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New Life for MERFI

Mid-Eastern Regional Fly-In Finds New Home in Urbana, Ohio

By Bill Wilson, EAA 466133

The Shiffer Family Foundation's restored B-25 on display at Grimes Field, Urbana, Ohio.

MERFI attendees got to see several vintage aircraft like this Fairchild 24R.

Grimes Field offers MERFI plenty of room for growth.

A "rivets-up" B-17 restoration is underway in Urbana.

September 10, 2008 — 44 years is a long run for any event. The Mid-Eastern Regional Fly-In, held for the first time in Urbana, Ohio, this year, is the elder statesman of regional aviation gatherings. The last two years at Marion and Mansfield, Ohio, have been problematic and MERFI welcomed the opportunity to relocate.

This year’s event, held September 6-7 at Urbana’s Grimes Field (I74), drew respectable crowds and a smattering of exhibits, but also tapped the great strength of the central Ohio aviation establishment to feature an outstanding WWII aircraft restoration exhibit courtesy of the Shiffer Family Foundation. The Shiffers and an army of volunteers are in the process of painstakingly restoring a B-17 from the rivet lines up. In addition they showcased a beautifully restored B-25, a Navy SNJ (T-6), and an A-26 rescued from firefighting duties and ready for restoration.

Dave Shiffer, local industrialist and head of the family foundation, is MERFI’s new president, and Dave Millner, president of the International Radio Controlled Helicopter Association, is the vice-president. Together they promise bigger and better for next year.

“Next year’s MERFI will be September 12 and 13 and we’ll be prepared with more seminars, more exhibits and more reasons to join us,” Shiffer said. MERFI is in a unique position to attract large fly-in crowds because of its central location just west of Columbus, Ohio. Because of the last-minute turnover from organizers in Mansfield, the Urbana group had less than two months to prepare for the event.

Despite the short lead-time, things went smoothly and the event drew many people from the local community. RV, tent, and aircraft campers found an excellent facility awaiting them when they arrived. Event organizers even provided attendees shuttle service to a chili cook off taking place in downtown Urbana.

MERFI definitely has a lot of potential for growth at Urbana, and with the dedication seen this year, its future looks good.

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