Cliff Van Vleet, Arizona Chapter Report:
The 2022 air show schedule is underway and the first of at least six potential air show events available to us has just been completed, e.g. the annual February COPPERSTATE Regional Fly-in done in partnership with the City of Buckeye Arizona February Air Fair event. This is the third year COPPERSTATE has joined with the City of Buckeye to provide a ramp full of General Aviation airplanes with all the activities our COPPERSTATE event generates to augment the city’s airport appreciation day and school STEM program promotion. Two years ago the crowd was estimated at 40,000 which included 1,500 or so school kids brought to the Air Fair for their STEM exhibit stimulus. The mayor predicted the crowd this year would surpass 40,000 by a good amount because the public parking lot was full and folks were parking along the highway.
A new fangled STOL competition event went over pretty big with the crowd. Folks like to see crazies flying side-by-side abusing their airplanes doing short takeoffs, level flight at ground effect altitude for a short distance, side slip to a landing with short rollout, do a 180 degree turn and repeat the process on a return to the starting line then creating lots of dust as they taxi between the runway and taxiway and parking. One of the winners of the competitions was a Piper Clipper flown by a gal airline employee living in Tucson. She defeated a Carbon Cub in a squeaker finish. I had a nice conversation with her learning from her where she does STOL flying in the Arizona dessert and why she likes it so much. Very educational.
After COPPERSTATE’s pandemic hiatus of 2021 it was wonderful for us to re-unite with our statewide EAA and SWPC friends. The isolation of the pandemic really developed a need for us to get back amongst our “other than Short Wing” friends. We experienced the same vibes last year during our SWPC convention and EAA AirVenture attendances. As Paul Poberezny so often quoted, it is our people relationships which are of top importance. He often referred to himself as a millionaire, a fellow who had a million friends.
Of particular interest, to us at least, was the annual Short Wing Piper Forum that Carole and I host every year. This year the attendance was pretty skinny with many of our Short Wing friends still off-scope, but we had a very informative round table informal discussion pointed directly toward a couple of attendees who are new to the SWPC and thereby being short on Short Wing history. They were soaking up any and all new information related to their situations.
While doing my airplane judging duties, I came upon a very nice 1920s antique Travel Air requesting to be judged. While inspecting it critically, Roni MacPherson, long time SWPC member living in California came up and said hi and started discussing this historic airplane which she and her husband campaign with and sell rides in. Of more importance, when she noticed my SWPC yellow jacket and seeing my name stitched on it, she wanted to visit and brag about her Clipper “Gus” and the joy she gets flying it. Roni’s Clipper was awarded best Clipper at the 2014 SWPC Convention in Santa Maria, CA. She and her husband, Stewart, are a two airplane operation, she with her Clipper and he with his Travel Air. Both are very friendly and were eager to satisfy this judges’ questions about their historic Travel Air. Bottom line, it was great to get back amongst our Regional aviation friends and renew conversations as if it were only yesterday instead of two years ago we were last together.
Allow me to digress with the following story. Carole took the picture of me and Bob Hurni and Kismet Weiss at the Mayor’s dinner during the show. It captures the essence of fellowship we share amongst our aviation friends. I am enjoying a happy conversation with Bob, one of the gentlest gentlemen that I have had the privilege of working with at COPPERSTATE since 1992 = 30 years. We started parking airplanes together in 1992 in Prescott, AZ and we both have provided continuous service at COPPERSTATE since. Throughout these years Bob became a mainstay in the organization starting as a worker-bee parking airplanes then advancing to more serious service on the Board of Directors/Treasurer/ Vendor Coordinator/Chairperson for several other of all the numerous activities required to do an aviation event like COPPERSTATE. This year the City of Buckeye named one of the Hangars on the airport in Bob’s honor so his name is now permanently endowed on the airport for lasting recognition. We all possess friends like Bob and I just wanted to share the feelings of fellowship that prevail. In similar fashion, the SWPC Commemorative Brick installed at EAA AirVenture pays homage to the fellowship we share with our SWPC members. The gal in the picture is Kismet Weiss the wife of the present Fly-In Chairman which makes her one of the hardest working volunteers at the event doing ATOS (all that other stuff) at the discretion and direction of her husband Mark, who is also a very hard worker. Great People all and as I have said before it has been a great privilege to work with them. Bob is now 85 years old and not a spry as he used to be, but he is a tough old buzzard and still flies gliders and attends glider competition events.
Moving forward, we will be attending our annual Arizona Antique Classic Association CACTUS Fly-In on February 4-6 In Casa Grande, AZ. This is a separate cadre of aviation friends that we look forward to being amongst. Recognizing that we have been volunteers at both of these events for going on 30 years, we now are having more and more “do you remember” stories to share. Good Times are returning and we are so thankful that we are feeling safe enough to mix into crowds and feel healthy and safe. It was therapeutic to subdue the separation anxieties last year at our Lock Haven and Oshkosh SWPC functions and now even more wonderful to reconnect with our “other” aviation friends. Please take advantage of the opportunities that lie ahead for us this year at Chapter Meetings, Sun-n-Fun, SWPC Convention, EAA AirVenture, SWPC SW Regional and/or local events in your territories across the great US of A.
Just go Fly, Fly, Fly.