February 4, 2016 - Not far from the University of Notre Dame is the town of Elkhart, Indiana. Elkhart is a very blue collar town with deep ties to the RV industry and an airport where some great things are taking shape. While some businesses have come and gone over the years Indiana Flight Center, located on the south side of the field, is about to celebrate its 20th anniversary. Owner Brett Zierle said, “I used to look out at these hangars and promise myself that one day we would have them. Now we do and that is never lost on me.”
Day-to-day operations include flight training, corporate flights, and fuel services on the field. There is more to IFC than just the normal operations: its working to spark the interests of current and future aviators. Last August it hosted its first fly-in and drive-in event. “It is something I have been wanting to do for years,” said Brandon Herzog who is a manager at Indiana Flight Center. “We had these beautiful days when we were amazed that more people were not flying. As we discussed this we felt that we should give folks a reason to fly. An adventure to come out and be part of this event. We wanted to keep the feeling you get when you are at Oshkosh going and build on the excitement you feel when you are there.”
They decided on an event that would be open not only to the pilot community, but also the non-flying community. Events focused on giving kids a chance to sit in a few aircraft and manipulate the controls kicked things off. Later, parents could get airplane rides with their children, and give them that first taste of flight. The hope is that getting the community involved with the airport, will give a bigger sense of pride in the field. A child who attends the event and gets hands on with an aircraft may very well start to develop an interest in flying and aircraft. Making this vital connection is where the heart of this event lies. Later that evening local warbird owner Chuck Marshall pleased the crowds with some Stearman flights. Then, as the sun set for the evening, the Disney movie Planes was projected onto the hangar. People of all ages settled in to watch the movie. There was also a chance to camp on the grounds in the grass.
“We were not really sure how many people to expect,” Herzog said. “We were shocked when well over 800 people attended.”
EAA Chapter 132 lead by President Phil Knox, supplied a great group of volunteers to help get the event rolling. “We could have never done this without all of the volunteer help,” Herzog said. “They were amazing. Between them and the whole Indiana Flight Center team working together, we were able to put on a great event for our first time.”
This August Indiana Flight Center is set to host the event again and build on what they have learned. They want to make the event even bigger and better. The dates this year for the event are August 26 and 27. The gates open on Friday the 26th to the public and kicks off with some aircraft displays and a chance to get a ride. Then after dark the movie Planes: Fire & Rescue will be shown outdoors on the hangar. Attendees will once again have the chance to camp under the stars and rise to a EAA pancake breakfast thanks to the volunteers of Chapter 132. Through the next day there will be speakers, safety seminars, and activities for kids of all ages including a massive paper airplane contest. Find out more information on the upcoming event on the IFC website.