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'World's Smallest' Air Show

By Dick O’Reilly, EAA 661656, for Light Plane World

World's Smallest Air Show

The big story at the 17th annual “World’s Smallest” Air Show at Brian Ranch Airport May 28 to 29 was the big wind. By 7:30 a.m. on Saturday it was already gusting in the mid-teens, and by mid-morning it was varying between high teens and mid-twenties. The two-runway airport and U-pick fruit orchard are owned by the husband and wife team of Jack Brian and Felice Apodaca who staged the free event.

Because of the wind, this annual ultralight tradition in the high desert Antelope Valley about 75 highway miles northeast of Los Angeles received only one fly-in from elsewhere. Several Brian Ranch pilots made test flights in light wind at dawn.

But after the wind kicked up about 7:30 a.m, the scheduled opening ceremony formation flight was reduced to just two planes: a Quicksilver MXL II Sport, with two aboard, and a Hurricane. Sunday’s activities were squelched by higher winds and even rain showers in the morning, but there had to be an opening ceremony and a formation flight. So the pilots who would have flown their planes instead formed up on the runway and ran their routine with arms (or wings) outstretched with a graceful coordinated formation turn to the left at the orchard.

Saturday’s lone experimental light-sport aircraft (E-LSA) fly-in was made by Daniel Kelley in his Advanced Aviation Carrera from Camarillo. His flight of about 75 air miles took him an hour and a half, even with the help of a strong west wind. The Carrera remained on a protected tie-down Sunday while Daniel hitched a ride in a friend’s pickup back to Camarillo. The return flight was slated for a calmer day.

The wind didn’t hamper instructor Bob Comperini and his 2007 Eurofox special light-sport aircraft, however. He gave a dozen people 15-minute rides. At mid-morning he reported that the wind 1,500 feet above the field was 33 mph out of the west, but smooth. He made the ground level gusts look smooth, too, with wings steady and level on every climb-out and landing. There was plenty of entertainment for the many spectators who donned warm clothing to visit the airfield. Three skydivers in a Cessna 182 made two dives. A Citabria based nearby flew in.

The sixth-grade students of Paul Covert at Victorville’s Endeavor School of Exploration displayed the Quicksilver Sport 2S they built this year as a class project. Their workshop was an unused classroom. When they were done, a wall of windows had to be removed to get the plane out. It’s now hangared at Brian Ranch awaiting completion of registration so that pilot and teacher Paul Covert can begin flying off the 40 hours of testing and start giving the students rides in “their” airplane.

And finally, Jake Jacobs, who had driven 1,700 miles from his home in Poteau, Oklahoma, to see the air show, was everywhere during the event. He flew with Bob and sought advice from every pilot he encountered about which E-LSA or ultralight he should buy to restart the flying adventure that he had begun with 22 hours of instruction in the 1940s.

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