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AOPA Fly-In at Bremerton 'awesome'

A record number of aviation enthusiasts turned out for AOPA’s second fly-in of 2016, filling Bremerton National Airport’s ramps, runways, and parking lots with airplanes and automobiles for two days of sun-filled seminars, exhibits, and special events. The airport, its staff, and volunteers showcased the warm local hospitality and stellar Pacific Northwest beauty of Bremerton, Washington, across Puget Sound from Seattle.
  • Aviation enthusiasts set an AOPA regional fly-in record by flying 690 aircraft and driving 1,064 automobiles to Bremerton National Airport for the AOPA Fly-In at Bremerton, Washington, Aug. 20. Photo by David Tulis.
  • Bob Lima, of Eureka, California, piloted his Cherokee Six with his son Ryan, and the two camped out under a nearly full moon. Photo by David Tulis.
  • A camper walks from the aircraft camping area to the Friday night Barnstormers Party. Photo by Mike Collins.
  • Empty tents await campers enjoying a barbecue dinner and concert at the Friday night Barnstormers Party. Photo by Mike Collins.
  • The band U253, a U2 cover band, performs at the Friday night Barnstormers Party. The backdrop was provided by the Heritage Flight Foundation's B-25, "Grumpy." Photo by Mike Collins.
  • Attendees dance to the U-2 tribute band U-253 during the Barnstormers Party. Photo by David Tulis.
  • A nearly full moon rises over a vintage Cessna, one of the 163 registered aircraft in the camping area during the AOPA Fly-In at Bremerton, Washington, Aug. 19. Photo by David Tulis.
  • Volunteers make pancakes to feed hungry AOPA Fly-In guests Saturday morning. Photo by Mike Collins.
  • Rageen and Rick Newman and their daughter, Lendynn, 9, of St. Ignatius, Montana, enjoy Saturday's pancake breafast. Photo by Mike Collins.
  • More than 4,000 attendees gathered for the AOPA Fly-In Bremerton National Airport. Photo by David Tulis.
  • Historic Flight Foundation crew chief Bob Otero jumps from the fuselage of a B-25 Mitchell nicknamed "Grumpy" as he preflights the warbird Aug. 20. Photo by David Tulis.
  • Troy Evans takes a photo of airplanes on exhibit while her friend Barb Williams watches. Photo by David Tulis.
  • Inspirational speaker Shinji Maeda, who became a commercial pilot despite having lost half his eyesight in a car crash, visits the AOPA Fly-In at Bremerton, Washington, Aug. 20. Photo by David Tulis.
  • Canadian pilots Suzanne Tremblay and Beechcraft Baron owner Paul Hickson listen to a safety seminar Aug. 20. Photo by David Tulis.

“I thought it was awesome,” said Fred Salisbury, the airport director. “That back runway probably hasn’t seen aircraft for fifty years and it was packed with parked airplanes all the way down.” The airport’s second runway had long since been converted into a drag strip until it hosted overflow aircraft arriving for the event.

Bob Lima of Eureka, California, and his son Ryan camped out next to their Piper Cherokee Six under a nearly full moon along with 162 other campers. They awoke to a breakfast of pancakes, sausage, juice, and coffee provided by volunteer cooks from the local chapter of the Experimental Aircraft Association.

After setting up camp Thursday for the weekend event, the father and son piloted their Cherokee to nearby Paine Field in for an exclusive Boeing VIP tour Friday that included stops at the Historic Flight Foundation and the Flying Heritage Collection in Everett, north of Seattle.

“Oh man, it’s been awesome,” echoed the younger Lima, who recently earned his instrument rating. “Just waking up to airplane noise—there’s nothing better. It’s the best alarm there is.”

Local resident and Washington Pilots Association member Rick Kriss guided his Cessna 182 around the pattern with a conga line of some of the 690 aircraft landing for the day’s events. Kriss said he preferred the intimate regional fly-in over EAA’s “massive” AirVenture in Oshkosh. “I’ve been to those events before but here we have more ambiance and we get to show off our airport,” which is cradled between the Olympic and Cascade Mountains.

