Chambersburg AirFest draws hundreds

July 20, 1997


Staff Writer, Chambersburg

CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. - Ellen Weis looked surprisingly calm considering she was about to take her first jump from an airplane at 14,000 feet, falling to the ground at a speed of about 120 mph.

"I'm not feeling anything yet, but I think when I get in the plane I'll be petrified," said Weis, of Baltimore, Md., after getting some final pointers from skydiving instructor Justin Silvia.

Signing up for a tandem jump or just watching the steady stream of skydivers float in beneath their colorful parachutes was one of the attractions at the AirFest at Chambersburg Municipal Airport Saturday and Sunday.


"It's a matter of trying to promote the airport, the community, and flying," said Bob Schemmerling, who helped organize the event as part of this year's ChambersFest '97.

Hundreds of people attended the two-day fly-in which featured airplane rides, radio-controlled model airplane demonstrations, and a tour of Hershey Medical Center's Life Lion helicopter.

Though sitting in the cockpits of airplanes and helicopters captured the interest of most children, it was the prospect of candy being dropped from a radio-controlled airplane that sent them into an excited frenzy.

"See that Army airplane over there? On the bottom there's a hatch. We saw them loading it up with candy," said Nicholas Krichten, 10, pointing and jumping up and down.

Krichten and 6-year-old brother, Jeffrey, flew into Chambersburg from Westminster, Md., in a small Cessna piloted by grandparents David and Lucille Alt.

"We saw it advertised in a flying magazine and decided to bring our two grandsons," David Alt said, who has been flying as a hobby since 1978 and has logged about 2,000 hours.

Throngs of children lined up behind the pink tape along the airport's runway to watch the radio-controlled airplanes, their eyes on the camouflage-colored one which didn't deliver its goods until the very last.

By mid-afternoon, nearly a dozen people braved a ride in a silver 1943 Boeing PT-17, an open cockpit biplane used by the U.S. Navy for training pilots in World War II.

Pulling himself out of the biplane, hair blown straight back, Franklin County Commissioner Warren Elliott said his first flight "was a blast."

"I wanted to see what flying without being enclosed was like," Elliott said, who was up in the airplane for 15 minutes at about 1,000 feet.

"I know this county like the back of my hand, but you can get lost up there in a second," he added.

Randallstown, Md., resident Phyllis Dahne had just gotten up enough nerve to take a spin in the biplane when the runway was closed for an hour for the model-airplane demonstration.

"It didn't take me too long to work up the nerve to go up," Dahne said, who also got information on skydiving while she was there.

"I want to try it. It sounds like fun to me," she said.

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