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Diverse Fleet Draws Crowd at Copperstate

By David Kujawa

Longtime Head Judge Takes Flight of a Lifetime

The mid-morning arrival of a 15-ship formation of Nanchang CJ-6s and friends at Copperstate

Copperstate tram riders give the thumbs up to the 2010 fly-in

Saturday aerial shot at Casa Grande Airport, Arizona.
Larger view

Photo Gallery – Copperstate 2010 Aircraft Award Winners

October 27, 2010 — Long a Southwest hotbed for showing experimental aircraft, last week’s Copperstate Fly-In at Casa Grande, Arizona, showed a diversity of aircraft types, covering the gamut from powered parachutes to heavy iron. Fly-In Manager Jim McChesney said more than 300 aircraft participated in the 37th annual event and there would have been even more had the weather to the west and north cooperated for aviators.

“The local community really turned out this year,” he said.  “Thursday and Friday were down slightly, but Saturday the lot was overflowing. We’re real pleased with this year’s attendance.”

As we reported last week, the “Early Bird” Award went to the Consolidated P4Y-2 Privateer Tanker 121, which arrived at Casa Grande on Saturday, October 16. The world’s only flying example was parked on the ramp next to the terminal, motivating site preparation activity during the week.

Opening Day
A much-needed, dust-settling rain fell the hours before opening day. Volunteers hustled to put the finishing touches on the site as exhibitors began setting up. An Apache attack helicopter taxied to the helipad near show center as the Commemorative Air Force’s always gleaming B-17 Sentimental Journey and her recently restored stablemate, 18-mission World War II combat veteran B-25 Maid In The Shade arrived. Top cover was provided by Little Friends—a sleek Spitfire Mk IX replica R-ED and the stunning P-51 Mustang Red Dog.

Those classics were complemented by contemporary turbine power—a smiling, shark-faced T-34C Turbo Mentor; a midnight black Shorts S-312 Super Tucano; a camouflaged bird dog SIAI-Marchetti SM.1019; and a pair of L-39 Albatros’.

The flying circus came to town in the form of a red and white 1930 New Standard D-25 biplane emblazoned with the word RIDES on its lower wings, the CAF’s navy blue SNJ trainer, and a Teutonic-colored T-34 Mentor, all providing rides and performing crowd pleasing fly-bys.
Contrasting the heavy iron were the light flyers - powered parachutes, trikes, and ultralights that had their own parallel desert runway directly accessible from their rampside hangout. Local powered paraglider guru Mo Sheldon entertained early morning attendees with the first showcase flight each day.

The Copperstate Fly-In has no daily air show, but rather offers a nearly continuous parade of airplanes on display, a stream of showcase flights throughout the day, along with aircraft arrivals and departures. Not having an air show means never having to say, “We’re closed,” allowing fly-in guests to come and go as they please.

Day Two
Friday was greeted by intermittent high overcast and sunshine with temps in the mid-70s. EAA-sponsored workshops and forums were running full tilt and the rib building Kid’s Program got underway – more than 100 were eventually built. New this year was the AZ FAASTeam providing FAA safety seminars and Wings credit for participants.

The weather surrounding Arizona was such that many would-be attendees from bordering states were unable to arrive, although one determined Cessna 195 owner started with a Pacific Ocean-facing departure and climb to an eastward VFR-on-top flight from California. Local aircraft owners began turning out in force through the afternoon.

Day Three
Saturday dawned bright and clear and tower staff and aircraft parking marshals were busy from the start as arrivals begin filling the ramp. The juxtaposition of a turbine powered, single seat Helicycle sitting in front of the B-17 foreshadowed the day to come.

The mid-morning arrival of a 15-ship formation of Nanchang CJ-6s and friends excited the growing crowd. After a formation break the group landed and rumbled to a stop in line between rows of showplanes. A formation of Stearmans dotted the sky with smoke-on passes and by noon the ramp was covered with people and airplanes.

Experimental aircraft ran the gamut from a tiny silver Hummelbird to a fire-breathing Lancair IV-P. Award winners included a snappy white and yellow GY-20 Minicab, an amphibious Challenger in Coast Guard-livery and a custom painted Rotorway helicopter. Antique and vintage enthusiasts admired Waco biplanes, an Oshkosh award-winning Stinson Gullwing, round-motored Cessnas and a Globe Swift with all the mods. Perhaps the most unusual looking airplane in attendance was a 1962 Nardi FN-333 amphib with a single, large hull float, outriggers, and a twin tail.

Fuelventure 400
Afternoon flying activities heated up when the Fuelventure 400 race participants arrived. Competitors launched and recovered at nearby Phoenix Regional Airport, and after completing their final weigh-ins to determine the most fuel-efficient airplane in the sky, a gaggle of racers made high speed passes down the runway. The third annual Fuelventure’s overall winner was none other than Klaus Savier, averaging 57 mpg at 225 mph over the 400-mile course in his highly modified VariEze.

A True volunteer event
Copperstate is the largest all-volunteer run fly-in in the United States with more than 250 individuals making it happen. Organizers said “thank you” in a huge way on Saturday afternoon to two volunteers who went “above and beyond” in their efforts to ensure the success of the show. Al Lerfald and Marty Skalon received warbird rides they will long remember. Lerfald produced the event signage hanging throughout the grounds and Skalon solved numerous electrical issues at the site that greatly improved safety.

Thanks to the gracious donation of flight time from the CAF’s B-25 crew and the owner and pilot of the P-51 Red Dog.

Winding down
The crowd stayed late into the afternoon, lining the edge of the parallel taxiway to watch departing showplanes make demonstration passes before they headed off for home.

McChesney received many positive comments attendees who appreciated the county fair-like, family fun environment at Copperstate. “We’ve created an atmosphere like the way fly-ins were in the late 1960s and early 70s. It’s a mellow, calm, enjoyable fly-in. Nobody is showing off, but the pilots are showing their airplanes well,” said McChesney. “I think we’re doing it right.”

The 2011 Copperstate Fly-In will be held October 20-22. Mark your calendar now!

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