Airplanes with radial engines were celebrated in late June at the Fifth Annual Round Engine Round-Up at Idaho Falls, Idaho.
Accented by bright lights and a white floor, a multi-colored gaggle of restored Beechcraft Staggerwings from several western states occupied the huge Aero Mark hangar. Rounding out the radial engine classics in attendance were the Hoff’s Twin Beech 18, a Howard DGA-15P and a Cessna 195.
Some of the weekend’s activities were held at a grass strip located at the Hoff’s nearby Rainbow Ranch potato farm, which has been in the family for over 100 years. Five of the family’s planes live in a hangar there, including a polished 1946 Cessna 120 that Bob Hoff’s father and mother bought brand new.
Also stored there is the red and white 1943 Stearman that was featured in last winter’s “search for the giant Idaho potato” TV commercial shown nationwide. James Hoff, Bob’s son and farm manager, restored the Stearman and flew it in the commercial.
Thomas Hoff, Bob’s other son, manages the FBO and publishes a beautiful quarterly magazine for the Staggerwing Club, which is open to anyone interested in the classic biplane. Rounding out the family of pilots is Jane Hoff, wife of Bob and mother of James and Thomas, who serves as club treasurer.
Staggerwing owners are a close-knit group and the event had the feel of a family reunion. Although their planes average over 70 years old — and some of the owners are older than that — they jump at any excuse to fly.
A Saturday morning fly-out breakfast hosted by the Recreational Aviation Foundation (RAF) at the Smiley Creek Airport (U87) was a highlight of the event, especially for the visiting flatlanders from Tennessee. The beautiful 4,950-foot x 150-foot irrigated grass strip is located in a valley at 7,200-foot elevation amid the Sawtooth Mountains near Ketchum and Sun Valley, Idaho.
Next year’s Round-Up will be held June 24-25, 2016.