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Air show flies high

Posted: Monday, June 07, 2010

Aircraft enthusiasts young and old were aflutter at the Kenai Peninsula Air Fair Saturday.

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Photo By M. Scott Moon
Photo By M. Scott Moon
Jerry Thornton and his daughter Jojean are dwarfed Saturday by a C-130 (foreground) and a C-17, both from the Alaska Air Natioinal Guard, as they leave the Kenai Peninsula Air Fair and Poker Run at Kenai Municipal Airport. The event featured a mix of civilian and military aircraft. "My favorite part was going inside the airplane," Jojean said.

"Look you can jump out the back," said budding pilot Nicholas Wehrstein, 7, of Kenai, while buckled into the Alaska Air National Guard's C-130 Hercules, a passenger and cargo carrier that accommodates paratroopers.

Helicopters, bush planes and military airplanes were parked along the runways of the Kenai Municipal Airport after they visited earlier at the Soldotna Airport's pancake breakfast, hosted by the Experimental Aircraft Association.

"Everybody loves to see the aircraft," said Mary Bondurant, manager of Kenai Municipal airport. The event is a joint effort between the cities of Kenai and Soldotna, she said.

The Alaska Air National Guard had a number of planes on the runway, giving tours to interested spectators.

"We fly a lot of our training lines down here," said Eric Barlow, of the Air Guard. The Guard flies about a dozen touch and go's out of Kenai weekly, he said.

Many residents were excited to see the aircraft and meet the military guardsmen to "put a face to the airplanes and feel like they're a part of it," Barlow said.

"That's your tax dollars at work," said Jim Bielefeld, of Kenai, a member of the Experimental Aircraft Association's local chapter.

One aircraft, a Grumman Goose, made a special appearance on the Kenai runway. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service used the old floatplane to support its projects statewide starting in the late 1950s.

"I sure spent a lot of hours on it. It's a beautiful bird," said Bob Richey, of Kenai, who used to pilot the plane in the 1960s. "It was a super good plane. It's good on the water and gravel strips."

He said that the aircraft was used to pick up crews in remote locations as well as give tours to important visitors to the state. The plane was originally built in the 1940s as a pleasure craft but was used in World War II, said Richey. The Goose is now featured in the Alaska Aviation Heritage Museum in Anchorage.

Robert Borgen, of Kenai, said he came to the air show particularly to see the Grumman Goose.

"It's a pretty rare airplane," he said.

Bondurant said that pilots of small airplanes from around the state flew in to participate in the air show's poker run.

"The poker run was very successful," she said. "We had 43 participants, and the pilots were able to fly into all the air strips that were involved."

This was the tenth year for the air fair on the Peninsula.

Brielle Schaeffer can be reached at brielle.schaeffer@peninsulaclarion.com.



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