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Friday, July 02, 2004 - Page updated at 05:51 P.M.
By Peyton Whitely
On the cover of the brochure for next week's annual Arlington Northwest Experimental Aircraft Association Fly-In is a photo showing the detail of a 1920s Curtiss Robin airplane in vivid shades of red.
Organizers of the event say the photo evokes the character of the country's third-largest gathering of general-
aviation planes, which starts next Wednesday and runs through July 11.
The brochures have been enormously popular, along with a poster of the same photo, said Barbara Lawrence-Tolbert, the fly-in executive director, explaining that the image was made from a photograph of a Robin at last year's event.
"It's real grass-roots aviation," Lawrence-Tolbert said.
The show is gaining in popularity, she noted. More than 60,000 visitors and 1,600 planes usually visit the event, which started as a picnic with about 10 people in summer 1969.
Now the event has to turn away commercial exhibitors, Lawrence-Tolbert said. This year, the show will feature 161 displays by manufacturers, suppliers and other aviation businesses.
This year, the fly-in will be marked by a July 10 recognition of veterans, with a limited number of free admissions available for people who served or are serving in the armed forces, if previous arrangements are made.
"We're on the cusp of losing that personal history," Lawrence-Tolbert said of World War II veterans.
Recognizing such service is always a key part of the fly-in. Displays and flights by former military planes, or "warbirds," are among the event's biggest attractions.
This year, warbird fly-bys will be at 5 p.m. July 9 and 10. Warbirds flying on display include two P-51 Mustangs from World War II, a TBM Avenger torpedo bomber similar to the one flown by former President Bush in World War II and an F-86 Sabre of Korean War vintage.
For aviation enthusiasts, much of the value of the fly-in comes from a chance to expand their knowledge. Seminars cover subjects such as flying in mountains and obtaining a pilot's license.
For the general public, the main attraction of the fly-in is likely the chance to see more than 1,000 planes on display, with visiting aircraft covering a mix from common single-engine planes to some of the rarest planes in existence.
The Curtiss Robin on this year's brochure is such an example. Built from 1928 to 1930 in St. Louis, the Robin was one of the most successful aircraft of its era 769 were built. It also figured in some of aviation's most memorable episodes.
It was a Curtiss Robin, for example, that was flown in 1938 by Douglas "Wrong Way" Corrigan, who became a celebrity after he was denied permission to fly across the Atlantic. On July 17 of that year, he said he was flying back to California but the next day landed in Dublin, Ireland, becoming the eighth person to fly the Atlantic alone.
Corrigan's explanation for the flight: "I guess I made a mistake."
Next Wednesday's opening of the fly-in is kids day, with activities including games and displays for children. Education day is July 8, with exhibits and information presented to help educators bring aviation into classrooms. July 9 will include an airborne pyrotechnics air show beginning at 9 p.m. The all-day veterans celebration is July 10. And July 11 will include a closing air show and the departure of more than 1,000 planes as the event ends.
Air shows will be held from 1 to 3 p.m. next Wednesday and July 11, and 3 to 5:30 p.m. July 8, 9 and 10. Movies, including "Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines" and "Second Hand Lions," will be shown at 10 each night.
Peyton Whitely: 206-464-2259 or firstname.lastname@example.org
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