Officially, it’s called the Great Alaska Aviation Gathering and is organized by the Alaska Airmens Association.
But it’s really just a family reunion. A really big family reunion.
It’s not uncommon to see people stand for an hour — or more — not moving as they catch up under the wing of one of the dozen or so airplanes inside the cavernous FedEx aircraft maintenance hangar at Ted Stevens International Airport (PANC) in Anchorage.
I heard many people exclaim, “When was the last time we’ve seen each other?” or “It’s been too long, how are the kids?” or words to that effect.
This is the best kind of family reunion. It is the family you get to pick.”
One of the association volunteers told me the hangar covers more than fours acres. He should know, as he and a small army of volunteers has swept the floor, with push brooms, each of the last several years before turning the building back over to FedEx. So there’s plenty of room to catch up with whoever you bump into at the Gathering.
Enhanced for 2019, the Gathering included more exhibits geared toward young adults and youngsters, including homemade rockets, balsa wood airplanes, drones, and career opportunities.
Of course, there’s the ever popular Raffle Cub. This year, the tickets were all sold a week or two before the event started. And me without a ticket. Grrr.
Next year, Above Alaska Aviation (the raffle Cub’s builder) is mixing it up. The raffle plane is reported to be a Cessna 180. Can I buy my tickets now?
This year, David Webber won the Raffle Cub. Originally, it was announced that David was in the building. Actually, David Weber was in the building. Sadly for the David who was present, the winner had an extra ‘b’ in his last name. Alas, for another year, the winner was not present. (Thanks to Sarah from Above Alaska Aviation for correcting me on this fact.)
And for those of you who can’t make it to Anchorage for the reunion, you can always follow along, year round, on the Airmen’s Facebook and Instagram pages. You’ll be joining tens of thousands of others.
But do try to make it to the show one of these years. The 2020 Gathering is scheduled for May 2-3.
This is the best kind of family reunion. It is the family you get to pick.