The fly-in at the Pine Bluff Municipal Airport brought out a small crowd of airplane enthusiasts despite Saturday’s chilly weather. The Razorback Chapter of the Experimental Aircraft Association hosted the fly-in along with a car show at Grider Field.
Dressed in hooded sweatshirts, Robert Thomas, 13, and his brother Khamisah Thomas, 15, braved 50-degree temperatures to watch planes take flight and view many that sat on the tarmac.
“I actually got to sit in a Navy plane and look inside the motor of a Corvette,” Khamisah said.
Robert said he liked the fact that he could step inside some of the aircraft and look at some cool antique cars.
While the teens walked from plane to plane outside, some people were content looking out the windows of a nearby building.
“It’s just fun sitting here watching the planes go by,” said Joy Blankenship, director of Pine Bluff Downtown Development, as she watched two small airplanes take to the skies.
Rickey Works, president of the Razorback Chapter of the EAA, said that experimental airplanes are “kit airplanes” usually assembled by the pilots. The Pine Bluff resident said the fly-in featured experimental aircraft, classics and antique planes such as a PT-19, also known as a primary trainer.
Works, who has been flying for more than 25 years, said club members painstakingly restored the once-wrecked trainer which now features a brilliant blue body and yellow wings. The plane, which was originally built in the early 40s, recently took flight after being grounded for 50 years.
“The PT-19 was used here during World War II when the airport was a primary training base run by the Army Air Corps,” he said, adding that it took association members, led by Clarence Rittelmeyer and Glenn Bell, about six years to restore the old plane.
“We like to come out here on the weekends and fly planes and some work on them,” Works said. “We have as much fun working on them as we do flying them.”
Gerald Loyd, a member of the EAA, flew his red and white RV-4 plane to Saturday’s fly-in. It took the Dumas resident about four years to build the plane in his backyard.
“It’s not a kit where all the parts are made,” he said. “It’s a lot of metal and you have to put rivets in it to put it together.”
Randal Warren estimates that it took him about 10 years to build his RV-A plane.
He worked on it part-time while holding down a full-time job. He built the aircraft, which is white with red and gray trim, inside the trailer of an 18-wheeler that had been converted into a workshop.
Loyd and Warren said they didn’t mind putting in the time because the experimental aircraft are special. “It’s a commitment to take on one of these as a project but it flies so much better than any factory-built plane,” Loyd said.
Works said the EAA wants to get more young people interested in flying through a program for 9- to 16-year-olds called the Young Eagles.
“If we get enough interest from younger kids, we would start a chapter and teach them the basics of aviation,” he said.
Anyone who wants more information about the EAA or the Young Eagles should call 870-543-0731.