Our Past | 1992: Pilots come from near and far for breakfast in the park

Selected by Karen Larsen

Excerpts from the following article, which appeared in the June 18, 1992 edition of the Douglas County Empire Press, tell of a successful fly-in. During those years, the fly-in was held during the town’s street fair.


‘Fly-in’ brings gypsy-for-day pilots

By Nadra Rivers

Waterville’s recent street fair got off to a flying start with the arrival of 23 planes in a “fly-in” representing Chapter 424 of the Experimental Aircraft Association.

Participation rather overwhelmed Monte Swenson and Neil Peterson, organizers of the event. Neil said, “I’ve never seen so many planes at Waterville International Field.”

Aircraft ranged in vintage from a 1947 Stinson, owned by Bill Markey of Cashmere, to a newly finished sleek and complete RV6A, built by Mel Block of Grand Coulee. Block spent 2½ years building the two-seater in his garage before it first flew last Aug. 3.

A number of planes were home-built, but all have to pass FAA inspection.

A couple from Arlington arrived in a Bucker Jungman, a type of plane built in the 1930s with a Spanish engine for use training German pilots.

Pilots came from as far away as Redmond, Ore., for a wranglers breakfast in the park.

Said Verne Leitz of Peshastin, “This is somewhat like coming to a reunion, and this is a big turnout for a fly-in.”

Leitz has been flying for 43 years and going to fly-ins for 25. Describing his first time at the controls in 1947, he said “it was the most exciting thing I had ever experienced. It was a great feeling and I wasn’t afraid.”

He went on to become an Air Force pilot.

Bill Phillips of Waterville, said “Pilots will use any excuse to fly.”

One pilot from Kent works as a co-pilot for Alaska Airlines and then looks forward to climbing into his Cub to fly for fun.

Hair-raising, funny and embarrassing tales abounded as the fly-a-lots compared notes.

Many had never been to Waterville before. As Monte Swenson said, “They looked at the weather, saw it was good and said ‘let’s go.’” He also said that geographically, “we have to be one of the most beautiful little towns in the state. It is a lovely, scenic place and geography is our greatest asset.”

An addition to the airport is a telephone, compliments of the Town of Waterville and the county commissioners. Now pilots won’t have to buzz a house to get a ride into town. They can just fly in and call.