Copperstate takes off in one week

The 2012 COPPERSTATE Fly-In & Aviation Expo — now in its 40th year — takes off in one week, opening Thursday, Oct. 25 and running through Saturday, Oct. 27, at the Casa Grande Municipal Airport in Casa Grande, Ariz.

Hundreds of aircraft will be on hand, so attendees can get up close and personal with virtually any kind of “flying machine” they’d like to see, organizers promise, noting “The beauty of a fly-in format is that you never know what will show up!”

COPPERSTATE Fly-In President Mike Still, who has led the fly-in since 2008, estimates it has grown by about 10% every year. In 2011, it attracted more than 500 aircraft and 5,100 attendees from 10 countries and 39 states.

According to Director/Event Setup Jim McChesney, attendees particularly enjoy the wide variety of aircraft on the ground and in the air — from ultralights, to World War II fighter jets, to “micro-jets” and much more. “And, we always receive many compliments on how family-friendly the event is,” he adds.

The Arizona Wing of the Confederate Air Force (CAF), based in nearby Mesa, will bring a full complement of World War II aircraft, including  the C-47, C-45, SNJ T-6 “Texan,” L-16 and PT-17. Paid flights on these five aircraft will be available to the public during the fly-in, starting at $79.

For those who are more comfortable on the ground, a steady stream of showcase fly-bys will keep their eyes on the air throughout the event. As in previous years, as many as 17 warbird-aircraft pilots will join forces for a multi-point fly-over. For aviation enthusiasts, it’s incredible to see all those CJ-6s, T-34s, T-38s, T-6s, Yak-52s and more flying in formation.

Also expected to take the air again this year: a group of 1940s Stearman biplanes, flying in formation — a fan favorite.

Meanwhile, an AH-64D (Apache Longbow) will be on hand, courtesy of the Arizona Army National Guard (AZARNG), as will hundreds of other aircraft, from antique, to vintage, to cutting-edge.

Over the years, COPPERSTATE has earned a reputation for running smoothly and meeting the entertainment and educational expectations of pilots, spectators and exhibitors. “There’s nothing else in the southwest that even comes close,” Still says.

But, the event has also long been regarded as a showcase for homebuilt aircraft in the Southwest. In recent years, that reputation has expanded as a result of the ever-increasing aircraft diversity, from ultralights, to helicopters, to vintage World War II fighters and bombers.

“There are always lots of cool-looking airplanes,” says McChesney. “Even people who are familiar with the airplanes you routinely see at the local airport will be surprised and impressed with the variety at this event, especially the quality of the homebuilt aircraft.”

On the pilots’ side, one of the elements they reportedly appreciate most is the constant flying activity — and freedom — COPPERSTATE affords. Instead of an airshow, fly-in pilots can be featured alone, or with other aircraft, in a showcase fly-by pattern — a racetrack traffic pattern designed to give the crowd a good view of the aircraft. Fly-by periods last up to 15 minutes, and pilots can choose to have information about their airplanes and/or themselves announced to the crowd.

A broad range of available forums and workshops, as well as a recognition banquet, are also slated. In the exhibitors’ tents, attendees can check out new items and technology from aviation vendors.

For casual aviation fans: As McChesney explains, only about half of the attendees of the fly-in every year are serious aviation enthusiasts. “If a person has even a passing interest in airplanes or aviation, then they’ll enjoy themselves at COPPERSTATE,” he says. “I compare this event to a custom car show. There are lots of airplanes in the pattern, lots of activity on the ramp, and plenty of friendly aviators to answer questions.”

Still concurs: “The opportunity to be out on an airport ramp with airplanes and flight activity is a big draw in itself, let alone being able to touch and inspect historic WWII aircraft.”

Complete pilot information for the fly-in is available on the COPPERSTATE website, including arrival procedures, aircraft parking, departure procedures and more.

Thursday admission is $5. Friday and Saturday admission is $15 each day per person ($13 for active/retired military). A three-day pass for the event is available for $25. Kids 12 and under receive free admission, and parking is provided at no charge.

Tent and RV camping is available for $10 per night. Shower facilities and portable restrooms are available. For complete camping details, visit the COPPERSTATE website.

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