Flights of Spring: 5 Fly-Ins To Kick-start Travel Season

Busy aviation event calendars can inspire pilots to fly beyond familiar territory.

Spring fly-ins can attract interesting aircraft to a field near you. [Credit: Shutterstock]

After several weeks of gusty, soggy weather that too often kept me in the hangar, I am happy that fly-in season has begun. Even in regions where the conditions are easily flyable all year, the middle of spring tends to mark the beginning of the real flying season. Classic airport events, such as pancake breakfasts, barbecues, and other community gatherings, help to set the right tone.

Aviation calendars reveal many events happening every weekend, which means there is likely to be something going on at an airport within your usual flying radius. If not, use the occasion as an excuse to travel a bit farther afield, perhaps to an unfamiliar airport, to join other pilots in celebrating another year of flying.

Below are five events taking place later in May. There are many more, almost surely including some in your airport neighborhood. 

1. United States Pilots Association Flyout

M. Graham Clark Downtown Airport (KPLK)

Branson, Missouri

May 18-21

Branson, located in the Ozark Mountains, has long been a family vacation destination with a focus on entertainment, including more than 50 theaters presenting country music shows like Dolly Parton’s Stampede. In recent years, the range of performers has expanded and diversified to cover a number of musical styles. The area is also known for its natural attractions, including Table Rock Lake. Other activities include amusement parks, aquariums, boating, and shopping.

2. Celebration of Flight

Hampton Airfield (7B2)

Hampton, New Hampshire

May 20

Aviation outreach is the dominant theme of this gathering, which includes flying and static aircraft displays and a range of model airplane activities organized by the Academy of Model Aeronautics. Visitors can try their hand at the radio-controlled model airplane simulator. Full-size aircraft on hand will include a PT-23 and an Air National Guard helicopter. Entertainment ranges from a bounce house for kids to music and skydiving demonstrations.

3. Saturday BBQ

Union County Airport (KMRT)

Marysville, Ohio

May 20

Pancake breakfast gatherings are a staple of airport communities across the country, but there are times when only lunch will suffice. And barbecue tends to be a hit. In this case, the party will continue for a while because Triple P BBQ is scheduled to serve lunch specials at the airport not just on May 20 but on Saturdays through September. The airport sports a 4,200-foot asphalt runway and an adjacent 2,700-foot turf runway, which hints at the types of aircraft that might show up for the fly-in. I would expect a few vintage taildraggers.

4. Willits 11th Annual Spring Fly-In

Willits Municipal Airport - Ells Field

Willits, California

May, 21

Runway 16/34 rests in a clearing on a wooded hilltop, which makes for visually striking approaches. The fly-in, hosted by Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) Chapter 1027, includes a burger barbecue with chips, drinks, and Haagen-Dazs ice cream. You can display your airplane for the Aircraft of Historical Significance property tax exemption. Display forms and signoffs will be available.

5. 57th Apple Blossom Festival Fly-In and Pancake Breakfast

Williamson-Sodus Airport (KSDC)

Sodus, New York

May 21

I have relatives who live within sight of KSDC’s traffic pattern, so as long as the weather is agreeable I will be up early to avoid any chance of missing breakfast. You will know you are getting close when you see the blossoming apple orchards. You also cannot miss Lake Ontario and Sodus Bay as you turn final. Experimental and ultralight aircraft are expected among the attendees. The morning’s schedule also includes a display of antique and classic cars.

Jonathan Welsh is a private pilot who worked as a reporter, editor and columnist with the Wall Street Journal for 21 years, mostly covering the auto industry. His passion for aviation began in childhood with balsa-wood gliders his aunt would buy for him at the corner store. Follow Jonathan on Twitter @JonathanWelsh4

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Get the latest FLYING stories delivered directly to your inbox

Subscribe to our newsletter