At Aviation Day, close-up access to the past and the present
As a kick-off to air-show season, attendees at Paine Field “Aviation Day” Saturday viewed thrilling flying displays by historic “Warbirds,” the romance of the vintage aircraft accented by flights of the very latest Boeing jets.
Seattle Times aerospace reporter
As a World War II-era B-25 bomber taxied in after landing at Paine Field in Everett Saturday, four Seafair Pirates striding past in full 18th-century regalia stopped to watch.
“Hi, Vera,” one pirate shouted. Co-pilot Vera Martinovitch waved enthusiastically out the open cockpit window.
Minutes later, after pilots Michael Kopp and Martinovitch had emerged from their exit under the fuselage, a 6-year-old boy was the first to crawl inside and make his way to the glass bubble of the machine-gun turret in the airplane’s nose.
Xander Roberts gestured happily to his dad, mugging for the cameras.
Just then, four young women swung past arm-in-arm, on a break from a photo shoot. Dressed provocatively as 1940s-era pinup models, they seemed immune to the chilly weather.
Also turning heads, a British Hurricane fighter plane chased a Japanese Zero low along the runway and appeared to skim the trees as it rose and banked.
Such is Paine Field’s annual “Aviation Day.”
The Paris Air Show next month is a big, global event that’s all about business.
This relaxed Air Show in Everett has a local intimacy that allows close-up access to the aviators and the planes. It’s all about aviation history and fun.
Jeff Frignoca of West Seattle, an aviation buff who once worked at Seattle’s Museum of Flight, said he loves that droning, buzzing sound of the pre-jet engine 1940s propeller planes.
“It’s a feeling more than just a sound,” Frignoca said.
Felipe Ayala, an immigrant from Colombia who works at Wells Fargo, flies radio-controlled model planes in Monroe and also flies regularly out of Paine Field in a friend’s Piper airplane.
“It’s cool to see up close these World War II planes,” Ayala said. “There’s so much history.”
Besides the B-25 bomber, historic aircraft buzzing around the airfield included a Spitfire and a Hurricane from Britain; a Zero from Japan; and a Mustang, a Tigercat, a Bearcat and a Skyraider from the U.S.
As a bonus, thanks to the adjacent Boeing plant, attendees also got close-up views of the latest big widebody jets in flight.
Two 787 Dreamliners, newly free from battery hell, soared into the air on their curving wings.
A bulbous Dreamlifter cargo jet, used to ferry sections of the 787 around the globe, took off for Charleston, S.C.
A massive Russian 24-wheeler Antonov 124, used to deliver engines and other heavy parts to Boeing, departed soon after.
And Boeing’s biggest passenger jet, a 747-8 painted in the livery of Germany’s Lufthansa, took a test spin in advance of delivery.
The Snohomish County Sherriff’s search and rescue team spanned the old and the new by flying its Vietnam-era Huey helicopter, used just last weekend to evacuate a hiker with heart trouble out of the Cascades.
Four members of the team dangled nonchalantly 600 feet in the air on a platform used in rescues that was attached by a rope to the underside of the helicopter.
Yet the emphasis at Aviation Day is on history.
Judy Dotson, 71, a flight attendant in the 1960s, flying for West Coast Airlines out of Seattle, welcomed visitors inside a DC-3 passenger plane built in 1944.
This early passenger plane seated about two dozen passengers and on the ground the tail rested lower than the nose, so that walking the aisle was uphill.
Dotson recalled that all the stewardesses were required to wear high heels prior to take-off.
“We all had good muscles in our legs,” she said.
Up front, her husband, John Dotson, who’ll be 92 on Tuesday, was showing visitors the cockpit.
In the 1950s, he recalled, he flew DC-3s from Seattle to Spokane, stopping en route at Ellensburg, Yakima, Pasco, Walla Walla, Lewiston, Pullman, and Coeur d’Alene, then returned home that evening by the same circuitous route, 16 stops in all.
The DC-3 was the last plane up in the air Saturday, flown not by Dotson, but by Kopp, who flew the B-25, and John Sessions, founder of the Historic Flight Foundation that owns and operates the vintage airplanes.
Paine Field’s Aviation Day is over now, but the foundation has many events throughout the summer and another big vintage aircraft flying display on Labor Day weekend.
Dominic Gates: 206-464-2963 or firstname.lastname@example.org