Article and Photos by Steven Valinski
For the majority of people in the United States, autumn signifies cool temperatures, multi-colored foliage, and the gateway to winter. For residents of the Southwestern U.S., more specifically, Arizona, autumn signifies the start of some ideal weather for aviators and aviation fans alike.
To celebrate and embrace this season, several aviation-related events take place in the Southwestern U.S. One of these, hosted by the Casa Grande Municipal Airport in Casa Grande, Arizona, is the Copperstate Fly-In.
The Copperstate Fly-In began in 1973 and has grown to be the largest fly-in in the Western U.S. and the fourth largest fly-in in the U.S. At this year’s fly-in, held Oct. 23-25, hundreds of aircraft from all over the country gathered. While the 95° temperatures made it a little rough on visitors, the clear skies and mild winds set the stage for a great aviation event.
Where these types of fly-ins, and, more specifically, the Copperstate Fly-In, excel can be described with one word: Intimacy. Visitors were given an intimate look at the aircraft, aviators, and vendors, while mingling with fellow aviation enthusiasts. Spectators could mingle, get up-close-and-personal with the aircraft, and chat with the owners and pilots of the aircraft. Photographers could take photographs of the aircraft arriving, departing, or parked without needing professional equipment.
Much can be said for the military and commercial aircraft of today, but many of the aircraft participating at the Copperstate Fly-In represent the heart and soul of aviation through the ages. Many of the aircraft that attended were small privately-owned aircraft with a few commercial examples mixed in. Some of the aircraft dated as far back as 1937 through more modern examples of recent builds. Some of these aircraft are piloted by former veterans and current and former pilots of today’s commercial jets. Regardless of the background, most pilots were willing to talk about their aircraft and share their stories.
Former military aircraft, such as the Beech T-34 Mentor, the North American T-28 Trojan, and the North American T-6 Texan, were parked alongside classic aircraft, such as a 1937 Stinson, a 1938 Monocoupe 90A, and a 1943 Douglas DC-3. Also, some unique aircraft, such as a 1959 Pilatus P-3 and a 1938 Spartan 7W Executive, could be seen flying.
Whether you are an aviation enthusiast or someone looking for something to do on a weekend, the Copperstate Fly-In had something interesting for everyone. I suggest you mark your calendar to look ahead for the 2015 Copperstate Fly-In, slated for Oct. 22-24. I know I will.