Sunday, June 09, 2013

Sumner County Regional Airport (M33), Gallatin, Tennessee: Steam Plant Fly In and Expo planned for June 22 -- Organizers hope to attract new aviators

Len Assante, vice president of the Gallatin Chapter 1343 of the Experimental Aircraft Association, will display his 1976 Cessna 150 airplane at the Steam Plant Fly In and Expo on Saturday, June 22, at the Sumner County Regional Airport in Gallatin.
 / Dessislava Yankova/Sumner A.M.

June  7, 2013 6:01 PM 
Written by Dessislava Yankova
Sumner A.M.

Learning to fly an airplane doesn’t have to be expensive. In fact, it can be affordable.

That’s one thing organizers of the second annual Steam Plant Fly In and Expo on Saturday, June 22, at the Sumner County Regional Airport in Gallatin hope to educate visitors about. The event will feature many educational opportunities, as well as food, vendors, live music and, of course, airplanes on display.

“The goal is to introduce the community to the airport and give pilots and residents a place to enjoy each other’s company and a place to learn,” said Len Assante, vice president of the Gallatin Chapter 1343 of the Experimental Aircraft Association. “A good number of people know the airport exists, but few people know how to get to it and even fewer people realize the economic impact the airport has on the community.”

With 76 private hangars, 11 corporate and one for maintenance, the Sumner airport eases transportation for individuals and businesses, serving as a major engine of economic development in the county. The airport is expanding and needs more airplane storage space, with about 20 individuals and several companies on the waiting list for a hangar, facility Administrator Steve Sudbury said, citing numbers from December 2012.

“We had about 300 people in 2012 and most of them were pilots,” Assante said, referring to last year’s fly-in. “We want more (non-pilots) this year because we want more people interested in aviation and wanting to learn how to fly.”


The second annual Fly In Expo is expected to bring in more than 200 airplanes to Gallatin from near and far. Gates open at 9 a.m. for the all-day event. Lunch, to include hamburgers and hotdogs will be served by the EAA Chapter 863 of Lebanon. Live music will be provided by Texas sisters Flyte Three and the blues sounds of the Von Skow Band, Assante said.

During the late morning and early afternoon, guests will have the opportunity to attend educational sessions with access to brochures, fliers and magazines, all providing information about aviation.

“We have several aircraft manufacturers and distributors attending and showing off their newest models,” Assante said. “In addition, we’ll have information on learning to fly and how it is much more affordable than you might think.”

With many baby boomer commercial airplane pilots approaching the mandatory retiring age, and the large number of people who start flying lessons but never finish them, more aviators are needed, Assante said.

“When I learned how to fly in the 1980s, there were more than 700,000 pilots, and now there’re fewer than 600,000,” Assante said, citing data from the Federal Aviation Administration. “We’re losing pilots faster than we’re replacing them.”

Female pilots

One organization scheduled to attend the event June 22 is the International Organization of Women Pilots, known as The Ninety-Nines after the 99 women who joined to found it in 1929 under the leadership of Amelia Earhart. The Ninety-Nines are now establishing its Middle Tennessee chapter and the 10 current members are “looking to spread the word about the organization,” local chapter president Dianne Denson said.

“Learning flying can be a scary thing,” said Denson, who lives in Gallatin. “We offer mentorship, encouragement and assistance through scholarships to women, who want to learn how to fly.”

More than 200 planes landed in Gallatin from as far away as Arizona and Nevada for the 2012 expo, and organizers hope for higher attendance this year. The expo is organized by EAA, an international organization of aviation enthusiasts based in Oshkosh, Wis., and Gallatin Terminal Operations Aviation, which is a private company contracted by the county to run airport operations.

If you go

What: Steam Plant Fly In and Expo
When: Saturday, June 22, 9 a.m.
Where: Sumner County Regional Airport, 1475 Airport Road in Gallatin
Cost: Free. Food available for purchase

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