Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

May 25, 2014

Fly-In and Car Show draws large crowd to Mercer County Airport

BRUSHFORK — When young Aiden Jennings saw all the airplanes in the sky Saturday, he wanted to join the hundreds other people converging on the Mercer County Airport.

“We were going down Airport Road,” said Darren Jennings of Princeton, Aiden’s father. “He saw the planes and he had to come.” Soon, 5-year-old Aiden was getting a peek inside a Soviet jet.

The Mercer County Airport had full to overflowing parking lots and hundreds of guests when the facility hosted its first Fly-In and Car Show. Private aviators and the owners of antique and classic cars were invited to display their vehicles.

Many of the children had an extra-special view of the event when they took their very first flight. Local pilots donated their time and fuel to introduce young passengers to the world of flight.

Bethanie Carver, 10, and her cousin Noah Carver came running with looks a glee on their faces after disembarking from a private plane. It was their first flight.

“It was scary at first, and when we hit air bumps, it was very, very scary,” Bethanie recalled. But she was ready to fly again.

“It was scary at first, but I loved it,” Noah agreed. “I loved the part when we were first taking off.”

An interesting import joined the collection when a Soviet L-29 Delfin (Czech for dolphin) arrived over the airport. After making a few passes, it landed, and soon pilot and owner Tony Royal was showing it to the guests. He bought the Russian jet three years ago from a man in Minnesota. The previous owner had purchased it from the Czech Air Force along with several other examples of the model when the Iron Curtain fell.

Except for some changes that make it legal to fly in the United States, the jet has its original Soviet-era equipment, Royal said. Even the paint is original.

The L-29 was used for pilot training and light attack, Royal stated, pointing out hard points on the wings. It could carry gun pods and small bombs.

Royal posed with children who wanted a picture of themselves with the Russian jet. Caleb Mullens, 5, was smiling at the exotic plane.

“I love that airplane,” he declared.

More kids climbed from an airplane after local pilot and Mercer County Airport Board member Charlie Cole let them see Mercer County from the air.

“Good,” Ava Vannatter, 8, of Richmond, Va., replied when asked how she liked her flight. “The landing was the creepiest part.”

Fellow passengers Seth Stratton, 12, thought the flight was smooth, and 13-year-old Deven Vannatter said he wanted to fly the plane the next time he went up.

One goal of the fly-in and car show was to bring people to the Mercer County Airport so they could see what it has to offer. One pilot, Charlie Belcher, 26, of Bluefield, who helped provide rides Saturday, said there are plans to offer flight instruction at the airport.

“Everyone’s had an excellent time,” he said. “We’ve got potential students. Looks like we’ve got some young pilots on our hands.”

Visitors checked out both the nearby car show and the airplanes and helicopters that arrived at the airport.

“I love it,” Tim Howard, 58, of Princeton said of the fly-in. “I’ve got a car in the car show. This is something the county needed.”

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