The 28th annual Simsbury Fly-In and Car Show, was held Sunday, September 15th 2013. The Connecticut Air & Space Center presented the #21 Gustave Whitehead replica aircraft and Andy Kosch’s presented as seminar on Gustave Whitehead called, “Did he fly before the Wrights?” The event by a all accounts was a rousing success. Here is a little inside story on what it took to make this happen.
Simsbury Airport or 4B9 is at 94 Wolcott RD., Simsbury. The Simsbury Flying Club is the day-to-day operator of Simsbury Airport. They function like a Fixed-Base Operator, but on a not-for-profit basis. The Airport sports a 2205 foot paved runway. Each year they hold a Flyin to help them raise funds to operate to facility.
Event organizer Bill Thomas requested our participation in the event this year. In the past few years we have had a small booth, but this year with all the activity around Gustave Whitehead being formally recognized but Janes All the Worlds Aircraft and the Connecticut Legislature they wanted to know if we would tell the story at the event.
Simsbury is about 90 or so miles from the museum, or a quick drive up I-91. Well that’s if you don’t have to move an airplane, displays, vehicles and people. Budget Truck Rental in Bridgeport gave us a fair price for a 26 foot truck and after playing a shell game of getting drivers, the truck and all of our gear in one place we loaded up the #21 and all the associated displays.
Chris Hornesco played taxi and retrieved Director, Drew King from the Fairfield train station at 9 pm at night. After picking up the truck at the museum they made the journey north meeting Volunteers Chris & Dennis Soltis, Nancy Hornesco and Andy Kosch in Windsor Locks. It was decided early on to spend the night near Simsbury so everyone would be there with the plane bright and early.
So at the crack of dawn, and boy when the dawn cracks you can hear it, our crew left for the Airfield. Arriving we were greeted already with a beautiful Silver Tiger Moth and a very cool Cirrus Jet prototype on display near our space.
In addition to the Whitehead we brought a little weight to tie it down in the event of a strong gust. Each one, about #120, had to be manhandled off the truck. I took us about 45 minutes to get the display set up. As soon as the Whithead peaked her nose out of the truck it drew the attention of anyone with in line of site. People were asking questions and it was being rolled down the ram. Yes, there is a lot of interest in this topic.
Andy Kosch was immediately inundated with people wanting to talk to him. The rest of us got the tent set up and our beautiful new backdrop donated by Matt Lugo and the gorgeous printing provided by John Lott at Hankin Printing , but volunteers with the CASC.
The day was spent talking to many people on a variety of subjects. Volunteers Jim Collins and Steve Rescsanski made thee drive up the morning of and were a big help all day. We spread the word about Whithead and more importantly we spread the word about the Connececticut Air & Space Center and our Mission, Honor, Preserve, Educate.
In addition to our volunteer’s working the booth Dave Beale & Gary Soltis , both working on the engine for the Corsair Restoration stopped by with their families. We saw some old friends from Skylark Airport including Bill Kule who owns a beautiful blue Stearman Bi-plane.
Steve Rescanski summed up the day with this gem, “So few served so many”. With so many people asking questions and some many conversations happening we needed at least another 4 or 5 volunteers helping out. Chris Hornesco spent the whole day manning the Whitehead, helping children in and out to have their photo taken. This fair skinned ginger looked like fire truck by the end of the day from the beautiful sunny weather we were lucky to have.
Steve also mentioned that one of the formation pilots named Andy, over lunch, mentioned he wished he could attend Kosch’s talk instead of being in the air! People want to be educated!
About every 30 minutes over the PA system, interrupting the 50’s & 60’s show music a pre-recorded message was played. Our Communication Director Ron Kurtz’s own beautiful description of our organization played for thousands, over and over.
The Connecticut Air & Space Center is a charitable organization dedicated to honoring the pioneers of early aviation, restoring and preserving examples of the aircraft they flew and educating this and future generations of their rich aviation heritage. The Center relies on volunteers who painstakingly piece together these aircraft and on the donations it receives from those in the public and private sectors.
We were able to interact with all ages from many walks of life. The number of children that gazed into to our two small display cases and asked questions numbered at least 100. Our Curator Chris Soltis and our Artifact Acquisitions Manager Dennis Soltis created a beautiful display of items that helped tell our story from 550 Main Street.
The speakers session which Andy spoke seems to have been a huge success as well. After the talk we heard many people talking about the presentation and the Whitehead story.
In an email post event, Bill Thomas, says “What a great exhibit, and a wonderful historical controversy to enliven discussions by all of us who love history and aviation. From my perch at the announcing station, I was able to observe a constant flow of people at your exhibit. We hope your museum gets lots of benefit from this exposure. ” He also said there were an estimated thirteen thousand attendees.
The car show portion of the event was pretty big and had some really cool vehicles attending. Everything from Model T’s to 55 Chevy’s to Dodge Vipers and even a WW2 Half Track drove by our booth. The folks up at Simsbury know how to put on a good show and their supporters prove that.
In an email from Dennis Soltis our Artifact Acquisition Manager and Secretary for the Board, he had this to say,”It seems to me that the Connecticut Air and Space Center had a great showing at the Simsbury Flyin this past Sunday. There was a large amount of aircraft and probably more cars than airplanes at their car show and with that thousands of people. We happened to be at a perfect spot right across from the announcers platform and hotdog & hamburger venue! Andy’s area was always crowded and we also had our fair share.” He also added “We made many contacts and made many friends for the museum and had many people ask how the Corsair was coming along. They remembered us from last time. “
This event shows that GA is still alive and small Flyin’s can be a really great way to connect with the public. We are very thankful for being able to participate in such a large way. All in all it was a great time for all involved. We saw old friends and made many new friends. So we are looking forward to more events like this and revisiting Simsbury next September. To quote our Curator Chris Soltis “It was a blast!”.