Written by Jerry DiCairano
View Photos HERE
May 20, 2017–The airport’s first major public event in decades drew large crowds on Saturday, despite strong gusty winds which limited flying activities. Some experts estimated that well over a thousand people visited the airfield to view classic cars and military and civil aircraft––and to enjoy a host of aviation-related activities.
For six and a half hours, the airport’s control tower hosted a steady stream of families who had signed up to tour the air-traffic-control facility. Students from the flight department at the University of Maryland Eastern Shore provided bus transportation to the tower and operated a staging area where visitors could wait comfortably for the next tour to begin.
Piedmont Airlines, the event’s lead sponsor, also entertained capacity crowds throughout the day, inviting families to come aboard one of its Dash-8 turboprop aircraft. Other visitors waited in line to take a brief helicopter tour of the area. Rally Helicopters of Ocean City enjoyed non-stop business, even flying passengers beyond the event’s planned closing time.
Members of the Wheels that Heal car club brought more than 60 classic cars and trucks to the event, attracting eager crowds to a staging area along a closed taxiway. And just beyond, on a closed runway, families were able to inspect active-service military aircraft, including two A-10 Warthog fighters provided by the Md. National Guard, and T-6 Texan and UH-72 Lakota helicopters from the Naval Test Pilot School.
Handsome model aircraft also caught the attention of many visitors. Owned by members of the Mid-Atlantic Radio Kontrol Society, some of the miniature planes had wing-spans of up to nine feet. Families also enjoyed viewing shiny fire trucks from the Parsonsburg Fire Dept. and the airport’s own fire-response truck.
A free pancake breakfast sponsored by Bay Land Aviation and hosted by the Wicomico Squadron of the Civil Air Patrol, served 600 plates of food during a three-hour period. Later, several food trucks experienced brisk business as they fed lunch, beverages, and snacks to hungry families while three different bands filled the air with live music.
Also popular was an educational seminar designed to help inactive pilots catch up on new regulations and transition back into the cockpit. The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, one of the world’s leading aviation organizations, hosted the “Rusty Pilots” seminar in a filled-to-capacity conference room provided by Piedmont Airlines.
Among the visitors to Wings and Wheels were County Executive Bob Culver, County Administrator Wayne Strausburg, and County Councilman John Hall, who also serves as the chairman of the county’s Airport Commission. Maryland State Senator Addie Eckardt and Maryland Delegate Christopher Adams also supported and attended the event. Dawn Veatch, who manages the airport, spoke briefly to the crowd about the airport’s importance and about new facilities and services which will be coming to the airport within the next year or so.
Nearly 40 sponsors provided critical funding, facilities, or services; and roughly 100 volunteers, including many county employees, offered their time and expertise to make the event a success. Members of the public can expect an even bigger event in 2018.