Vintage Stearman plans are a colorful sight during the 36th annual National Stearman Fly-in at the city's airport. The fly-in is the largest gathering of Stearman planes in the world.

 


The skies in Galesburg on Tuesday were clear blue with spots of bright yellow, white and red.


 


Dozens of Stearman pilots took their colorful vintage planes up for a spin at the 36th National Stearman Fly-In at Galesburg Municipal Airport.


 


This year’s event honors Women’s Airforce Service Pilots, the women who flew non-combat missions during World War II.


 


One of those women, Margaret Reckenberg, will be making the trip to the Fly-In Friday.


 


The Galesburg event is the largest gathering of Stearman planes in the world, said Betty Campbell, an organizer of the event and a pilot herself.


 


"Last year we had 134 planes," she said.


 


Pilot Andy Porter, who lives near Pittsburgh, brought his silver Stearman to the fly-in. After buying his plane, Porter and his son researched its history and found out it was flown by the WASP from February 1943 to Augusut 1944.


 


"When we bought it we had no idea of the history," he said. "Neither did the previous owner."


 


Around 2,000 Stearman airplanes are left, National Stearman Fly-In director Robert Harrison said, but that includes the ones that are disassembled and inoperable.


 


Worldwide, an estimated 1,000 of them are still flying, he said. "Most of those are in the U.S."


 


Jenny McKeown of Alexis and two of her friends made the event a destination Tuesday morning.


 


"We brought our kids out to see the planes," she said. The three women operate home daycares and had seven children ranging from 1 to 3 years old. The children held hands with each other and pointed skyward when planes flew over.


 


Pilots practiced formations, roaring their engines to life and taking off in groups of four. Stearman pilots sit in the rear of two seats in their planes. They have to drive them in an "S" pattern when they move them so they can see if the path is clear, because visibility is limited, Campbell said.


 


The group of around 50 planes at the airport Tuesday were all shining with brightly colored paint. Yellow ones are former Navy planes, and blue and yellow are former Army planes. Some are decked out in bright red and white checkered patterns.


 


The event continues through Sunday. An event Friday night at the jet airport hangar will salute the WASP with reminiscences and videos.


 


Porter said each Stearman lined up in the field is a small piece of history.


 


"Just about every airplane has a story to tell."


 


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What: 36th annual Stearman Fly-in


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Where: Galesburg and surrounding area


 


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When: Now through Sunday


 


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Aircraft will take off again at mid-morning Thursday for a flight to Gen-Air Park in Geneseo, where an aerobatic competition will be held.


 


At 9:30 a.m. Friday, pilots will compete in a short takeoff and spot landing contest at Galesburg Municipal Airport. Pilots will practice for the formation flying contest at 3 p.m. Friday. Also, from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday, narrated tram rides will give visitors a close look at the aircraft. Rides are $1 and will be repeated at the same time on Saturday.


 


Pilots will fly off at 6:45 a.m. Saturday for a breakfast at Davenport Municipal Airport. The formation flying contest will begin at 1 p.m. at the Galesburg airport.


 


A pancake and sausage breakfast served by the Galesburg Noon Lions Club from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. Sunday will wrap up the fly-in in the Jet Air Hangar at Galesburg Municipal Airport.


Schedule: 9:30 a.m. Wednesday, Jerry Stadtmiller will present a seminar on rigging. At 11 a.m., the aircraft will take off from Galesburg Municipal Airport for a lunch at Kewanee Municipal Airport, followed by a flour-bombing contest in Galesburg at 2:30 p.m.


 


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More information: www.stearmanflyin.com


Brenda Rothert can be reached at 686-3041 or state@pjstar.com.