Arlington Fly-In popular in spite of storms | SLIDESHOW

ARLINGTON —Attendance was lighter than in previous years, and the weather presented a number of problems for event attendees and organizers alike, but the Arlington Fly-In still drew sizable crowds of both spectators and aviators to the Arlington Municipal Airport from July 11-15.

Barb Tolbert, executive director of the Arlington Fly-In, explained that heavy rain not only soaked the crowds on Friday, July 13, but also brought with it lightning that shorted out the Fly-In’s office computers that day.

“Even during the thunderstorms, though, we still had plenty of planes arriving for the event,” Tolbert said. “This event has grown considerably over the years, but while we might have gotten 1,200 planes in a previous year, we might have received just a little more than 900 this year.”

Although traffic on the tarmac and at the gates on the ground was less busy, Tolbert praised the number of attendees who braved the downpour on Friday the 13th to continue camping out in tents for all five days.

“They were great die-hards,” Tolbert said. “Like any small business, I think the economy has posed a challenge for us.”

One segment of attendees who were utterly unconcerned with the economy were the children who descended upon the airport on Thursday, July 12, for the Fly-In’s regular “Kids Day.” Schools, day cares, Boys & Girls Clubs and several other youth organizations escorted bustling tour groups of youngsters, often wearing color-coded T-shirts to indicate which kids belonged to which groups.

Trey DeVry came with nearly 60 other kids from the Arlington Boys & Girls Club, and tried his hand at the flight simulators.

“We saw all this Army stuff,” said 7-year-old DeVry of the warbird and military history area. “I even got to buy a real Navy bullet.”

Ashlie Jensen, one of the youth chaperones for the Arlington Boys & Girls Club, felt gratified that so many of the youngsters shared her fondness for the World War II memorabilia on display.

“It’s cool that the kids were excited as I was,” said Jensen, who reported that the afternoon air show and the Arlington and Jackson high schools’ robotics demonstrations were also big hits with the boys and girls.

“You have to be careful,” said Chris Roberts, a 10-year-old from Marysville, after he’d taken the controls of the Arlington High School Robotics Club’s entry for this year. “You can’t drive it when other people are standing near it, or you’ll run into them.”

Brett Sarver, Career and Technical Education director for AHS, reported that more than 200 children thronged the interactive robotics demonstrations on the morning of “Kids Day,” including a few whose tech savvy impressed him.

“One first-grader was able to tell me what everything on the computer screen meant,” said Sarver, who appreciates that the AHS Robotics Club was able to return for its fourth year at the Fly-In, and hopes it might even help them recruit more female members. “Right now, we only have two girls in a group of 38.”

The Tulalip Boys & Girls Club’s Amelia Blackeramos, 7, and Xavier Jones-Ramos, 8, met with Tarek Husevold, a pilot and first-year attendee of the Fly-In, who let children sit in the cockpit of Bellingham Aviation Systems’ training rotorcraft.

“I liked putting on the headset,” Jones-Ramos said, even as he rushed off to check out the next exhibit on display.

“Our company’s never been to the Fly-In before, and what we’re showing off here is a perfect training platform, in terms of cost, weight and safety,” Husevold said on July 12. “I was blown away when I flew in here yesterday. I’ve never heard so many planes in the pattern this far north of Seattle. I’m humbled and honored to be among so many people who are part of the same world of aviation, whether they’re aviators themselves or simply interested in it.”

After Friday’s storms, the skies on Saturday, July 14, brightened almost as much as they had on Thursday, in time for Bellingham’s Willy Cove and his 9-year-old son Jaiden to check out the UH-60 Blackhawk helicopter that came courtesy of the Charlie Company 1-140th Aviation Regiment of the Washington Army National Guard. Even as Jaiden took the controls of the modern service helicopter while sitting in its cockpit, he reflected on some of the older warbirds he’d seen that day.

“I really liked the silver Flying Fortress,” Jaiden Cove said of the WW II B-17G  bomber “Sentimental Journey.” “It has bombs as long as my hands and tons of guns. It’s like a bigger video game.”

Staff Sgt. James Hallberg, of the Washington Army National Guard, noted that both the Blackhawk and the CH-47 Chinook beside it had recently been deployed overseas as part of the “war on terror.”

“You can move people or fire buckets with these things, which makes them ideal for both wartime and peacetime,” said Hallberg, who lives in Arlington. “What I actually enjoy more is seeing the planes that aren’t so big, like the custom and private aircraft that you see here.”


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