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Copperstate Celebrates Successful Event

At 11 a.m Saturday, October 25, photographer Rick Fernau went up in a Robinson R-44 helicopter for overhead shots of the bustling Copperstate Fly-In. Photo by Rick Fernau

The ideal weather brought lots of airplanes, and the planes drew the people. Here attendees walk down the line to inspect the wide variety of aircraft on display. Photo by Rick Fernau

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October 29, 2008 — With a new layout of the grounds, an enthusiastic volunteer force, and picture-perfect weather, the Copperstate Fly-In held its 38th annual event last weekend at Arizona’s Casa Grande Airport. Fly-in manager Jim McChesney reported that overall attendance was estimated to be up more than 10 percent over last year, and while the overall aircraft count dipped slightly, there were more showplanes participating this year than in 2007. Most importantly, it was a safe weekend, with no reported incidents.

“We increased our local marketing efforts this year and that certainly paid off,” McChesney said. Air traffic controllers reported more than 1,000 operations on Saturday alone, and the fly-in experienced one of the best opening days ever on Thursday. “There were a lot of aircraft in the air and the campground was close to filled,” he added.

This year was McChesney’s first as fly-in manager, taking over from longtime chairman Bob Hasson, who is stepping down from his position as Copperstate chairman after 25 years. Hasson was honored for his dedicated service at Saturday’s awards dinner, as Ron Wagner, EAA manager of field operations, presented Hasson with a special plaque in gratitude from the association. It was a presentation from the Copperstate organization, however, that took Hasson by surprise.

Hasson’s father served in a B-29 Superfortress squadron during World War II and was killed returning from a bombing mission over Japan when Hasson was just over a year old. On Saturday night, Hasson was presented with a painting of B-29s in flight, and the tail number was that of his dad’s squadron, the 499th.

“That was quite a shock,” Hasson said.

“Bob means a lot to us, to this fly-in,” McChesney said. “He is a good friend to a lot of people, and he will be missed.” Hasson is moving to an airpark in Texas.

Al Lerfeld of Casa Grande received the Spirit Award for his above and beyond service to the fly-in. “He’s one of those guys who steps forward and does what needs to be done,” McChesney said. Also recognized was Carol Van Vleet, who received the Terry Langdon Award for her dedication to the EAA Young Eagles program.

“So many volunteers do so many things,” McChesney said. “We’re all volunteers – no one on the Copperstate staff is paid – and we could not do this event without them.”

The 2008 Copperstate Grand Champion aircraft award went to Bill and Debbie O'Rendek, of Sedona, Arizona, for their Lancair Legacy - N70AZ. Reserve Grand Champion winner is Mike Salzman, of Vacaville, California, a Lancair ES - N811ES. See the complete awards list on the Copperstate website.

Copperstate 2009 will be held October 22-25, 2009.

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