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A fly-in the appointment

July 17, 2005|by DANIEL J. SERNOVITZ

daniels@herald-mail.com

Aircraft enthusiasts from across the region descended upon Hagers-town Regional Airport Saturday from the ground and sky for Hagers-town Aircraft Services' seventh annual Fly-in.

Tracey L. Potter, president of Hagerstown Aircraft Services, said the event is designed to pique interest in aviation and bridge the gap between the community and the airport, particularly following tightened security resulting from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

"It's our hope to educate people a-bout airplanes," Potter said. "...There's very few times when people can come into the airport. They can touch the aircraft. They can sit in them."

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Potter said between 25 and 30 private airplanes touched down at the airport for the Fly-in, their numbers hampered by low cloud cover earlier in the morning that prevented some aircraft from taking off.

In prior years, Potter said, the event drew about 300 planes between Saturday and Sunday. He hopes more enthusiasts will drive or fly to the airport today for the event's second day.

Joseph Lukus, a member of the Air Heritage Museum Inc. of Pittsburgh, said he and others from the group had hoped to touch down at the airport in the group's C-123 cargo plane, originally made by Fairchild, though mechanical problems forced the group to drive to the Fly-In instead. Those mechanical issues aside, Lukus said, "It's a good, solid plane, very solid."

The event was held jointly by Hagerstown Aircraft Services, Chapter 36 of the Experimental Aircraft Association and the Hagerstown Aviation Museum, which opened Thursday inside Discovery Station in downtown Hagerstown.

Shuffled in with the old, new and experimental planes was one that could not actually fly on its own.

The Bull Goose was a missile-shaped object with affixed wings that Fairchild Industries built for the U.S. military as a decoy during the Cold War. Joe Boyle, a member of the Experimental Aircraft Association and employee at Hagerstown Aircraft Services, said the decoys were designed to be picked up by Russian radar so that the B-52 pilots carrying them could then find an alternate way to attack.

"They would launch a bunch of them and it would, to the Russians, look like a bunch of incoming aircraft," said Boyle, 61, a Maugansville resident.

Boyle said Fairchild's contract for the decoys eventually was canceled for several reasons, including the inability to recall them after being dropped from the B-52s.

Boyle, who worked for the telephone company during the height and fall of Fairchild, said during its apex, Fairchild was involved in virtually every segment of life in Hagerstown.

In addition to the number of Fairchild workers, estimated to be as many as 12,000 during the 1950s, several property owners converted their shops during the war to subcontract for Fairchild or lease space for its efforts.

Many downtown shops were involved with the production of the PT-19 primary training aircraft, which the U.S. Air Force used to train pilots before graduating them to BT basic models, AT advanced models, then to combat-ready planes. Fairchild built about 7,600 PT-19s between 1941 and 1945, Boyle said.

"Everything industrial in and around Hagerstown was involved in building the PT-19s," Boyle said. "Fairchild was just such an integral part of what the community was."

When the company shut down its operations in the 1980s, Boyle said, "it left a gaping hole... It was devastating to the local economy for about four or five years until things settled out."

Kurtis Meyers, president of the Hagerstown Aviation Museum, said Fairchild and aviation is featured prominently at Discovery Station because so much of Hagerstown revolved around it for so long. The PT-19s, for example, brought Hagerstown into national prominence.

"It changed Hagerstown. For almost 20 years, it was a major power," Meyers said, acknowledging that that part of the town's history is bittersweet.

"There's ups and downs in everything, but not to dwell on that, you've got to keep thinking about the positives."

If you go


What: Hagerstown Aircraft Services Fly-in and Fairchild Family Reunion

When: Today, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Where: Hagerstown Regional Airport

Free

Call 301-733-7604

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