Some came early to the 46th National Stearman Fly-In.
The first was Jim Ratliff, Conyers, GA, arrived Aug. 30 at Galesburg Municipal Airport in Stearman N1370V to claim the “early bird” award.
On Sunday night, a day before the Fly-In’s official start, 23 aircraft were on the ground. At sundown Wednesday, 73 planes had been registered, and on Thursday there were 91.
For the year, a total of 101 aircraft were registered. They came from 26 states and one Canadian province. In 2016, 74 Stearmans were brought to Galesburg.
In addition to pilots, their families and other Stearman enthusiasts from across the country, the 2017 Fly-In hosted international guests from The Netherlands, Germany and Great Britain. Six pilots were first-time attendees this year.
Ted Miller, Santa Rosa, CA, claimed the “tired butt” award for traveling the greatest distance to the Fly-In. He flew 1,718 miles from his home airport to Galesburg in Stearman N9923H.
The oldest pilot to fly into Galesburg this year was Peter Gill, Enid, OK, in Stearman N4935N. Gill, who’s 89, will celebrate his 90th birthday in November.
Marshall Thomas was the youngest pilot-in-command to fly a Stearman – N52014 – into Galesburg this year. The 17-year-old is from Hernando, MS.
Among the airplanes receiving top honors in 2017 were:
>> Stearman N713WW, owned by James “Sandy” Wilson, Chicago, IL, Best PT (Army) Stearman.
>> Stearman N1203M, owned by Rob Tekampe, McHenry, IL, Best N2S (Navy) Stearman.
Various competitions during Fly-In week keep pilots busy. Events this year included:
>> The 4-ship Formation Flying Contest, held in Galesburg Saturday afternoon, Sept. 9, featured three teams. The winning team – Deviators – was led by Chad Pobanz, Peoria, IL. He flew with Dan Sokolowski, Clear Lake, IA, Brian Aukes, Huxley, IA, and Matthew Sawhill, Ankeny, IA.
>> Thirty-five participants flew in the Short Field Takeoff, Flour Bombing and Spot Landing contests in Galesburg on Friday afternoon, Sept. 8.
>> Five pilots entered the Aerobatic Contest held at Gen-Air Park, Geneseo, IL, on Thursday afternoon, Sept. 7.
>> A dozen pilots participated in the Fly-In’s Poker Run during the week.
Technical seminars and speakers on a variety of topics were featured during the week. Special programs included:
>> “Saving History: U.S. Naval Air Station Ottumwa, Iowa” was presented Thursday night, Sept. 7, by Steve Black, president of Friends of NAS Ottumwa.
>> “Old Airplanes and Old Pilots: Where Is the Next Generation?” was presented Friday night, Sept. 8, by John Pike, Oregon City, OR.
>> Former Army Air Corps Capt. Jerry Yellin, Champions Gate, FL, who learned to fly in Stearmans, discussed some of his wartime experiences on Wednesday afternoon. He also autographed copies of the newly-published book “The Last Fighter Pilot,’ which he co-authored with writer Dan Brown.
Two special events during Fly-In week attracted hundreds of participants to Galesburg Municipal Airport:
>> The Stearman 5K Rendezvous run-walk Monday morning, Sept. 4, on Galesburg Municipal Airport’s runways attracted 135 participants. It was the second year for the event.
>> On Saturday afternoon, Sept. 9, the Jet Air, Inc. hangar at the airport was filled with youngsters engaged in activities designed for them. They fashioned and launched paper rockets, built and flew helicopters, and took turns in a child-sized flight simulator. Hans Nordsiek, an airline pilot and owner of a Stearman N2S-3, entertained an audience in front the hangar. Nordsiek – he’s known as The Story Teller – is from The Netherlands.
The Fly-In concluded Saturday night, Sept. 9, with its annual awards banquet in the Jet Air, Inc. hangar.