Neither wind, nor snow, nor record low temperatures stopped the public from turning out to see airplanes and learn about aviation at Fairbanks International Airport on Saturday, May 18th. As Mother Nature provided what we hope was the last covering of snow for the season on Friday night, a cold front moved through and brought bright sunny skies on Saturday morning. As the doors opened at 7 a.m. the temperature hovered at a chilly 22 degrees, with a brisk 15 gusting to 20 knot breeze dropping the chill factor to just above zero. In spite of that, people poured in adding up to almost 1,500 visitors for the day.
The cold temperatures probably contributed to making the EAA Pancake Feed a very popular activity, that raised over $2,500 for aviation scholarships and safety programs. Older kids quickly signed up for a free Young Eagles flight, while younger children were attracted to the mini-airport (70 by 30 feet in size) where air traffic controllers issued them an N Number and instructions to taxi, take off and land. A total of 167 youngsters “flew” in this airspace during the day. The most popular event of the day was a face-painting table, supported by volunteers from the Cooperative Extension Service’s 4-H Program.
Outside, in the bright sun and bitter breeze, twenty three airplanes and a helicopter were on display, ranging from Everts Air’s immaculately restored 1929 Travel Air, to the FedEx Boeing 727, recently donated to the University of Alaska Fairbanks Aviation Program. Many people had never had the chance to walk through a cargo aircraft, and very importantly on this occasion—it was warm inside! Delcourt Aviation organized the aircraft display, which gave the public the opportunity to get an up-close and personal look at an impressive array of working aircraft. The airport fire department complemented the display with a variety of crash/fire/rescue equipment. Due to the storm the day before the event, David Delcourt and Joey Smith got up at 3 a.m. to move the lighter aircraft to the display area. Now that is dedication!
The UAF Community and Technical College’s Aviation Program moved into its new home on the East Ramp only a few months prior to this event. Transforming the hangar, work tables and class room into an aviation exhibition was no small feat, featuring sixteen exhibitors, a theater for aviation mini-seminars, scale model airport with runways and taxiways, and a dining area for the pancake feed. While a few outdoor events were cancelled due to the weather, no one seemed to notice as they got free luggage tags from Alaska Airlines, talked with flight instructors, took airport tours guided by airport ops staff, learned about flight-seeing opportunities this summer, and listened to aviation historian Dirk Tordoff tell the story of the first powered flight in Alaska, 100 years ago. The weather also limited the number of Young Eagle flights. Only 35 kids got to go flying during the day, but another 80+ signed up for a “rain check” flight when the weather improves.
It is hard to measure the impact of an event of this nature. Seeing the look on the younger faces after they “flew”—either in a real “Young Eagles” airplane, or made a simulated flight over the FAA’s mini-airport, suggests a bright future for aviation. Exposing the younger set not only to the prospect of piloting, but to air traffic control, airport management, aircraft maintenance and other professions related to our industry was huge! It took a team of people holding bi-weekly meetings for several months to plan and organize the event.
It also required sponsorship. Many organizations stepped up to the plate, and provided both cash and in-kind support, which provided things such as the use of the UAF Hangar, insurance coverage from the Alaska Airmen’s Association, CAP Cadets directing traffic to parking areas, shutting down a maintenance shop to move display aircraft, to name a few. In addition, it took over $5,000 of cold, hard cash to afford the radio, newspaper and online advertising necessary to reach the public, which came from the sponsors listed below. Your membership in the Alaska Airmen’s Association, AOPA, EAA, the Fairbanks General Aviation Association and other aviation groups as well of your support of the corporate sponsors, flight schools, maintenance facilities is essential to hold events like this across the state—which quite literally, gives us a future!
A big THANK YOU to the organizations and individuals that supported this event. Platinum: Flint Hills, Alaska Aerofuel Inc., Gold: 5th Avenue Design & Graphics, Air Arctic, Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, Alaska Airlines, Alaska Airmens Association, Delcourt Aviation, Era Alaska, Everts Air, Experimental Aircraft Association, Fairbanks International Airport, FAA, Nana Management Services, North Pole Coffee, Northern Alaska Tour Company, Odom Corporation, ProFlite of Alaska, Tamarack Air, Twigs Alaskan Gifts, UAF Community and Technical College Aviation Program, Warbelow’s Air Ventures, Warbelow’s Flight School, Silver: A&W Wholesale, Civil Air Patrol
Note: This article was reprinted from the June/July 2013 issue of Alaska Airmen’s Association’s Transponder.