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Mon, Dec. 09

Air show features slice<br>of U.S. aviation history

VALLE — Those who visited the High Country Warbirds Air Display last weekend at Planes of Fame stepped back into a classic era of American history.

Military might from years past graced the skies over Valle, thrilling the younger generation while bringing back memories for the older generation.

Fans of historic aircraft turned out for the Planes of Fame’s High Country Warbirds Air Display last weekend in Valle. Above, onlookers enjoy one of the several fly-bys performed by pilots.

Standing near the Valle-Grand Canyon Airport runway after a vintage World War II plane had landed prompted one veteran to say, "It’s almost a shame we now have all of this technology. Listen to the sounds of these great aircraft."

Aircraft from America’s 20th century military past were definitely the main attraction of the weekend. There were even a couple of planes that had appeared in the recent theatrical release of "Pearl Harbor."

In its fourth year, the air display has grown to attract more and more airplane enthusiasts. Organizers probably wouldn’t mind seeing more folks coming out to enjoy the weekend, but Planes of Fame general manager Bob Reed said the event has been getting better every year.

"We’re getting more and more interest," Reed said. "This year, we had a lot of Harley people come up. That helped quite a bit. We also have a lot of flyers from Prescott. They fly up and give us a lot of support."

Williams hosted a motorcycle rally over the weekend, an event that drew many people to the area. Besides the air show, a good number of "hogs" could be found at the Grand Canyon on Saturday and Sunday.

Reed speaks proudly of the air display, which features more than military aircraft. A classic Steerman plane that appeared in the film, "Rocky and Bullwinkle" went up along with the Ford Trimotor, the historic model that was the first to conduct air tours over Grand Canyon.

"Planes of Fame does all the work for this, they get all the airplanes," said John Seibold, a pioneer in the Grand Canyon-area aviation business and owner of the Valle airport.

Seibold obviously has a great love for the history of aviation at Grand Canyon. Besides the Trimotor, one of only seven or eight that still fly, an old Grand Canyon Airlines plane was on display for folks to check out how tourists of the past viewed the Canyon from above.

Seibold hopes to organize Grand Canyon Airline’s great history and already has a good start with the restoration of all the company’s past tour planes.

"We’re actually in the process of restoring every airplane used in Grand Canyon Airline’s history," Seibold said, a list five past models.

A replica of one historic plane in Grand Canyon’s history is being rebuilt. An old survey model, the plane was the first to land in Grand Canyon. A Kansas pilot and photographer Ellsworth Kolb landed at Plateau Point on Aug. 8, 1922.

Model planes displayed

Besides the Grand Canyon connection to airplanes, there were also several others with varying interests on hand at the air show. For example, Ron Dickson of Williams and Roger Jacobsen of Flagstaff were in attendance for the model airplane aspect of the event. Both Dickson and Jacobsen belong to the Flagstaff Flyers Club, the latter serving as its president.

While the "real" planes were doing fly-bys, model airplanes were also going up to entertain the crowd. Several models graced a wall of the museum’s new hanger, which was open for people to check out.

Various types of vendors had booths set up — one woman selling everything from airplane clocks to plastic models for the kids and an older gentleman with a collection of books covering countless aviation and wartime topics.

Both mornings, the Valle-Wood Volunteer Fire Department served up pancakes to raise money for its emergency services for the rural community. They also sold goodies throughout the day as another method to bring in a few more bucks.

Civil Air Patrol on hand

The Civil Air Patrol, which has an association with the U.S. Air Force, had several of its cadets on hand to help with things like parking, security and other tasks. Carl Rhoades of the CAP’s Prescott unit, said the organization "introduces young people to aviation."

Tom Britzman, another Prescott resident in attendance, was displaying his World War II-era jeep to interested onlookers.

The jeep was actually a model that came off the line in 1945 and went into service on May 1 of that year, the day after Germany’s Adolph Hitler committed suicide at the height of his defeat. So, the jeep never saw WWII service but is still indicative of the vehicles of that time period.

It was the historic military aircraft that most enjoyed seeing. The Valle museum’s sister facility in Chino, Calif., sent over several models. From the popular "Pearl Harbor" film, there was a P-40 along with a B-25, which served as a camera ship.

For a price, some air display patrons could go up in one of the historic aircraft, an experience to create conversation for a lifetime.

The weekend event had some problems with the weather this year. Periodic rain showers fell over the weekend and every once in a while, there would be some strong wind gusts.

Still, those in attendance seemed to have fun, whether it was eating a burger in the shade of an airplane or getting right up next to the runway for a closer look.

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