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Fly-in features field of history

July 27, 2003|by BONNIE HELLUM BRECHBILL

Three vintage airplanes from "the largest flying museum in the world" are displayed on the tarmac at Chambersburg Airport this weekend as part of the fourth annual fly-in that is part of Chambersburg Airport Appreciation Days.

Jason Pence of Falls Church, Va., said the National Capitol Squadron of the Commemorative Air Force has 140 World War II-era planes. Displayed this weekend were a 1942 Stinson L5, a 1939 Piper L4 and a 1951 North American T6.

Pence gave rides to visitors in the Piper.

"Judging from their ear-to-ear grins, they had a blast," he said. "The last gentleman said he was sorry when it was over.

"Kids are interested in any plane," Pence said. "The adults have the interest in the (plane's) history."

While the Commemorative Air Force is not associated with the U.S. military, Pence said his father and grandfather were in the U.S. Air Force and that sparked his interest in aviation. He also serves as assistant maintenance officer in the private, nonprofit organization.

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Glenn Angle of Chambersburg was especially interested in the 600 horsepower, 9-cylinder Advanced Trainer used to train fighter pilots. He learned on a similar aircraft, called an AT-6 at that time.

"That was my advanced trainer when I got my wings in the Army Air Corps," he said.

He did not see overseas combat because "they dropped the bomb on Hiroshima 10 days before I was supposed to go to Japan," he said.

"We never flew the big planes after that. They said it was too expensive."

Angle swapped airplane stories with the plane's owner and pilot, Ray Rees of Culpeper, Va. Rees said he flew the plane to Chambersburg in 40 minutes Saturday morning.

The fly-in is part of the combined Chambersburg Airport Appreciation Days and a benefit for Mercy Medical Airlift. Millennium Flyers 201 also participated.

Activities included a candy drop from a helicopter, a gyrocopter demonstration, hang gliders, live music and food stands.

The 93-acre airport, owned by the borough of Chambersburg, is in danger of

closing. Large red letters on a fence along the road approaching the airport

say, "Help Save This Airport."

Kathie Sides, who with her husband, J.R., owns the Chambersburg Skydiving Center which rents space from the airport, said the airport was appraised at $585,000 in 1997.

"It puts over $1 million into the community each year," she said.

She said the borough council inherited the airport's problems.

"This council is stuck with decisions that were made in the past," she said. "Over the course of 40 years, there were leases made that were not beneficial, and they are non-negotiable."

Sides said the income produced from one of the hangars is $1,700 a month, but the borough gets only 3 percent of that because of the terms of the lease.

"It's not generating enough money to keep up with repairs," she said.

Sides, who lives on Airport Road, said many businessmen use the

facility.

"People who are coming in for conventions, people going to Nitterhouse, to T.B. Woods, fly in here, instead of driving. Their time is

valuable," she said.

"Politicians use it when they come to make a speech at Shippensburg or Wilson College. Bob and Elizabeth Dole came through here."

Two local girls took a free airplane ride through the Young Eagles program,

which gives rides to youth ages 7 through 17. While both Hannah Blanchard,

14, and Alison Lima, 14, had flown in commercial aircraft before, this was

their first flight in a small plane.

"It was cool,"" said Alison, who attended with her mother, Jeannette Lima of Chambersburg. "It wasn't scary. There was a guy with us taking pictures of farms."

"We could see pools, cars, houses and cows," Hannah, of Fayetteville, Pa., added. "On a regular plane you don't feel yourself flying, but on this one you do."

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