hightstown, N.J., was one of 16 Stearman pilots who took to the sky Wednesday afternoon to try his hand at flour bombing. Marty has attended the Galesburg Fly-In for the past five years and has taken the title in the flour bombing competition twice.

“It’s been a couple of years since I’ve participated,” Marty said. “I need to reclaim my title.”

Wednesday’s competition was a little tougher than many past flour bombing contests because of strong winds.

“It’s going to be interesting with the winds as strong as they are,” Lowe said. “These are probably some of the strongest winds we’ve ever seen for this competition. Just the flying alone will be a challenge.”

Marty agreed and said, “It’s definitely going to be harder. I have no idea how it’s going to go.”

The New Jersey native didn’t have any master plan for an assured first-place finish.

“It’s totally luck,” he said, tossing his flour bag into the air and catching it before he took his turn. “You just have to make your best guess. There’s not a whole lot of thinking, it’s mostly intuition.”