A regular feature of the Pacific Northwest aviation scene is a fly-in that takes place annually at Arlington in Washington State. A gathering of light aircraft from across the northwest seemed like something worth exploring. Rob Edgcumbe travelled there for GAR.
When it comes to large fly-ins, the EAA gathering that is Airventure at Oshkosh is the clear winner. However, not everyone can travel that far or have enough time to make the trek if they are coming across most of the country. Other opportunities are available and, for many years, one of the biggest fly-ins on the west coast has taken place at Arlington. It is a chance for aircraft of all types to come together and for owners to meet up and maybe share some experiences.
This year’s event brought together a wide variety of types. It also included some ground exhibits that are not aviation related but have a military history them. The attendees were not the only attractions for any visitors coming on the field. An air show took place on each day including an evening show on the Friday.
The rows of aircraft parked up certainly demonstrated that a lot of people had chosen to come. However, the suggestion from those who have been coming for a long time is that attendance numbers are down over time. Whether this is a function of the reduced number of aircraft in use, competing uses for people’s time or whether the event is less attractive than it used to be was not clear but something is definitely cutting things back.
Even so, plenty of people drove in to Arlington to see the planes, walk the lines of the different groups, check out the aviation suppliers that had brought their wares and to get a look at some of the rarer items. Warbird attendance included a Hurricane and a P-47 from the Heritage Flight Foundation at Paine Field and these displayed during the show. An F8F Bearcat was also parked on the field. The military brought some hardware with them. A Black Hawk and a Chinook were on display and were very popular with visitors.
Pleasure flights were running whenever the flying display was not taking part with the choice of a helicopter trip in an R44 or a vintage fixed wing trip in a New Standard. The flights were running almost continuously so it is safe to assume that there were plenty of customers ready to take a trip.
The flying display brought a number of performers in front of the crowds. A combination that certainly impressed was the Hurricane and P-47. They flew a number of passes as a pair before splitting up to carry out individual displays. The Hurricane swept about the sky with the Merlin purring away. The P-47 had brute force on its side and provided a great shape as it beat the place up.
Vicky Benzing put together a very nice display in her Super Stearman. The combination of the large engine in the Super Stearman combined with the relatively low speeds and manoeuvrability of the type meant she was able to keep the aircraft in front of the crowd throughout her performance. The simplicity of its red paint scheme made it look graceful as it performed.
A second pairing took to the skies with a T-6 and a Yak-18 visiting from just over the border in Canada. As with the Hurricane/P-47 combination, a few pairs passes started the routine before splitting up and carrying out solo shows. The T-6 noise is a familiar sound to airshow regulars. The Yak doesn’t have the same aural impact but it certainly is able to be thrown around the sky.
A few high-performance piston aerobatic types were thrown around the skies. The Pitts Special may be an old type but it is still one that is capable of putting on a fine show and this was a good example of that. An Extra 300 also zipped around the skies with the sun glinting off its colourful scheme. However, my favourite of the day was Renny Price. The SU-29 is a brute of a plane for aerobatics and Renny put on a great show throwing it about with vigour.
While numbers may be lower than they used to be, the Arlington fly-in still proved to be a good event and a popular attraction for pilots and non-pilots alike. Hopefully it will continue to be a regular fixture of the Pacific Northwest aviation scene for years to come.