Sunday, February 22, 2015

Aviation enthusiasts descend on Puyallup for conference-trade show

Tim Heneghan of Enumclaw cleans the canopy that covers the cockpit of a PW-6 glider on display at the Northwest Aviation Conference & Trade Show at the Washington State Fair Events Center on Saturday. The glider was adjacent to an information booth for the Puget Sound Soaring Association, which member Gary Ohlinger described as “a social club with aircraft. It’s not a commercial venture at all. We cover costs and have a lot of fun.”

Ever wonder how to keep your seaplane from spreading invasive species?

How to replace your heavy, steel landing gear with lightweight titanium?

How to get your hands on a vintage military warplane?

The Northwest Aviation Conference & Trade Show, on this weekend at the fairgrounds in Puyallup, could be the place for you.

The annual show, now in its 32nd year, is all about flying. Organizers at the Washington Aviation Association expect it to draw 12,000 pilots and flying fanatics over the two-day run, along with 350 aviation-related venders and instructors teaching a total of 75 hours of seminars.

“Pilots in general have a lot of heart,” said Rachel Hansen, who’s coordinated the event for the past 15 years. “They really want to share the passion they have for aviation, so it’s pretty exciting to be able to put this together.”

On Saturday, pilots, mechanics and vintage aircraft enthusiasts packed the ShowPlex building at the fairgrounds, studying cutaways of engines, trying out the latest in avionics and trading stories.

“This show really brings it all together,” said Derek Anderson, an aircraft parts technician manning a booth representing The Landing Gear Works in Renton.

“We don’t ever really get to see everybody in one place like this,” he said. “The community kind of just mingles. It’s a really nice kind of atmosphere.”

Attendees are overwhelmingly male, but the Washington chapter of the national Women in Aviation organization is also on hand. One of the most popular seminars is being given by Lori MacNichol, who owns an Idaho flight school that specializes in the skills needed to safely fly in mountainous backcountry terrain.

MacNichol’s series of four 90-minute seminars on mountain and canyon flying includes some of the material she uses in advanced training courses for Air Force special operations squadrons, the U.S. Border Patrol and the U.S. Forest Service.

New at the show this year, thanks to the improved economy, are airline companies actively seeking pilots to hire.

According to Hansen, 14 airlines are recruiting pilots at the show, including SeaTac-based Alaska Airlines.

“Every airline is desperate to hire right now,” Hansen said. Five hundred people showed up at a special “career forum” on Friday, she said.

At Saturday’s show, long lines of pilots, all dressed in nearly identical dark blue suits and shiny black shoes, waited with résumés in hand for interviews with airline representatives.

The show continues at the fairgrounds through 4 p.m. Sunday.


What: Northwest Aviation Conference & Trade Show.

Where: ShowPlex building, Washington State Fair Events Center, Puyallup.

When: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. today.

Admission: $5; 17 and younger admitted free.


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