Eagles Soar At Eagle River Fly-In & Airshow

by Rob Hom

EAGLE RIVER, WIS. – The 22nd Annual Eagle River Fly-In & Airshow at Eagle River Union Airport, June 16, 2012, was a resounding success! Well over a thousand spectators lined the ramp on a delightful Saturday afternoon to take in the performances of some skilled aviators and nimble aircraft.

Traditionally, the Eagle River event has been held on Father’s Day. However, after experiencing a total washout in 2011, the event committee moved this year’s show to Saturday, June 16, 2012, to allow for a rain date on Sunday if necessary. In addition, Friday evening activities were added to the lineup. The Big Lake Fish Boil Co. provided a traditional Wisconsin Fish Boil with all the fixings. A hangar dance was also held with music provided by the Wisconsin River Band. Attendees to these events were treated to a spectacular evening airshow, as the show box was opened for the performers for a practice session.

Saturday morning the weather dawned with clear skies and calm winds, perfect for the little guys…taildraggers and ultralights arrived for the usual pancake breakfast.   There were aircraft of all types on display, from Cubs to a Falcon 900, but the hands down spectator favorite was the de Havilland DHC-2 Beaver on amphibious floats. The Sky Baron Radio Control Club was also on hand, providing the crowds with aerobatic displays on a somewhat smaller scale.

The formal airshow started just before noon when the Cessna 182 jump platform from Skydive Wissota departed with two jumpers from the 82nd Airborne All-American Free Fall Demonstration Team from Fort Bragg, North Carolina on board. The team climbed to an altitude of 5,000 feet AGL where they exited the aircraft and deployed red smoke canisters for a relatively short freefall display. At about 3,000 feet AGL with chutes deployed, the team unfurled a huge American flag banner. Maddie Consor sang the National Anthem as the team floated gently to the drop zone, bringing a misty eye to more than a few of the assembled crowd, especially the veterans in attendance.

The 82nd Airborne was invited and sponsored by James Gardner of Eagle River. Gardner is a veteran of the 82nd, and served his country as part of the unit in the late 1950s. The jumpers touched down to a rousing applause from the appreciative audience. Sergeant First Class Derrick Fischer said that of all the demonstrations and airshows he had participated in, “the Eagle River community was the friendliest, most welcoming, appreciative and easiest to talk with”….and they want to come back next year!

Next up was Bill Cowden and his red, white and blue Yak-55. Cowden thrilled the crowd with his aerobatic performance, keeping his aircraft center stage in the show box. He filled the sky with smoke, outlining his trail through the air. Cowden is the consummate showman. After his performance he walked the show line, signing autographs for the kids, bringing big smiles to all.

And then came the noise. It is hard to beat the sound of four very large radial engines rumbling as the Trojan Horsemen took to the sky. With a formation take-off, the T-28s roared into the air, impressing the crowd with precise formation flying and just plane-old round engine noise!

Ralph “SkyDoc” Glasser was the solo aerobatic performer for the group. In between the fly-bys, Doc’s T-28 twisted and turned to the delight of the crowd. The group also saluted the assembled veterans with a missing man formation to end their demonstration.

As the T-28s rolled out onto the taxiway for the much appreciated crowd pass, Darrel Massman took to the air in his Panzl-330. The Panzl is quite the hot-rod looking aircraft. Even when it is sitting on the ramp, the Panzl looks like it is chomping the bit, ready to bolt into the sky. Wild aerobatics is pretty much all you can say when you see Massman’s performance. If you have ever seen an aircraft tumble, looking quite literally out of control, then you will appreciate the skill and talent it takes to do it on purpose! Not just once, but time and again. The spectators ooohed and awwwed throughout the whole performance. Even the weather gods seemed to be impressed and held back, dusting the crowd with a slight sprinkle as the last aerobat graced the earth with his wheels at the very end of the show.

The airshow and fly-in would not have been possible without a great crew on the organizing committee, generous sponsors, the airport staff and the multitude of volunteers that gave tirelessly of their time on a Father’s Day weekend. It was definitely a team effort and definitely a fun time for all, and we look forward to doing it again next year!

EDITOR’S NOTE: Rob Hom is airport manager at Eagle River Union Airport.

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