Good Turnout for Airport's Open House

GILFORD — When Laconia Airport Manager Diane Terrill woke up early Saturday morning and it was raining she said she felt like crying because it would have marked the second straight year of rainy weather for the airport's open house.
But by mid-morning the sky had cleared, bringing a big smile to her face and the faces of exhibitors and members of the public who showed up for the Wings, Water and Wheels event.
Last year's event drew 500 despite the weather and Saturday's was on track to at least double that according to Terrill, who said that the threat of rain kept away a few exhibitors who might otherwise have shown up.
Those who did show up got to see some unique seaplanes, vintage cars and trucks and experimental aircraft.
Among the biggest attractions was a 1946 Grumman Widgeon, a twin-engine amphibious aircraft owned by David DeVries of Windham, president of the New Hampshire Pilots Association, who has owned it for three years and says that he flies it every week, weather permitting.
The airplane is actually a ''Super Widgeon'', one of about 70 which had the original 200 horsepower engines replaced with 270 hp (201 kW) Avco Lycoming GO-480-B1D flat six piston engines, and various other modifications, including modern avionics, 3-bladed propellers, larger windows, improved soundproofing and emergency exits installed.
DeVries, president of Martel Electronics, said he flew in the aircraft from Haverhill, Mass., and that the weather cleared while he was en route.
The Widgeon is famous for its appearance in the opening scenes of the television series ''Fantasy Island'' delivering guests to the island and it was called ''Ze plane! Ze plane!'' by actor Hervé Villechaize, who played the role of Tattoo.
Singer Jimmy Buffett owned a G-44 Widgeon, which he crashed while attempting to take off from waters off Nantucket, Mass., in August of 1994. The aircraft was damaged but Buffett was able to swim to safety.
Another aircraft attracting a lot of attention was a Yakovlev Yak-52 , a Soviet primary trainer aircraft which is owned by Valentin Milchev of New Hampton and sports the distinctive red star of Soviet Air Force on its tail.
Milchev, a physician at Lakes Region General Hospital, says he has been flying for about 15 years and has owned the airplane for about eight years.
A descendant of the single-seat competition aerobatic Yakovlev Yak-50, the all-metal Yak-52 is powered by a 268 kW (360 hp) Vedeneyev M14P 9-cylinder radial engine and is noted for its aerobatic capabilities.
''It's a good aircraft, quite capable,'' says Milchev, who sometimes takes the plane to aerobatic competitions.
''I fly when I can. It's really just a hobby,'' he says.
Terrill said that the open house is designed to show people that the airport is not only a transportation hub, but also serves as a center for aeronautic education programs like WinnAero as well as flight training with the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, and instruction from two on-site, or fixed-base, operators: Emerson Aviation and Sky Bright.


A Grumman Widgeon, which many will recognize from the opening scenes of the television series Fantasy Island, was on display at an open house at Laconia Airport Saturday. (Roger Amsden photo for the Laconia Daily Sun)