AirFest to land in Big Rapids

PILOT: William Barnes prepares his 1942 Aeronca Champ for a flight. Barnes, of Rodney, stores his vintage airplane at the Roben-Hood Airport in Big Rapids and displayed it during the 2011 AirFest. (Pioneer file photos)

World War II bomber to be main attraction at Roben-Hood Airport event

BIG RAPIDS — As many as 100 antique and unique aircraft are expected to fly into Roben-Hood Airport next month for the annual AirFest.

Although organizers don’t know exactly which planes and pilots will participate in the event until they fly in that morning, a World War II B-25D bomber plane is scheduled to be on display at the one-day festival. The airplane is part of the Wayne-based Yankee Air Museum’s collection of historic planes.

“This is a big-ticket item, but there will be all sorts of family-oriented stuff going on, including Stormy the Magician, face painting, a DJ, a senior center bake sale, tractor locomotive rides and more. This is designed as a community event,” said Beth Ranger, event organizer and office manager for Colt Aviation, which manages the airport. “You’ll hear this plane coming; it’s pretty loud. … Each year we host the fly-in event. It’s really neat because you can be here all day to look at different planes.”

AirFest 2012 will be held from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. on July 7 at Roben-Hood Airport. Organizers expect between 70 and 100 planes to participate in the annual event.

Spectators will be able to view the insides of the different styles of aircraft, as well as ask pilots questions about their planes. Aircraft start landing at Roben-Hood as early as 7 a.m.

An all-you-can-eat “Flying Pancake Breakfast” will kick off the day’s events at 7 a.m. Breakfast is $7 for adults and free for children under the age of 5. Pilots also will be able to attend a Michigan Department of Transportation safety seminar.

VINTAGE: Two aircrafts sit at Roben-Hood Airport during the 2011 AirFest. Last year’s show featured nearly 100 vintage airplanes from around the state and Midwest.

Organizers expect as many as 3,000 people from across Mecosta County to attend the event throughout the day. About 1,500 people attended last year to view about 70 planes.

“Typically we get 1,000 to 3,000 people, depending on the weather, but I think we’ll get more this year because this bomber is a huge draw for a lot of people,” Ranger said. “We’ll have a lot of pilots come from within a 100-mile radius that morning. Pilots are always looking for a reason to fly some place.”

Those who attend will be able to purchase half-hour rides on the B-25 bomber. The cost is $400, with proceeds benefiting the museum and the plane’s upkeep and maintenance. The bomber will land in Big Rapids on July 6.

The bomber plane, known as the “Yankee Warrior,” is the only known remaining combat plane from the 489th bombardment squadron in Corsica. It has two 14-cylinder, 1,700-horsepower engines and can reach speeds of up to 350 mph and heights of 25,000 feet. It burns an average of 130 gallons of fuel per hour.

Mike Lafferty, airport manager, hopes the event is well attended.

“It’s a great family event that has something for kids from 3 to 103,” Lafferty said. “We don’t know who’s coming from year to year, but we’re always pleased when they do show up. We always see something different every year.”

For more information about the event, contact Colt Aviation at (231) 796-5600.

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Posted by Jonathan Eppley

Jonathan Eppley is news editor for the Pioneer. He designs and copy edits the Pioneer daily, and manages staff in the evening. Eppley joined the Pioneer staff in 2010. He can be reached at (231) 592-8357 or at jeppley@pioneergroup.com.

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