The weather was perfect and the large crowds of over 7000 attendees were entertained with a great collection of vintage and modern aircraft at the Wings over Big Bear Air Fair. The vintage lineup included the folding wing F4U Corsair, B-25 Mitchell, P 38 Lighting, P-40 Warhawk and a P-51 Mustang, all from the Planes of Fame Museum in Chino. Other highlights included the Big Bear Lake Antique Car Club and the Big Bear Cruisers collections of vintage automobiles.
All day and into the evening there was a constant stream of arriving and departing aircraft giving rides around the Big Bear Valley. The co-winners of the People Choice Award went to two helicopter exhibitors and it was well deserved as the crowds seemed to constantly surround the west end of the airfield where the Royal Air Force Merlin and Navy Seawolf were perched. Tom Woehl, who accompanied the finely restored Seawolf HC-1, was awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his flying skills during the Vietnam War. The Best of Show Award went to The Beechcraft Model 17 Staggerwing owned and operated by Si Robin.
Two sisters, Kelly and Kimberly Annadike, flew in from Compton with their instructor Isaac Beteta complete with plenty of great flying stories to share. Both gregerious aviators hold two world records for young African American flyers. Kimberly flew from home airport Compton to Newport News, Virginia at age 15 in 10 days of cross county flying. Older sister Kelly was the youngest African American to fly four different planes solo on the same day, she was 15 at the time. “Disappointing” was how she described her accomplishment as she intended to set the record with seven different planes on that day, but the poor weather conditions kept her record to just four different airplanes. Their visit was highlighted with a perfectly restored 1944 Stearman PT-13 Biplane “Spirit of Tuskegee” used in World War II to train young African American flyers.
Much to the surprise of all the participants at the fair was an accidental landing gear malfunction on a Piper Arrow which came to a skidding belly slide stop on the runway. It took a few moments to clear the plane from the runway but even this incident helped demonstrate that sometimes the worst outcome of an aircraft accident can be a badly bruised ego. The day was complete with vintage aircraft fly-by’s, Skydivers, vender booths, great static displays, a fantastic variety of food, an inexpensive entry fee of $1.00, perfect weather and a very memorable Big Bear event. The next Big Bear Air Fair will be the summer of 2011.