Small planes a big hit at Fly-in & Drive-in

September 16, 2002|by RICHARD BELISLE

BERKELEY SPRINGS, W.Va. - Art Loeb isn't a man to take chances.

Loeb, 73, of Hedgesville, W.Va., was one of a couple dozen aircraft owners who brought their aircraft to the Potomac 2002 Fly-in & Drive-in at the Potomac Airpark on Saturday.

The airfield is off U.S. 522 between Berkeley Springs, W.Va., and Hancock.

The fly-in, in its 24th year, resumes today at 8 a.m. with a breakfast, organizer Dean Truax said.

Loeb displayed his Titan Tornado, one of four ultralight aircraft he has built since he first started flying 15 years ago at age 59.

Ultralights, which look a little like riding lawnmowers with wings, were a popular attraction Saturday.

Although low-powered compared to airplanes, they can reach heights of 10,000 feet and speeds of about 85 mph, Loeb said.

"I usually fly around 1,500 feet, but I've been as high as 4,000 feet. You can't see much if you go higher," he said.


He said the kit to build his aircraft cost about $16,000. He added another $2,000 for a parachute.

The chute sits in a box on top of the wing, above the one-person cockpit. The parachute is supposed to open if the 52-horsepower motor conks out or a wing breaks off, he said.

"Parachutes are not required on ultralights, but I don't want to have to jump out if something bad happens," he said.

The fly-in is sponsored by Hagerstown Chapter No. 36 of the Experimental Aircraft Association Inc.

There were static displays of antique planes, one-cylinder engines from the turn of the 20th century, old stage coaches, a covered wagon and John Deere tractors.

Standout planes at the event were Miss Brittany, a 1940 WACO biplane that was used as a trainer in World War II, and Jack Raun's 1946 Stinson Voyager.

The WACO is owned by Craig Hagaman of Berryville, Va. He sells rides at air shows to help defray the cost of running the plane, he said.

He charges $80 for a 15-minute ride in the biplane.

Planes like the WACO could be bought for as little as $600 when the war ended, Hagaman said. Today, one in the condition of Miss Brittany would sell for around $130,000, he said.

Because the center of gravity is set behind the landing gear, the biplane is harder to land, Hagaman said. Once airborne, however, it's much easier to fly, he said.

"It's a lot more natural with a stick," he said.

Raun, of Hedgesville, bought his 1946 cream and red Stinson Voyager 14 years ago. Raun bought the four-seater with an opposing six-cylinder engine 14 years ago.

"It's remarkable how many people come up to tell me that their grandparent or parent owned one or how sorry they were that they sold one," he said.

No longer made, Stinsons sold for about $5,000 new. Raun said his is worth between $25,000 and $30,000.

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