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Public Notices

April 24, 2014

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Second Annual Fly-In/Cruise-In Draws Large Crowd To Airport

Sun Photo by Phil Gentry

The tarmac at the Greeneville Municipal Airport was filled with aircraft and spectators on Sunday afternoon during the second day of the Greeneville Fly-in & Cruise-in. The dark blue airplane in the foreground of the photo above is a World War II TBM "Avenger" bomber. The large white airplane to the right of the TBM is a Gulfstream IV corporate jet owned by Greeneville business leader Scott Niswonger. In the background are some of the several other WWII aircraft that were on display both Saturday and Sunday.

Originally published:
Last modified: 2009-08-03 17:05:06

More than 2,000 people attended the second-annual "Greeneville Fly-in & Cruise-in" over the weekend at the Greeneville Municipal Airport.

Although gloomy skies and high winds held down attendance and prevented scheduled aerial demonstrations by the pilots of World War II military aircraft on Saturday, sunny skies on Sunday drew hundreds of spectators and an influx of sport- and general-aviation aircraft to the airport.

Jack Kiehna and Jerry Bond, two of the event's organizers, estimated that between 50 and 80 aircraft, including "warbirds" (old warplanes), sport planes, and general aviation aircraft were at the airport on Sunday.

Despite Saturday's dreary weather, 113 area youngsters were treated to free, first flights by volunteer pilots between 9 a.m. and 2 p.m. as part of the Experimental Aircraft Association's (EAA's) "Young Eagles" program.

Some came from as far away as Abingdon, Va., according to Ted Hensley, president of the local chapter of the EAA, which hosted the Greeneville Fly-in & Cruise-in.

Hensley said the EAA had sponsored several other similar free first-flight events for children, including one during last year's first Greeneville Fly-in & Cruise-in. None of the others, he said, had drawn more than 50 children.

Hensley said the Young Eagles program had been scheduled to take place between 9 a.m. and 12 noon on Saturday, but that EAA volunteers continued to take children on introductory flights until 2 p.m., when high winds forced an end to the Young Eagles flights.

The EAA chapter president said EAA member Patty Crum, who completed all the paperwork associated with the free flights for children, deserved special credit for her efforts in registering children and completing the necessary forms on Saturday.

Bond, the Fly-in & Cruise-in's executive director, said this morning that he felt the weekend event had been a "tremendous success," despite Saturday's weather.

Saturday's Weather Poor

"Saturday was the pits, but we pulled it out on Sunday," he said, adding that final attendance figures for the two-day event had not been determined as of this morning.
Bond said that, in any case, he didn't feel the overall success of the event could be measured by attendance alone.

"The idea is that we want people to enjoy themselves and learn something about sport aviation and appreciate the warbirds," he said. "If three people show up and have a good time, it's a success. I don't ever want to measure the success of this event just by numbers."

Bond said organizers hope to make next year's Greeneville Fly-in & Cruise-in "better."

He also said he wished to thank the more than 75 volunteers who helped make the Fly-in & Cruise-in possible.

"The 18 Civil Air Patrol cadets who helped us with security all weekend did a terrific job," he said. "They camped out at the end of the T-hangars and did security watch all night long."

Another organization that helped was the Greene County chapter of the Amateur Radio Emergency Service (ARES), a volunteer organization composed of "ham radio" operators who provided radio communications for the weekend-long event.

The Greeneville Emergency & Rescue Squad, the Greeneville Fire Department, the Greenville Police Department, and Greene County-Greeneville Emergency Medical Services personnel also stood by in case of emergencies, organizers said.

'Warbirds' Take to Skies

Spectators were free to walk around the vintage aircraft and speak with their crews prior the afternoon's demonstration program.

The afternoon festivities began shortly after 2 p.m. when skydivers, one of whom carried the Tennessee flag, dropped into the airport grounds. On Saturday, the parachutists struggled against gusty winds, but had not trouble on Sunday afternoon.

The highlight of the weekend, however, came about 3 p.m. Sunday when restored World War II warplanes - the warbirds - took to the skies over the airport.

Spectators sat and stood seemingly awe-struck on the airport's tarmac and along its taxiway as piston-engine-powered World War II-vintage fighter and bomber aircraft roared low over the runway on high-speed passes.

Little conversation was heard, and spectators stared skyward as WWII-era music sounded from a loud-speaker system. The only sounds that interrupted the music were a public-address announcer's comments and the distinctive roar and whine of high-performance, piston-powered aircraft engines and rapidly spinning propellers.

