Of Bipes and Men
Destined to be a heartland classic, the second edition of the National Biplane Fly-In (NBFI) took place on June 2 to 5 at the Junction City Municipal Airport, in Junction City, Kansas.
Jim Clark, chairman of the fly-in retraces the genesis of the event:
“I participated in the National Biplane Association Fly-In in Bartlesville, Oklahoma, for the first time in 1987, and tried to join in every year thereafter, if work and family matters did not interfere with it.
When, in 2009, Charlie Harris announced that this would be the last such event, I talked to him about trying to bring the fly-in to Junction City.
He recommended not to create an association, and just put up the best possible fly-in without any strings attached. I will be forever grateful for this great advise.
That is why we are relying on the EAA Chapter 1364 structure, which sponsors it. This allows us to benefit from the EAA insurance program, making it possible, as the insurance cost is the make or brake factor.
The National Biplane Fly-In is open to all airplanes and we have participants from all points east and west, and we have great showing of amazing biplanes.”
Junction City is the prefect venue for a Biplane Fly-In, with its two beautiful grass runways (13/21 an 5/23, some 2000 ft each) and its 18/36, 3500 ft hard surface runway. This unique setup gives the incoming pilot multiple choices and virtually eliminate crosswind landings, so critical for taildraggers.
The 2011 edition of the NBFI was a great success with a slightly higher attendance than the previous year, covering the whole spectrum of general aviation.
Most remarkable attendee -but it was pretty much a prerequisite- was Jim Clark and his recently completed 1939 Waco EGC-8 N61KS (c/n 5072), one of the eight built for the Civil Aviation Authority. Nothing is too good for the government as the airplane came with a price tag of $16,000 in 1938 dollars. This rare airplane will be the center of a feature in an upcoming issue.
Other noteworthy biplanes were Mark McCasland’s 1933 Waco UBF-2 N11274 (c/n 3690), Dave Allen’s 1929 Waco ASO N662Y (c/n 3228), Jack Wacky’s 1941 Waco UPF-7 N32035 (c/n 5666), recently restored to flying status, and a rare 1940 Meyers OTW N26466 (c/n 19).
Clement Silvers’ 1931 Brewster Fleet 7 -originally built as a model 2- N798V (c/n 378), was quite a treat. The airplane was celebrating its 80th Birthday, as it rolled out of the Buffalo factory on June 8, 1931. It also was very instructive to talk to Silver, as he owned a series of very interesting machines, including a De Havilland Tiger Moth and its Belgian counterpart, the Stampe and Vertongen SV-4 “Stampe”.
A few modern interpretations of 1930's design, such as Jeff Edward’s 1978 Great Lakes 2T-1A-2, N161GL (s/n 0814), previously owned by Jim Clark, augmented the biplane family.
Quite surprising was the predominance of “modern” biplane designs, such as the Starduster, with N32JM as the most attractive, painted in a snoopy scheme, Marquart “Charger” and Skybolt.
None-the-less, NFBI is not just for Biplanes, as a few local monoplanes of interest showed up at the event, including Larry Boehme’s 1943 Stinson V 77 N9178H (c/n V77-186) and Kent Forster’s Warner powered 1937 Fairchild 24 N16848 (c/n 2847).
Warbirds were rare at the fly-in, part from a remarkably strong contingent of Stearmans and a few L-Birds. However, a lone Scottish Aviation/Bristol Bulldog make the trip from Wichita on Saturday, puzzling more than one onlooker.
To make a Fly-In successful and enjoyable, one need to attract as many pilots and airplanes as possible.
One way to achieve this goal is to organize activities during the event. On Friday, one could visit Fort Riley, home of the Big Red One, and its Cavalry Museum and General Custer’s house. During the three hours outing, whoever felt like it could try his/her hands at flying the AH-64 “Apache” helicopter and/or the Bradley fighting vehicle simulator.
On Saturday, pilots could fly away from the crowds and enjoy an old fashioned ice-cream social at Prairie Cottage, Jim and Debbie Clark’s home field, picking one of its two grass runways to land.
It is now a tradition at National Fly-Ins to have barnstormers offer rides. In Junction City, the task was undertaken by Ted Davis and his New Standard D-25 N9119 (c/n 143), his second D25 flying restoration, completed in September 2010. Ted acquired a third New Standard restoration project -a very historic airframe- that should take to the air within 24 months period.
Another fly-in amenity offered is a tram, usually pulled by a farm tractor, snaking in-between rows of airplanes. However, a nice twist was added at the NBFI, as horse-drawn open wagons were available for tired attendees. A first to my knowledge.
All this made for an enjoyable fly-in, one of the best in recent memories.
In its second year, the NBFI holds a lot of promises, and has all the attributes of a classic, with an outstanding setting, friendly staff and great planned activities. All what it needs to grow into one of the major events of the calendar is some exposure.