Copperstate Wraps up 2009 Regional Fly-In Season With a Bang
October 29, 2009 — Last weekend’s Copperstate Regional Fly-In at Casa Grande, Arizona, was described as one of the most successful events in memory, and looking at the numbers one can see why. Jim McChesney, fly-in manager, reports that attendance at the gate was up more than 20 percent, the number of aircraft increased about 12 percent – including a significant jump in showplanes – and they even had to scramble to make more room for aircraft and auto parking.
“We had to take some space from the production airplane parking area for the show planes and even then it was overflowing on Saturday,” he said. “The parking lot was doubled before the show, and we had to find more space for the cars.
“Running out of places to park planes and cars is an enviable position to be in.”
Workshops and forums were very well attended. “We even had to scrounge for more chairs from the food tent in some cases,” McChesney added. “Overall, it went very well, beyond what any of us expected.”
One of the beneficiaries of the larger crowds was EAA’s Ron Wagner, manager of field operations, whose daily duo of forums on sport pilot/light-sport aircraft and affordable flying were well attended. “This was easily the best Copperstate I’ve ever been to in terms of attendance and enthusiasm of the aviation community,” he said. “The fly-in lost a key leader last year when Bob Hasson stepped down, but he planned the transition so well there was literally no downside to the change.”
McChesney wholeheartedly agreed, explaining that before arriving at Casa Grande five years ago, Copperstate bounced around a number of different locations. “Bob got us set up at Casa Grande and I believe that has really helped our attendance. Copperstate has become a fixture in southwest Arizona the fourth weekend of October.”
Copperstate’s format excludes an air show, meaning the skies were open throughout the weekend for flying and vendor demo flights. There were reportedly 40 vendor aircraft on the field.
McChesney gave a shout out to Chapter 1445’s Wayne Bradney, who resurrected a rib-building workshop for kids. “They (kids) were thrilled with the program, they just loved it,” he said. “Chapter 1445 is an amazing bunch of people. This event would be hard to do without them.”
Another area seeing re-birth was the ultralight area, which last year saw five vehicles but had as many as 17 at one point last weekend, including experimental light-sport aircraft.
Safety ruled the weekend, as the only incident recalled was a blown tire upon landing on a Bonanza.
Wagner said he was thoroughly impressed by the dedication of volunteers. “Throughout the event everyone worked their tails off, but they did so with a smile on their face.”