Saturday morning, June 2nd, dawned crisp and clear in Calaveras County, Calif. My Christen Eagle II was polished and ready for the short flight to Merced. It was the 50th anniversary of their annual antique fly-in and, even though N70CE is only 10 years old, she’s always been a welcome addition to any display area. So off we went (along with my wife/co-pilot, Pattie) to enjoy a day of looking at other aircraft and engaging an admiring public in tales of aviation and such.

After parking, Pattie and I set about installing the chocks, pitot tube cover, and perimeter barrier. We took off the few bugs that were destined to cross our path on the short trip and then struck out to find the registration area. Imagine my surprise when I was told that a fee of $16 was required ($10 for me and $6 for my passenger). “It’s to keep the event going,” I was told. “But we ARE the event!” I responded, all to no avail. I ponied up the required funds, albeit grudgingly, and tried to put the unpleasant taste in my mouth behind me.

But I failed in that attempt and, upon reviewing the aircraft on display, I sensed a reduction in the number of classic birds from years past. Could it be that others shared my resentment of being charged to “participate”? Apparently, I am far from alone in this regard. Others more intimately familiar with this event tell me that numbers and types of aircraft historically present have been dwindling since these charges were introduced.

For years, those of us lucky enough to operate unique and well-maintained aircraft have taken our time and money to travel to venues so as to share our treasures with those less fortunate. We stood in the sun eager and willing to talk to anyone interested in our project and it’s history. We did this willingly in the interest of fostering a love for the thing that sang in our hearts. But that song and its associated emotions fade when we are asked to give yet more in the form of subsidizing the very event we create by our presence.

Unfortunately, I believe it is time for members of the “display” community to withhold our services from fly-in events that charge a fee until such time that the errors of this policy become evident. Without our displays, local patrons will not pay to see an “air show” visible from adjoining roadways. No, they pay the price of admission to see our birds and talk to us about their dreams and past accomplishments while listening to ours. (While it may be acceptable to charge transient aircraft that choose to fly in, this charge should be significantly discounted in light of the similar contributions of time and fuel combined with the positive effect of having more aircraft on the ramp.)

I ask each of you to resolve to limit your participation to fly-ins/air shows that offer free admission for display aircraft. Of all the user fees that are currently being talked about, this may be the most egregious and biggest deterrent to the continued celebration of our aviation heritage.


San Andreas, Calif.

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