Dozens of Aircraft
And Vintage Cars
Were On Display
For Curious Public
By BILL JONES
Hundreds of people turned out on Saturday at the Greeneville-Greene County Municipal Airport for the first of what organizers hope will be many Wings & Wheels on the Greene Fly-in and Cruise-in events.
The Greeneville chapter of the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) sponsored the event, while the Greeneville-Greene County Aviation Association hosted the fly-in and the Volunteer State Auto Club hosted the car-show portion of the program, according to Wayne Bettis, an organizer.
The cruise-in drew about 90 vintage and custom automobiles and trucks, while dozens of aircraft, including Greeneville business leader Scott Niswonger's Gulfstream IV twin-engine jet aircraft, were on display.
Long lines formed throughout the day for tours of the interior of the Gulfstream IV.
While many of the "general aviation" aircraft on display at the airport on Saturday are based here, a number of aircraft were flown in for the event.
Those included a surplus U.S. Navy T-28C "Trojan" piston-engine trainer flown by Pierre Boursse, a Concord, N.C., restaurant chain executive, who owns with the partner, Hardees and Little Caesar's restaurants here.
Boursse said the vintage airplane, which was formerly used to train U.S. Navy and Marine Corps pilots to make landings and takeoffs from aircraft carriers, features a "radial" pistol engine that packs 1,425 horse power.
Also flown in for the occasion was a silver twin-engine 1940s-vintage Beechcraft 18 airplane that was the "business jet" of its day.
During the afternoon, the T-28 and Niswonger's Gulfstream, with Niswonger at the controls, thrilled a crowd of several hundred assembled on the airport's tarmac with low-altitude, high-speed passes over the airport's runway.
Also on display was a wide range of general aviation aircraft, including everything from home-built "ultralite" aircraft to at least one privately owned helicopter.
In addition, both a Wings Air Rescue and WellmontOne medical evacuation helicopters were on display.
The Tennessee Highway Patrol had two helicopters on display, including a Bell 206 Jet Ranger that is based at Fall Branch is flown by Greene County resident Lt. Terry Botts.
The second THP helicopter on display Saturday was a UH-1 "Huey" that is based in Nashville and used by the THP "Special Operations" unit for both rescue and law-enforcement operations.
That helicopter was the focal point of one of the day's events, a demonstration of the rescue capabilities of the UH-1 helicopter
On Saturday, THP Capt. Phil Hardin, a Greene County native who now commands the THP's Emergency and Protective Services units in Nashville, led a team of THP Special Operations unit members in the helicopter rescue demonstration.
Capt. Hardin said his other responsibilities include commanding the troopers who protect the state capital and Gov. Phil Bredesen.
A 32-year veteran of the THP, Capt. Hardin is a graduate of Chuckey-Doak High School who began his law-enforcement career with the Greene County Sheriff's Department.
Prior to the Saturday afternoon helicopter rescue demonstration, THP Lt. Lee Chaffin said the UH-1 helicopter was used in June to rescue an injured hiker from a 600-foot-deep gorge in Hamilton County.
He noted that the gorge was so narrow that the THP pilot had only about 10 feet to spare on either side while hovering the helicopter as the injured woman was lifted to safety.
Saturday's demonstration, he said, was designed to show how the June rescue was carried out -- without the added danger of sheer cliff walls on either side of the aircraft.
During the demonstration, Lt. Terry Botts hovered the helicopter about 100 feet over a grassy area beside the airport's runway while Lt. Chaffin was lowered on a cable to the ground, followed by a basket-type stretcher.
Janet Malone, chairman of the Greeneville-Greene County Airport Authority, volunteered on Saturday to portray an injured victim in need of rescue.
With the help of Greeneville firefighters and Greeneville Emergency & Rescue Squad volunteers, Malone was strapped into the basket-like stretcher and hauled up to the hovering helicopter, which flew her to a waiting Greene County-Greeneville Emergency Medical Services ambulance.
Afterward, Malone said the ride up to the hovering helicopter had gone quickly.
"It was over too soon," she said of being lifted some 100 feet to the hovering helicopter.
Skydivers And Flag
Another demonstration involved four skydivers, who, at one point shortly after noon, carried the American flag down to the airport after jumping from an airplane flying overhead.
In addition, the Greeneville High School band was on hand to perform the national anthem, a medley of military service songs and music from their football half-time show.
After performing at the fly-in the band members boarded buses for a trip to Maryville, where they were scheduled to take part in a band competition on Saturday afternoon.
'Young Eagles' Take Flight
The FAA, through its "Young Eagles" program, also provided free airplane rides to youngsters between the ages of 8 and 17 between 9 a.m. and 11 a.m. and again between 3 p.m. and 5 p.m. on Saturday.
Eight "volunteer pilots," including Ted Hensley, the local EAA chapter's president, used their personal aircraft.
Two of the youngsters treated to flights by Hensley were Joe Cope and Lindsey Johnson, both 12, of Greeneville.
After an explanation on the ground of how his 1995 Maule airplane operates, Hensley invited the two youngsters, and a Greeneville Sun reporter, aboard for a brief flight around Greene County.
Both youngsters said afterward that they had thoroughly enjoyed the flight, during which Hensley pointed out local landmarks from the air and allowed Lindsey Johnson to take the controls briefly.
Organizers said about 40 young people took part in similar flights on Saturday morning.
Adult airplane rides also were available during the event at a cost of $25.
'Mama Bird' Johnson
Also, veteran Morristown flight instructor Evelyn Bryan Johnson, 98, was on hand to sign copies of her book "Mama Bird."
Johnson, who will be 99 in November, learned to fly in 1944 and has logged 57,635.4 flying hours, according to Wikipedia, the online encyclopedia.
During a Saturday interview, Johnson, who still manages the Morristown airport, said she had taught more than 5,000 people to fly over the years.
She recalled that she decided to take a flying lesson in 1944 out of "boredom."
She said she was living in Jefferson City at the time and happened to see a newspaper ad indicating that flying lessons were being given in Knoxville. After a trip to Knoxville that included a train, a city bus and even a rowboat, Johnson arrived at what is now the Island Home airport in Knoxville and took her first flying lesson.
"It was love at first flight," she said.
She didn't stop flying for the next 64 years.
She also is the oldest flight instructor in the world and has trained more pilots and given more FAA exams than any other pilot, according to the Guinness Book of World Records.