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Fairchild 'family' gathers at fly-in

October 07, 2007|By MATTHEW UMSTEAD

HAGERSTOWN - Fred Mack learned how to rivet and weld when he worked at Fairchild Aircraft Co. in Hagerstown in the 1930s.

"I learned how to stretch metal and make it fit the frame," Mack, 96, said Saturday at the ninth Hagerstown Fly-In and Fairchild Aircraft Family Reunion. The free admission event continues today from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Hagerstown Aircraft Services facility at Hagerstown Regional Airport.

The son of a Hagerstown architect, Mack said he landed a job at Fairchild in 1934 while studying aeronautics at New York University.

"I went to Fairchild for a summer job and I stayed there," said Mack, who never finished the program.

After only two years with Fairchild, Mack said he went on to work for Seversky Aircraft Corp. on Long Island, N.Y., where he worked on the P-35, the first American fighter with a retractable landing gear. After that, he worked at Brewster Aeronautical Corp., then Curtiss Aeroplane Co.

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While with Curtiss in Buffalo, N.Y., Mack said he was making $160 per week, working overtime, sometimes 72 hours a week.

"In two weeks, I went out and bought a new Mercury," Mack said.

Growing up in Hagerstown, Mack recalled a monoplane crash at the old fairgrounds off Mulberry Street.

"I never did see what happened to the (pilot) ... my dad didn't want me to see it," he said. "He dragged me away real quick."

That curiosity was something fly-in organizers hoped to instill among young people, who have the opportunity to take a free flight as part of events at the airport.

The annual fly-in and reunion is designed to bring together former Fairchild employees, members of the aviation community and the general public with an interest in aviation and its extensive local history.

Tom Riford, president and chief executive officer of the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention and Visitors Bureau, said the legacy of Fairchild Aircraft, once an employer of more than 10,000 people in Washington County, is substantial.

"It meant a lot to this community," Riford said. "When Fairchild closed, it was very tough for all of Western Maryland."

Riford touted efforts by members of the Hagerstown Aviation Museum and other supporters to build a permanent facility to display Fairchild-produced planes, "instead of one weekend a year."

Since last year's fly-in, four planes have been donated to the museum and now is the largest collection of aircraft in Maryland without a permanent home.

Riford said state officials are "very interested" in the project as efforts to raise money for a site near Citicorp are moving forward.

More information about the Hagerstown Aviation Museum is available at www.hagerstownaviationmuseum.org.

If you go

What: Hagerstown Fly-In and Fairchild Family Reunion

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

Where: Hagerstown Aircraft Services at Hagerstown Regional Airport

ยท More information about the Hagerstown Aviation Museum is available at www.hagerstownaviationmuseum.org.

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