BETHALTO — Hundreds of people drove and flew to Bethalto this weekend for the St. Louis Regional Airport’s annual Wings and Wheels Fly In and Car Show.
David Miller, director of aviation at the St. Louis Regional Airport, said that he’s been involved with the fly in for the past 13 years. “We’ve been doing this for about 30 years,” Miller said, “Through the years we’ve seen a falling off of some of the aircraft. When we realized the airplanes were dwindling down, we started the car show.”
“The first year we had 12 cars, and that was sponsored primarily by the Jerseyville Street Machines. That part of the event just kept growing and growing. Last year we had over 300 cars here,” he said.
Patrick Wilke, with the Jerseyville Street Machines, said that main purpose of the event is for everyone to have a good time. “Everybody is here to have fun. Just have fun. They’re all car guys, and car guys like to talk to other car guys,” he said.
“The one thing I found is the common denominator between the airplanes and the cars, is an interest in restoring old things. Whether it’s a car or an airplane. It’s where did you get your upholstery done, who did your decals and what kind of paint is that. So there is a common thread that goes between the car show and the fly in,” Miller added.
Miller said that a lot of the planes are flown in by their pilots. “Every airplane here, the pilots brought them in just this morning. Some of these biplanes are actually based here, so the just had to taxi over.”
The event gathers attention from more than just the St. Louis surrounding area. People come from states away for the annual fly in.
“I know of several airplanes that came from Indiana. We’ve got quite a few from Missouri,” Miller said. “One even came down from Iowa. Sometimes we get a lot of airplanes coming down from Chicago.”
John Murphy, of Chesterfield, said he has been interested in flying planes since he was kid.
“I started early,” Murphy said, “I soloed my first flight on my 16th birthday.”
Murphy said he has been coming to the annual Wings and Wheels Fly In and Car Show for about 25 years.
“This event has grown quite a bit.” Murphy said. “Pilots that like small airplanes or building airplanes, we enjoy going out on nice weekends and showing off our airplanes. It’s a good sign that the airport does this kind of thing. It promotes flying. It’s good to get people out to the airport.”
The one thing that Miller feels is most beneficial about the weekend is the open house at the airport. Every year as a part of the fly in and car show, the St. Louis Regional Airport hosts an open house.
“This is very important for this event,” Miller said. “For security reasons we can’t just leave everything open all the time. But this is the one event, the one day, that we can say hey neighbors come on out and see what is going on at your airport.”