Spring flights: 5 flights to kick off the travel season

After a few weeks of gusty, wet weather that kept me in the hangar all too often, I’m happy that the flying season has begun. Even in regions where conditions are easy to fly year-round, mid-spring marks the beginning of the true summer season. Classic airport events like pancake breakfasts, barbecues and other community gatherings help set the tone.

Aviation calendars reveal many events happening every weekend, meaning there’s a good chance something will happen at an airport within your usual flying radius. If not, use the occasion as an excuse to travel a little further, perhaps to an unfamiliar airport, to join other pilots in celebrating another year of flying.

Below are five events taking place later in May. There are many more, almost certainly including some in the neighborhood of your airport.

1. United States Air Force Pilots Association flyout

M. Graham Clark Downtown Airport (KPLK)

Branson, Missouri

May 18-21

Branson, nestled in the Ozark Mountains, has long been a family vacation destination with an emphasis on entertainment, including more than 50 theaters presenting country music shows like Dolly Parton’s Stampede. In recent years, the lineup of artists has expanded and diversified to encompass a range of musical styles. The area is also known for its natural attractions, including Table Rock Lake. Other activities include amusement parks, aquariums, boating and shopping.

2. Feast of Flight

Hampton Airfield (7B2)

Hampton, New Hampshire

May 20

The scope of aviation is the dominant theme of this gathering, which includes displays of flying and static aircraft and a range of model aircraft activities organized by the Academy of Model Aeronautics. Visitors can try their hand at the radio-controlled model airplane simulator. Full-size aircraft available will include a PT-23 and an Air National Guard helicopter. Entertainment ranges from children’s hot tubs to music and skydiving demonstrations.

3. Saturday barbecue

Union County Airport (KMRT)

Marysville, Ohio

May 20

Pancake breakfast gatherings are a staple of airport communities across the country, but there are times when just lunch will do. And barbecue tends to be a hit. In this case, the party will continue for a while, because Triple P BBQ is scheduled to serve special lunches at the airport not only on May 20, but also on Saturdays through September. The airport has a 4,200-foot tarmac runway and an adjacent 2,700-foot grass runway, which suggests the types of aircraft that may appear for flight. I’d expect some vintage queues.

4. Willits 11th Annual Spring Flight

Willits–Ells Field Municipal Airport

Willits, California

May 21

Runway 16/34 lies in a meadow on a wooded hillside, making for visually striking approaches. The flight, hosted by the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) Chapter 1027, features a BBQ burger with chips, drinks and Haagen-Dazs ice cream. You can show your aircraft for a property tax exemption on historic aircraft. Forms will be available to display and sign.

5. 57th Apple Blossom Festival. Admission and pancake breakfast

Williamson-Sodus Airport (KSDC)

Sodus, New York

May 21

I have relatives who live within sight of KSDC traffic, so as long as the weather is nice, I’ll be up early to avoid any chance of missing breakfast. You’ll know you’re getting close when you see the apple orchards in bloom. You also can’t miss Lake Ontario and Sodus Bay as you round the finish line. Experimental and ultralight aircraft are expected among those present. The morning program also includes an exhibition of antique and classic cars.

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