FULTON – Families, aircraft enthusiasts and classic car fans showed up to the second annual Airport Day at the Oswego County Airport Saturday, August 3.
About 500 people observed several small aircrafts, free small aircraft rides to children aged 8 to 17, helicopter rides, enjoyed some barbeque and looked at some classic cars, according to Airport Manager Brandon Schwerdt.
Schwerdt said they used to hold airshows, but switched to a static aviation day last year due to insurance and expenses.
“We just really want to let the public come out and see and appreciate all that the local airport has to offer the community,” Schwerdt said.
Aside from airplanes and a helicopter, James Bianco from Redfield, New York, brought his Ultralight to educate people on a different, more affordable sport.
He said his is a 447 with 440 horsepower and a 12 meter wing. It travels on average 60 to 65 miles per hour, but he has gotten to 90 on his top speed. Bianco said it is pretty much like a motorcycle in the air. In the year he has had it, he has done about 50 flights.
“I hit 50 [years old] and my kids went away, and I was bored. And I was like ‘Man, I always wanted to fly,’ so I took up parachuting for eight years and I got bored after 400 flight,” Bianco said. “I spent $5,000 and here I am living the dream. I got four or five lessons and that’s all I needed.”
He keeps his Ultralight in Richland and works in Syracuse. He enjoys flying it in his free time over a reservoir and Lake Ontario.
“Unfortunately, it almost feels like the sport’s dying. Kids just aren’t interested in it anymore. It’s all us old-timers here flying; there’s nobody new coming up,” Bianco said. “It’s just sad. We really do need to get younger people into aviation. And I know they do have a club here for teens.”
He said he hopes events like the open house can help get more people interested in aviation.
Schwerdt agreed that youths’ interest in aviation has gone down in this age.
“We have a lot of competition out there for the attention of the youth and we don’t feel as thought a lot of youth are getting as interested or aware of aviation as they used to,” Schwerdt said.
He said after the increased security following 9/11 the fences and barbed wire probably did not feel very inviting to inspire aviation appreciation.
People used to be able to go and watch the airplanes take off, but no longer have that access for security reasons.
He said that is another reason why the airport opened its gates to the public for an open house, to help get more interest.
The Experimental Aircraft Association’s Young Eagles Flights program has a local chapter based out of the county airport, chapter #486. It is aimed to introduce children to aviation and is led by a volunteer pilot.
Schwerdt said a preliminary number of children who took part in the program that day was 103, almost double from last year’s number of 55.
“That’s all through donations of our pilots; they donate their time, their planes and their fuel,” Schwerdt said.
As of July 15, a total of 2,160,623 Young Eagles aged 8 to 17 have flown nationwide as part of the Young Eagles Flights program, according to the EAA.
Along with activities, organizations from around the county set up booths to provide the visitors with information as well.
Renee Fox from the Oswego County Emergency Management Office promoted preparedness in an emergency like a flood or a fire. The office is a partner with the airport as a county agency and work with them on their own emergency preparedness plans.
“It’s good for people to have a plan and to have a kit available for them should they have to evacuate their homes, so we’re just here giving some general information to the public and getting them to think about how prepared they are in the event of an emergency,” Fox said.