BETHALTO — Lined up on the tarmac children often spy the plane that could take them on their first flight, introducing them to aviation, a passion for many involved in the Wings and Wheels Fly In and Car Show.
Aviation mechanic and pilot Paul Voorhees, owner of Big River Aviation, is one of the pilots that will give free flights to young visitors ages 8 through 17 this weekend a day after the annual Fly In when a multitude of different aircraft land at the St. Louis Regional Airport’s 21st annual Open House Saturday, Sept. 26. Though the displayed airplanes and cars will be gone on Sunday, Sept. 27, children can return with their parents or guardians for free flights sponsored by the EAA Chapter 864 Young Eagles.
Advance sign up for flights can be done on Saturday during the Wings and Wheels Fly In and Car Show or on Sunday morning. Aircraft and automobiles are the order of the day from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, and free flights with parent or guardian approval are from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Sunday. This weekend will be a double delight for Voorees when he’ll celebrate his birthday immersed in his passion of aviation.
As a pilot, Voorhees flew out of St. Louis for the first time from St. Louis Regional Airport where now he leases a hangar for his business repairing aircraft such as a 1941 Aronca Chief, which is a mono, high-wing airplane. Voorhees is a chapter president for the Young Eagles Association, which sponsors Sunday’s free flights that he’ll pilot for the association. The airport pays for pilots’ fuel in order to give youngsters the flight experience. The Experimental Aircraft Association chapter 864 of Young Eagles is donating the planes and pilots. Those children who fly will receive a certificate.
Voorhees’ own 15-year-old daughter, Katie, is undergoing pilot certification, soon to be followed in the endeavor by her 9-year-old sister, Cecilia.
“They both love to fly,” he said.
At least 50 planes, mostly small two-seaters, will be available Saturday for visitors to look over and sometimes climb into. Hundreds of spectators go to the airport to get a firsthand look at the many unusual aircraft at the Fly In.
Saturday’s car show will exhibit antique vehicles including from the Alton Antique Auto Association and private individuals.
Guests experience an array of vintage planes, hot rods and classic automobiles as well as specialty booths with food and kids’ activities.
In past years, aircraft show displays have included a C-54 cargo plane, a B-25J Mitchell Bomber, a P-51 Mustang and the oldest C-47 still flying in its original condition, military aircraft from Scott Air Force Base and the latest in corporate jets.
Guests will be able to board and explore aircraft on the ground as well as view them in the air. Special displays are provided for youngsters. As a family event, young and old can enjoy looking at the cars and planes, listening to the ’50s, ’60s and current music and spectators can vote for their favorite show entries. Show entries are free and trophies will be awarded at 3 p.m. Saturday.
“The mission for the airport is to have an open house and show our neighbors that we want to be friends,” St. Louis Regional Airport’s Executive Director Dave Miller said. “There may be a little noise, but not as much as there used to be because of advanced technology.”
The car show has grown to more than 100 entrants including street rods, antique autos, custom cars and motorcycles.
Food and drink will be on sale and families are welcome to bring picnic baskets.
The Wings and Wheels show is one of the largest in the Alton metroplex. Three hundred cars, 100 planes, and 5,000 visitors attended the event last year that the Alton Convention and Visitors Bureau awarded as the Best Festival/Event of the area in 2014.