Lock Haven fly-in pays tribute to a humble yellow plane made in Pennsylvania
The normally quiet skies above Lock Haven soon will hum when hundreds of light planes begin their final approaches to William T. Piper Memorial Airport.
The grassy area next to the runway will be yellow with Piper Cubs and dotted with dozens of other planes produced by Piper during its years in Lock Haven, Clinton County.
The event is the 27th Annual Sentimental Journey to Cub Haven Fly-In,from June 20-23. It's for pilots who love the Cubs as well as anyone who loves airplanes and aviation.
Visitors will get to see pilots test their skills during "bomb drops" and a spot-landing contest. They can also watch Greg Koontz and the Alabama Boys land a Piper Cub on top of the world's smallest airport — a moving pickup truck.
Each day of the fly-in, visitors can schedule an introductory flight lesson ($60 for a 30-minute "Discovery Flight.")
It's the one time of the year when memories preserved in the neighboring William T. Piper Aviation Museum come to life. Combining a trip to the fly-in with a short visit to the museum is an ideal way to learn more about Piper and the company's impact on Pennsylvania.
The classic yellow Piper Cub, with a teddy bear on its tail, could become Pennsylvania's official state aircraft, just as the U.S. Brig Niagara is the state's official flagship.
The humble plane still is admired by pilots, long after Piper stopped making it. "It has the reputation for being easy to fly, slow and safe, and was affordable, too," says Ira Masemore, museum curator.
Carmen Banfill, coordinator of the fly-in, says, "Hearing the hum of the planes' engines and seeing the airport filled with planes again brings back memories for many of us who had relatives and friends working for Piper." The company closed in Lock Haven in 1984.
"Depending on the weather during the fly-in, we expect 250 to 300 planes to be parked on the field at one time, including 36 different Piper models," Banfill says. "There'll also be classic planes made by other companies."
The event celebrates the 75th birthday of Piper and the Piper J-3 Cub. The featured aircraft besides the Cub will be the L-4 and the PA16 Clipper.
With your admission fee, ($8 for adults, $4 for youths 13-17, free for children 12 and under), you'll also get a tractor-pulled, guided tour of the flight line, access to vendors selling everything from plane parts to commemorative Piper Cub 75th anniversary T-shirts.
Plus there's free evening entertainment. You can watch aviation-themed classic movies in Hangar 1 ("Wings," "The Legend of Pancho Barnes and the Happy Bottom Riding Club,""Red Tails,""Pushing Tin" and"2012"). Or you can listen to live music (swing and World War ll-era).
Piper produced 74,188 planes in Lock Haven, from 1937 to 1984, Masemore says.
"William T. Piper, has been called the 'Henry Ford of aviation' because he worked hard to make his planes affordable and available to put more people in the air," the museum curator says. "He set up a production line, just like Ford's, with each employee performing one task."
Piper was always thinking of new uses for his planes, which were predominantly for pleasure. "He put pontoons on them for river-landings and skis for snowy-surface touch downs," Masemore says. "He even added sprayers and turned them into crop dusters."
When World War ll began, Piper developed new uses for his J-3 Piper Cubs. They became the prime training planes for new military pilots. They also were converted to L-4s for use in aerial surveillance and ferrying generals (including Dwight Eisenhower and Omar Bradley) to and from battles.
"He even cut out part of a plane's fuselage and showed how it could be used as an air ambulance to fly a wounded soldier to a hospital," Masemore says.
These and many more stories are told in the museum.
It offers a brief movie covering the company's time in Bradford before moving to Lock Haven. The museum has exhibits on the company's history and the Piper family, plus a hangar of nine planes.
You'll find a one-of-a-kind PT 1941 primary trainer, a J-3 Piper Cub, the University of Mississippi's Aztec, which contained one of Piper's earliest pressurized cabins, and The City of Angels, which was the first cloth-covered plane to fly around the world. "It took two and a half months — but that wasn't all time air time," Masemore says. "Because of its cloth covering, it had to be grounded each time bad weather was encountered."