Belfast EAA fly-in, open house attracts aircraft from around the country

Posted:  Monday, September 18, 2017 - 12:00pm
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BELFAST — For the third consecutive year, Belfast-based Chapter 1434 of the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) hosted an open house and fly-in at the Belfast Municipal Airport. The event was held on Saturday, September 16.

Despite a low-ceiling lingering over the coast of Maine throughout the morning — the Aviation Weather Center reported ceilings of only 100 feet in many places — about 20 aircraft had arrived in the proceeding days, according to organizers, making for an impressive display of planes despite the sub-optimal flying weather that lasted throughout the morning.

While offerings such as the free Young Eagles flights for youth were postponed until the afternoon, the sun broke through allowing flying activity to resume at the airport shortly after noon when a Beechcraft Bonanza landed on the runway and taxied in for the event, its arrival unofficially serving to announce the clearing skies.

The free event attracted planes and spectators from all over the country, including aircraft that had arrived from New Jersey, Michigan, Delaware, and beyond.

One plane, an RV9, was visiting from its home state of New Jersey. Organizers reported that the owner had previously flown his aircraft to Siberia. Various iterations of RV aircraft are popular with pilots, the high-performance homebuilt aircraft is known for its speed and agility, and the two-place New Jersey plane was listed as having an empty weight of just over 1,000 pounds.

Additional displays included other homebuilt aircraft, among them, a pint-sized plane powered by half of a four-cylinder VW beetle engine. A hangar reserved for homebuilt displays allowed spectators to view several inspired aircraft up close, and talk with their respective owners.

Classic planes on display included a vintage Piper J3 Cub, a 1950 Ryan Navion, several vintage Cessna models, and more.

Pilot and District 12 State Senator David Miramant was on hand with his glider, offering rides for purchase once the weather conditions allowed. Rides with Miramant, a former airline pilot with over 16,000 hours of flight time, can be purchased by visiting his website.

One of the most unusual aircraft on display, a Rutan Defiant, attracted plenty of attention. The futuristic aircraft was designed by aviation legend and pioneering aircraft designer Burt Rutan. According to the exhibitor information card affixed to the propeller, the delta-winged, sleek Rutan Defiant (which is classified as a homebuilt aircraft. Rutan’s designs are built by savvy enthusiasts from plans and kits, not factory produced) boasted over 1,000 hours of flight time. Though it’s hard to imagine from the outside, the twin-engine aircraft has seating for four including the pilot.

Rutan was best known for his innovative, light, and energy efficient aircraft, as well as his distinctive aesthetic. In 1984, Rutan famously debuted the Rutan Model 76 Voyager, the first plane to circumnavigate the globe without stopping or refueling. His brother, Dick Rutan, was at the controls for the record breaking flight, accompanied by pilot Jeana Yeager (no relation to fellow aviation legend Chuck Yeager). It took the duo nine days, three minutes, 44 seconds to circle the globe, and the two pilots completed the feat landing at Edwards Airforce Base in California on December 23, 1986, according to the Smithsonian.

Only a single Rutan Model 76 Voyager was built, and it was retired from active flight in 1987. The aircraft is preserved, and displayed for the public in the Smithsonian Air and Space Museumwhere it is displayed in a place of honor, suspended from the ceiling above the welcome center for the institution’s “Boeing Milestones of Flight” hall.

Rutan also designed “SpaceShipOne,” the first privately funded spacecraft to enter the realm of space twice in a two-week period.

Live music, local ice cream from the Stone Fox Creamery truck, and a selection of lunch items from a constantly packed grill added to a fun, casual, and family-friendly day at the airport. Volunteers from EAA Chapter 1434 staffed the event and could be identified by their bright yellow shirts. The friendly group of enthusiasts welcomed the crowds, and undoubtedly instilled — or furthered — a passion for aviation and the aviation community in numerous visitors to the event.

To learn more about Belfast-based EAA Chapter 1434, please visit them online at http://eaa1434.org/.

                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                              

Words and photos by Jenna Lookner. Reach Jenna at jlooknercopy@gmail.com.