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Golden West Fly-in Reaches Out

Ten years and still holding its own

Story and photos by Patrick Panzera, Editor – Experimenter, EAA 555743

Julie Clark
Julie Clark performed for the first time at Marysville in her Beechcraft T-34 Mentor.

Rod Hightower
Rod Hightower meets with EAA members on the eve of Golden West.

Flightline
Attendees line the KMYV flightline.

View the photo gallery

June 14, 2011 — California's largest fly-in and air show, the Golden West Regional Fly-In, wrapped up its 10th season this past Sunday at Yuba County Airport (KMYV), Marysville, and despite a lower turnout than previous years, the enthusiasm of attendees and volunteers was a very encouraging sign, according to John Gibson, forums and workshop coordinator. He jokingly said that for fly-in promoters, “Attendance is never good enough,” but did point out that Saturday's was especially good for both aircraft and foot traffic. Fly-in leaders are looking for ways to boost traffic for Friday and Sunday in 2012, John said, and they are very pleased overall with this year's outcome, and equally glad that this year's event was a safe one. 

This year saw the debut of the new ultralight and light-sport traffic area (called the "light aircraft area"), like those found at AirVenture, Sun 'n Fun, COPPERSTATE, and other large fly-ins. About a half-dozen participants were on the new ultralight and light-sport runway - most of whom also camped in the new ultralight and light-sport campground. Many were N-numbered powered parachutes and powered paragliders. The venue was deemed a success and plans are to expand the area to include exhibitor space at future fly-ins.  

Daily Air Show
This year, being one of "firsts," saw Julie Clark pilot her silky-smooth Beechcraft T-34 Mentor performance at this event for the first time. Other female performers included Jacquie Warda piloting her Pitts S-1T Special, and Vicky Benzing, who won her very first race last year at Reno and was named "Reno Air Race Rookie of the Year." Vicky's plane is the German-built Extra 300S, powered by an AEIO540 custom-built by Ly-Con Aircraft Engines.

The only male air show performer was Dr. Frank Donnelly of "Dr. D's Old-Time Aerobatics." He delivers a slow-motion, captivating aerial display, and does so in a 1946 clipped-wing Taylorcraft known as a Swick Clip-T. The Swick conversion turned the humble taildragger into a true aerobatic plane. N6588C has shorter wings (clipped-wing conversion), one seat rather than the original two seats, larger control surfaces, a 120-hp Lycoming O-235 engine rather than the stock 65-hp Continental, and experimental rather than standard category certification. This Taylorcraft also qualifies to be flown by a sport pilot.

Alternative Engine Round-up
Another new addition to the event is CONTACT! Magazine's Alternative Engine Round-up, formerly held in Jean, Nevada. While just eight planes flew in to specifically participate in this year's event - down from previous years - more than 100 attendees participated, which is on par or a little higher that previous events.

Warbirds - WWII Reenactors
Of course, with several vintage World War II aircraft on display, it only seemed fitting to host the WWII reenactors. With a spot of grass set aside for their tents, foxholes, and equipment, they set up a bivouac that set the calendar back nearly 70 years. Participating in the air show with an accompanying ground display, the reenactors shot their blank-loaded firearms (including machine guns) at the "attacking" aircraft during a mock-battle held on both Saturday and Sunday. Video footage shot during their display will be used to recruit other WWII reenactor groups to participate next year, which is expected to increase participation as much as three-fold.

Standing out from among the WWII warbirds were a pair of bombers, the Boeing B-17G Sentimental Journey and the North American TB-25N Mitchell Maid in the Shade, both brought in by the Commemorative Air Force’s Arizona Wing.

Wheels and Wings
An added attraction this year was a car show comprised of select custom and restored vintage automobiles displayed along with the vintage aircraft. The autos complimented the aircraft, and we can expect to see more of this in the years to come.

This year's event also included a barbecue cook-off that began early Saturday morning. Although more of an event hosted by the airport's restaurant, it was a tasty addition to this year's event that may or may not return next year. There has been a discussion to fully endorse the event, including it in the awards ceremony.

The Saturday night awards banquet was extremely well attended as most winners stayed for the event. Other years the majority of award winners departed following the Saturday air show. (Click here for the list of award winners.)

Grassroots Pilot Tour
EAA President/CEO Rod Hightower held a Grassroots Pilot Tour event on Thursday evening before Golden West. He arrived early and was able to meet with several EAA members, then gave a fun and informative presentation where he shared some of the exciting things coming soon from the organization and why aviation and being a member of EAA is “really cool.” 

At the end of his speech, Rod opened up the room to an extended Q&A session. Afterward - when most of the room had cleared - Rod continued the conversation with several members for well over an hour.

It's good to know that efforts such as those being made at Golden West are attempting to evolve aviation events to attract a more diversified group of attendees - if for nothing else than to help support them. Although trying to attract non-aviators to a fly-in event might be seen as a negative thing to some, it is a great way to introduce aviation to future pilots, future aircraft owners, and future aircraft builders.

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