Tahlequah Daily Press

March 22, 2010

Annual fly-in draws aircraft enthusiasts

The annual event at Tenkiller Airpark drew more drivers than pilots, thanks to the icy weather.

Press Staff Writer

COOKSON —  Saturday’s unexpected cold snap didn’t deter the pilots of the Tenkiller Airpark from coming in for a hot breakfast; however, many of them had to drive rather than fly.

Airplane enthusiasts from all over Cherokee County attended the 21st annual Mary Kelly Wild Onion and Eggs Fly-In Breakfast, at the airpark Saturday morning.

The rain-or-shine event was sponsored by the Experimental Aircraft Association Chapter No. 1040. The buffet-style breakfast included biscuits and gravy, fried potatoes, sausages, and of course, wild onions in the scrambled eggs.

The breakfast was started by Joe Cunningham and Mary Kelly, according to Jack Chapman, chapter member for 20 years.

“They pretty much developed the airpark,” he said. “You should be out here when we have had more than 75 planes on a good day.”

Since then, a host of retirees and some transplants, like Val and Craig Westedt, have chosen to call the Tenkiller area home.

“It’s beautiful up here,” Westedt said. “But it was pretty yesterday, and now, look at this.”

Often, the cold, wintry conditions cause the fly-in to become a drive-in, but the event still goes on, no matter what. For that reason, members decided they will move next year’s fly-in to a date later in April.

“I think we’ve had one pretty Saturday,” said Westedt. “And the rest have been like this.”

A few community members dropped in for the breakfast after they saw a flyer at the Tenkiller Area Community Organization building during their Zumba class.

“We saw it on the bulletin board,” said Felecia Lawrence.

Ken Cook, another member of the EAA chapter in Cookson, said he’s been attending  the fly-in since he learned to fly.

“I’ve been flying for about 15 years, and I have been coming to the fly-in for as long as I can remember,” Cook said. “Mary Kelly taught me how to fly.”

Although he flies, Cook is actually more of a airplane builder. He said he’s anxiously awaiting his next kit to come in.

“I am going to build a Fly Baby,” he said. “It’s a wooden aircraft.”

Once he finishes building the aircraft, he’ll take it up himself.

“I fly all of them,” he said.

Cook has built a RV-4 and a RV-8. Both are aluminum aircraft.

“It’s fun, and that’s what this chapter of EAA is all about, building and flying airplanes,” he said. “It’s kind of like building a high-performance race car.”

The local EAA chapter has about 20 regular members and it’s a group also looking to expand.

“We need more members,” said Chapman. “There aren’t really any requirements. You just have to be interested in airplanes.”