|Written by Greg Ruland|
|Saturday, 22 October 2011 12:00|
People packed Cottonwood Municipal Airport for the 2011 Cottonwood Airfest on Saturday, Oct. 15, crowding around vintage aircraft for a peek at aviation history, constructing balsa wood gliders and painting pine wood airplane models, among other activities.
One Airfest ticket taker estimated that by 10 a.m., more than 1,000 people paid to take part in the festival, which concluded without incident. Parking near the airport was next to impossible to find, but Cottonwood Police Department volunteers and others made sure traffic flowed smoothly in the near perfect fall weather.
A collision between an experimental aircraft and a hot air balloon disrupted the 2010 event when several people were injured in the crash that occurred less than a mile from the airport. There were no collisions this year. No hot air balloons were allowed at the festival.
Many of the more than 1,000 who attended were veterans who wanted a look at the aircraft that made the difference in World War II, a shiny B-25 Mitchell bomber that once saw action over Europe, according to Paul Chamberlain, an America West commercial pilot who piloted the bomber to Cottonwood on behalf of the Commemorative Air Force.
“The men who flew these in World War II were our heroes,” Chamberlain said.
The aircraft is more difficult to fly than a modern commercial airplane, mostly because there are no electronic power mechanisms to assist the pilot in operating the controls. All controls are operated by hand based on the physical strength of the pilot, who must steer manually.
Also, the technology of 1937-1938 is quite a bit different than that of today, posing some interesting technical problems for the aircraft’s maintenance chief, Bob Pauley.
Pauley said the plane’s owner spent 22 years rehabilitating the bomber, which was being used to spray fields with insecticide when it was rescued from obscurity.
Nevertheless, the B-25 still flies straight and steady, despite its advanced age.
The same could be said of the many veterans, like Ricardo Maestre, who attended the festival.
Maestre, who flew 30 years in the U.S. Air Force, retired in 1987 after piloting C-5 Galaxy transport planes, among many other military craft. He recalled one incident when an engine blew up on takeoff from a landing strip in Hawaii. The fire could not be extinguished and was eating into the wing when he turned the plane around and landed safely less than seven minutes after takeoff.
The maneuver won him recognition from the secretary of the Air Force, who awarded Maestre a commendation in 1980.
The vintage aircraft brought back many memories for Maestre, who, like most of the pilots who attended, flies airplanes because it is something he truly loves.
While some who attended were older, many children also took part, including Avery McCoy, an 11-year-old eighth-grader who aspires to fly one day.
Coen Carr, 9, and his brother, Kavan, 7, held tight to the balsa wood gliders they constructed and flew in competition at the festival. Coen Carr’s glider flew the farthest, winning him a blue ribbon, while Kavan Carr, who lacked the same level of dexterity, won second place.
The key is to the hold the glider near the nose, not behind the wings, Coen Carr said.
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