Friday, May 30, 2014

Interest keen in model airplane, vintage aircraft events

Organizers of a model airplane fly-in and Open Cockpit Day at Castle Air Museum in Atwater both reported healthy attendance at the Memorial Day weekend events.

Joe Pruzzo, executive director of the museum, estimated 2,500 to 2,800 people attended Sunday’s Open Cockpit Day. He termed the 18th annual event a resounding success, while acknowledging high temperatures may have kept a few people away.

Visitors were particularly attracted to the B-52 and F-14 exhibits, manned by docents familiar with those aircraft, Pruzzo said. Dedication of the newly restored North American RA-5 Vigilante reconnaissance bomber also was well-attended.

Scott Malta, president of the Central California Model Flyers, the host club for the International Miniature Aircraft Association West Coast Festival, said 149 pilots of large-scale model airplanes were on hand. He estimated there probably were about 2,000 visitors for the four days of the event at the far end of the Castle Airport runway.

“It was absolutely successful,” Malta said. “All pilots got the chance to fly and that’s what we consider a success. There were quite a few youngsters there who were accomplished pilots, and that makes me happy.”

Malta said about 175 planes were flown. Three or four crashed and were damaged, but no injuries were reported.

The 17th annual event is the largest of its kind in the western United States and features model airplanes of 1/5th scale or larger, some of them worth thousands of dollars.

Planning will start almost immediately for the 2015 event, which is traditionally held over four days on the Memorial Day weekend.

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