WWII-era warplanes from the Tennessee Museum of Aviation in Sevierville, the Planes of Fame Museum in Chino, Calif., and the Collings Foundation of Stowe, Mass., took off one by one and repeatedly circled the airport, performing low-level passes over the runway at high speed.

Early in Sunday afternoon's aerial demonstrations, a P-51 "Mustang" fighter flew in formation with a B-25 Mitchell twin-engine bomber around the airport. Both aircraft subsequently performed individual high-speed passes along the runway.

At the controls of the B-25 named "Tondelayo," after an aircraft of the same name that fought against the Japanese in the South Pacific during WWII, were a pair of volunteer pilots who normally fly for a major airline.

The co-pilot, Mike Abajian, a retired U.S. Marine Corps lieutenant colonel who flew A-4 "Skyhawk" attack aircraft during the Vietnam War, said during an interview that he is in the process of becoming proficient at the B-25's controls.

Glenn Goldman, a Delta Airlines pilot who volunteers with the Collings Foundation to fly the B-25 on his days off, was the Tondelayo's command pilot on Sunday.

Flying Since He Was 18

Goldman said he had been flying "warbirds" since he was 18 years old. "I kind of grew up on warbirds," he said.

Other WWII-vintage aircraft that took part in Sunday afternoon's aerial demonstrations included: a Curtis P-40 "Warhawk" fighter, a type that had been the U.S. Army Air Corps' front-line fighter plane at the outset of WWII.

While not as fast or nimble as the P-51 Mustang, which was introduced well after WWII began and featured the melding of British and American technology, the P-40 appeared plenty fast on high-speed passes down the length of the airport's runway on Sunday.

Also taking to the air over the airport on Sunday were: a P-47 Thunderbolt piloted by Neal Melton, a Sevierville resident and Glenwood Community native.

Featuring a huge "radial engine," the P-47 was the heaviest fighter plane of WWII, according to an announcement made during the aerial demonstrations on Sunday.

Melton's P-47 repeatedly roared low over the runway on Sunday afternoon, giving spectators some indication of what Axis soldiers must have seen and heard during WWII when ground-attacking P-47s swooped out of the sky with eight .50-caliber machine guns blazing.

The announcer said Melton's P-47 had been sold to Brazil after WWII and ended up mounted on a pole at the entrance to a Brazilian air base after the plane was retired from active service.

Melton acquired it after it was restored in 1996, the announcer said.

Also making high-speed, low-altitude passes along the runway's length on Sunday were a restored WWII U.S. Navy F6F "Hellcat" fighter, a restored WWII U.S. Marine F4U "Corsair" fighter, a restored WWII-era Douglas A-26 "Invader" attack aircraft, and a restored WWII-era T-6 "Texan" advanced trainer.

Niswonger Pilots His Plane

After the "warbirds" completed their high-speed passes over the runway on Sunday afternoon, Greeneville business leader Scott Niswonger carried out similar maneuvers with his Gulfstream IV business jet.

The Gulfstream, which has a range of 5,000 miles, was the largest aircraft on display Saturday and Sunday.

Also flying on Saturday and Sunday was a late-1940s-vintage T-28 advanced training aircraft. Piloted by the father and son team of Mike and Fred Beaver, the blue-and-yellow T-28 carried spectators, who paid $25 each, on high-speed passes along the airport runway.

Mike Beaver said he estimated that he and his father flew at least 35 spectators during the two days.

A WWII-vintage Stearman biplane also carried spectators aloft for a fee on Saturday and Sunday, as did a small helicopter from Northstar Aviation in Abingdon, Va.

The Cocke County Sheriff's Department's helicopter, a piston-engine-powered Vietnam War-era U.S. Army training aircraft, also put on aerial demonstrations for the crowd.

On display, but not taking part in aerial demonstrations, meanwhile, were a Douglas DC-3 airliner built in 1942, and a restored WWII U.S. Marine Corps TBM "Avenger" bomber.

The TBM was the type of the aircraft former President George Bush was flying when he was shot down in the Pacific during WWII.

The man who later would become President of the United States, parachuted into the sea and subsequently was rescued by a submarine. The other two crewmembers aboard the TBM he was flying were lost.

Custom Cars

Also taking part in the Fly-in & Cruise-in were a number of classic and custom cars, several restored military vehicles and a bevy of motorcycles.

Classic cars on hand Sunday included a Bentley luxury sedan, a 1970 Plymouth Superbird automobile, and number of other high-performance vehicles.
For more information and stories, see The Greeneville Sun.

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