Head into Hagerstown for a soaring good time
Imagine a 4,000-foot runway, long enough to accommodate a commercial jet.
Now imagine that runway made entirely of grass – a smooth stretch of green covering nearly a mile of flat landscape.
Add forty-some vintage airplanes from World War II or earlier to that image.
Populate the scene with pilots showing off their aircraft to kids and adults, answering questions and exchanging stories. Watch some of those kids and adults climb into an open-cockpit bi-plane for a ride, while others on the ground cheer takeoffs and landings. Smell a whole variety of yummy treats.
Now add yourself to the picture.
It’s not just a daydream. You can be part of the action at the Hagerstown Fly-in in Hagerstown, Ind. The 12th Annual Hagerstown Wilbur Wright Fly In will return to the Hagerstown Airport from 2 to 9 p.m. Tuesday, July 16 at the airport, 999 S. Washington St., reputed to have the longest grass runway at a public airport in North America.
Event chair and Optimist Denny Burns expects pilots to be flying in from Virginia, Kentucky, Ohio, Maryland, North Carolina and Arkansas – as well as from around Indiana.
During the afternoon, those pilots will be available to chat with visitors, who can get up close and personal with the planes. Last year, two bi-plane pilots offered rides. Burns hopes that will be possible again this year.
The food and rides come with a price tag, but admission to the circus is free.
Andrew King of Vienna, Va., has been part of the Flying Circus since it began in 2008. That year, Wayne County was host to the Model T Ford Centennial celebration and organizers were looking for ideas for possible companion events. One member of the committee had heard about King’s annual visits to neighboring Randolph County (to learn more, Google “Barnstorming: The Movie”). Vintage aircraft seemed the perfect match to the vintage autos. And pilots of vintage aircraft prefer to land on grass.
What better place to land than Hagerstown? The Optimist Club loved the idea and ran with it. They’ve had a Fly-in every year since.
King is fond of Hagerstown Airport, which feels to him like a step into the past. “It could be 1930,” he said. Pilots, he said, like Indiana’s rich aviation history. In fact, the Wilbur Wright Birthplace & Museum is just a few miles west of Hagerstown.
King recommends the Flying Circus to history buffs of any kind.
“There’ll be a lot of history there,” he said. “Interesting planes. Interesting people.”
One thing King likes about Hagerstown is that it’s possible to walk into town from the airport. That’s convenient for visitors, too, but it can cause some difficulties.
In years past, the Fly-In has seen crowds estimated at over 3,000. Most of those people arrived by car, not plane. And though access is easy from the air, there’s only one way to drive in – Washington Street.
The entrance can get pretty crowded, Burns encourages visitors to arrive as early as possible and – if they must leave early – to avoid doing so during that hour.
Those who attend are asked to bring their own chairs or blankets as there are no grandstands at the airport. Also, this year, fans are asked to avoid Teetor Road due to bridge construction.