International Learn To Fly Day takes off in College Place

The day included an opportunity to buy or sell planes at Martin Field.

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COLLEGE PLACE - At airports across the nation and the world, pilots and flight instructors held a variety of flight-oriented activities in hopes of encouraging non-pilots to take part in the International Learn To Fly Day.

"We just want to spread the word on aviation, that is what it is all about. We just want young people to fly," said Linda Cheney of Martin Field.

But there was a twist to the local activities at Martin Field, which was sponsored by the Blue Mountain Experimental Aircraft Association Chapter 604 and Martin Field; pilots were encouraged to land their aircraft and then try to sell them to people shopping for airplanes.

For most of the pilots at Martin Field, it was the first time they had ever heard of or taken part in a fly-in aircraft-for-sale fair.

Close to 50 smaller aircraft flew in to Martin Field on Saturday morning, and close to half of the owners of the Pipers, Beechcrafts and Cessnas put up for-sale signs after landing, taxiing and tying down.

"It seemed like a good idea ... just because there seemed to be a need for it," said Dave Cheney, Martin Field owner and manager. He pointed out that in many cases pilots are looking to upgrade or downgrade.

Costs of aircraft for sale on Saturday ranged from $20,000 to hundreds of thousands. Most people who drove to the event, like John Southerland of College Place, came with no intentions of buying, just dreaming.

"Unless I find gold in my backyard, plus my wife doesn't like to fly," he said.

Having his pilot's license, Southerland understood a few things about airplanes, especially the costs. As he watched as one pilot opted to land on the grass instead of the asphalt, he explained that because the aircraft had larger tires, the pilot was most likely trying to save tread and money.

"Everything about flying costs money, so you do what you can to save it," he said.

By 11:30 a.m., no aircraft had sold, but the event was still a success, noted event co-coordinator and flying instructor Doug Cheney, who is David Cheney's son.

He noted that not only did 50 aircraft fly in on Saturday, but numerous vintage aircraft and vintage automobiles were displayed, flying seminars were given, hands-on piloting lessons took place in the air, dozens of people signed up to learn more about flying lessons, an aircraft-parts swap meet was held, and disinterested spouses were shuttled to and from the Walla Walla Farmers' Market so they too could maintain high spirits on International Learn To Fly Day.

"We had no idea what to expect, but the turnout has been very good. We got really good support," he said.

Alfred Diaz can be reached at alfreddiaz@wwub.com or 526-8325.

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