War birds of the past, present thrill Peninsula Air Fair

The 17th Kenai Peninsula Air Fair was a thrilling experience for aviators of all ages and those aspiring to someday get the wind beneath their wings.


From a replica WWI bi-wing fighter plane to the F-22 Raptor, the Air Fair had a variety of air ships on display for all to see. From Bob Lee’s EAA experimental aircraft to the Alaska Commemorative Airforce WWII fighters, mankind’s evolution of flight came to life with the roar of their engines and beauty of their flight formations as they flew the Missing Man Formation as a salute to America’s military pilots who never returned from their mission.

June 10 was officially proclaimed by Kenai and Soldotna mayors as Military Appreciation Day with the full honors of a 21 gun salute and posting of colors by VFW Post No. 100046.

Robert “Cricket” Renner of the Alaska Commemorative Airforce and retired U.S. Airforce flew the missing man formation over the Kenai Airport and commented in an interview, “I fly the old warbirds and I’ve flown the new jets in the Air Force and to see a Raptor on your tail is rather surreal. In the old birds it’s all about the pilot, you have your hands on the stick and the throttle, your feet are going all the time because it’s a tail wheel airplane and you are constantly thinking about how you are managing the engine and the flight controls are manual cables. The new fighters everything goes through a computer and the pilot makes inputs and everything is rather care-free and a lot like a video game.

“The main reason we exist at the Alaska wing of the Commemorative Airforce and keep these birds flying is to remember the veterans from WWII who made the ultimate sacrifice in these planes to serve our country. It goes through your mind every time you pull away in a missing man formation. We appreciate those guys who never came back. We just got back from Dutch Harbor last week because it was the 75th anniversary of the Japanese bombing of Dutch Harbor and we did a lot of flying out there with the Harvard,” said Cricket.

Kenai Airport manager Mary Bondurant has been the lead in organizing the Peninsula Air Fair since its inception and always makes sure that there are some great prizes for the pilots and crew who participate in the annual poker run. According to Bondurant, this year’s Poker Run had 32 participants, of which 18 had winning poker hands — Katie Knackstedt, Dale Moore, Lucy Untiet, Elizabeth Albright, Joni Piercy, Phil Whittemon, Terry Moxey, Hank Burmann, Carolyn Knackstedt, Ben Clare, Laya Untiet, Vern Worleman, Terry Godes, Roswitha Miller, Steven Untiet, Henry Knackstedt, Jacquie Moxeym, and Chip Versaw.

“Thank you for the sponsors of the poker prizes — Alaska Railroad, Alaska West Air, AOPA, ATP Medicine, Barnstormer Aviation, Chena Hot Springs Resort, Kenai and Soldotna Airports, Connie’s Flowers, Dan’s TV, Flats Bistro, Frames & Things, Grant Aviation, Home Depot, Kenai River Brewing, Knik Construction, Ravn Alaska, SBS, St. Elias, Trinity Green house, Trustworthy Hardware, Tustumena Smokehouse. Our financial sponsors this year were Hilcorp Alaska, Peninsula Aero Technology, Peninsula Ears, Nose and Throat, and Wince-Corthell Bryson. Other generous supporters were Copper River Seafood, Experimental Aircraft Association, Kenai Chamber of Commerce, Missionary Aviation Repair Center (MARC), Cities of Kenai and Soldotna, Civil Air Patrol, Kenai Police and Fire Departments, VFW and Kenai Senior Center. Thanks to the 90th F22 Raptor Squadron & USCG Air Station Kodiak for their static displays and everyone loved the live music of Alaska’s official balladeer – Hobo Jim.”