Sunday, September 2, 2018

Galesburg Municipal Airport (KGBG), Illinois: Pilots arriving daily for National Stearman Fly-In

John Elliott of Arlington, Virginia, gets his Stearman ready for takeoff Saturday afternoon at the Galesburg Municipal Airport (KGBG).


GALESBURG — As the 47th annual National Stearman Fly-In prepares to begin on Labor Day, pilots from all over the country continue to fly into Galesburg. By mid-afternoon Saturday, over 20 had arrived at Galesburg Municipal Airport. While many have attended the celebration year after year, one of the first to arrive for this year’s event is in Galesburg for the first time.

For John Elliott, 48, of Arlington, Virginia, his journey to the Stearman Fly-In began with his grandfathers. Both his paternal and maternal grandfathers were pilots in World War II, one in the Navy and one in the Army. Both trained in Stearman planes.

“They used to tell stories of their training,” remembered Elliott.

“My mom’s dad had a picture of a Stearman on the wall. He used to talk about if he ever bought an airplane, a Stearman was the finest airplane he’d ever been on. So I’d listen to that as a kid and I thought it was spectacular, so that kind of set the bug.”

When he was 16, Elliott went for a biplane ride at an air show and became hooked. He knew he wanted to become a pilot. That dream didn’t come true immediately. College, life and career came first, and Elliott works as an accountant. In 2008, he earned his pilot’s license.

It was at the Flying Circus Airshow in northern Virginia, where most of the pilots are ex-military or commercial pilots, that the accountant learned of Galesburg’s annual show from David Brown.

“I told him that I was getting my pilot’s license and I want to learn to fly antique airplanes,” Elliott said. “So I bought a 10-hour block of time with him and his Stearman, and he trained me how to fly the tail-wheel airplanes; then I went looking for a biplane.”

He started by acquiring a 1931 Fleet biplane, right after training on modern Cessnas. Three years ago, he found his current Stearman. Advertised by a doctor in Maine, the bright yellow plane has its own unique history.

The American-built PT-27 is one of 300 that were loaned to the Royal Air Force for training as a small part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s massive lean-lease program. The planes went to Canada in 1942 and faced challenges due to the cold weather. The planes were eventually returned to the United States. Only an estimated “four or five” of that batch of 300 remain. Elliott’s is now repainted in the colors it was during its time in Canada.

As a result of his ownership of the plane, Elliott had the unique experience of meeting the son of the RAF pilot who trained in the plane, thanks to the recording of the plane’s serial number in a log book.

He’s been impressed so far with Galesburg and the event.

“The airport is fantastic. The facility is great and the grass runway is nice and smooth. I didn’t know how big the event was and how the town is so involved,” Elliott said. “The idea of seeing over 50 Stearmans and maybe even over 100 is just spectacular... The small Midwestern town has such a homey feel to it. Coming from somewhere like D.C., which can seem very impersonal comparatively, it’s been charming and wonderful.”

Original article can be found here ➤ http://www.galesburg.com

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