The Historic Flight Foundation’s North American B-25 Mitchell bomber nicknamed Grumpy turned heads when its large radial engines kicked to life. The aircraft was on hand for scenic rides that “could accommodate six, with four up front and two in the rear,” said Crew chief Bob Otero as he preflighted one of the aircraft’s two big engines. “She’s allowed to burn, leak, or blow one gallon of oil per hour, per engine,” he told a gathering crowd.

While many attendees were happy to walk among the many aircraft on official display, others were content to share hangar stories and camaraderie with other pilots.

An LED light tree provides ambiance for Jim Hall of Stockton, California, and his 1960 V-tail Bonanza after the Barnstormers Party. Photo by David Tulis.

One such camper was Jim Hall of Stockton, California, who settled in next to his 1960 V-tail Bonanza with wife and pilot Lyn as a nearly full moon rose above them. A colorful LED light drew attention to their camping spot after the Friday night Barnstormers Party that featured the U-2 tribute band U-253. The Halls and 750 others were treated to tunes, a barbecue dinner, and some dancing as Grumpy and Mid-Continent Instruments and Avionics’ Beechcraft Staggerwing provided the backdrop.

On Saturday attendees busied themselves with educational opportunities that included topics ranging from around-the-world pilot Adrian Eichhorn’s risk management lessons to Tennessee spin doctor Catharine Cavagnaro’s tips for maintaining aircraft control in an emergency.

Japanese pilot and inspirational speaker Shinji Maeda brought his parents who were in town from Japan to learn more about the flying community that embraced their 37-year-old son who, as a teenager, was severely injured in a car crash that cost him half his eyesight.

Maeda left Japan to pursue aviation in the United States and worked his way up through private, instrument, seaplane, and multiengine training to earn his commercial pilot certificate. “As long as you have a passion you can follow your dreams,” Maeda said, as his parents beamed nearby.

Behind him, the Rusty Pilots Seminar buzzed with pilots learning how they could get back into the air. Across the ramp, experts from AOPA’s Pilot Information Center fielded frequently asked questions about the third class medical reform that President Obama signed into law July 15.

Chris Eads, AOPA director of outreach and events, briefs volunteers before the Bremerton Fly-In. Photo by Mike Collins.

According to AOPA Director of Outreach and Events Chris Eads, more than 4,000 attended the fly-in, making it the association’s most popular by a wide margin. Eads said the Washington Pilots Association helped park 1,064 cars, and the young people of the Civil Air Patrol volunteering throughout the event “rocked the house.”

Seaplane Pilots Association state field director Austin Watson said the event was “record breaking by all accounts.” He credited the Pacific Northwest’s outdoor culture, “a huge aerospace industry” that includes Boeing, and the summer’s favorable weather pattern. Watson said a dozen seaplane pilots gathered at nearby Long Lake to celebrate the weekend and share flying stories after the fly-in officially ended. “We fly all year and on great days it’s amazing!”

Peninsula Helicopters flight instructor Jacob Musson took a break from flying his Robinson R22 above the crowd to marshal a large group of attendees together for a photo. He praised Bremerton National, where he is based, and said he had never seen that many aircraft at the airfield.

Student pilot Eduardo Jimenez was giddy as he climbed steps near the airport’s newly installed aviation-themed playground to snap a few photos of the dozens of aircraft on static display, including Carbon Cubs, King Airs, Glasairs, and warbirds. “For our little town to have something like this,” he said, “it just doesn’t happen every day.”

Airport director Salisbury said his telephone kept ringing with curious callers asking why so many aircraft and cars were descending on the airfield.  

“When they asked, I told them there was no charge. I said ‘No, it’s absolutely free,’ and they said, ‘Well, we’re coming.’ It’s amazing.”

David Tulis

David Tulis

Senior Photographer
Senior Photographer David Tulis joined AOPA in 2015 and is a private pilot with single-engine land and sea ratings and a tailwheel endorsement. He is also a certificated remote pilot and co-host of the award-wining AOPA Hangar Talk podcast. David enjoys vintage aircraft ad photography.
Topics: Travel, U.S. Travel, AOPA Events

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