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Thursday September 29th, 2016 9:32PM

44th Cracker Fly-In spreads its wings

By Jerry Gunn Reporter
  Contact Editor
GAINESVILLE - The 44th Annual Cracker Fly-In, hosted by the Experimental Aircraft Association, Chapter 611, once again lived up to its reputation as a fun event at Lee Gilmer Memorial Airport in Gainesville on Saturday.

Fair weather and a cool morning breeze greeted pilots, their planes and the estimated 2,500 visitors who came out to view them according to Association spokesman Winn Fletcher, who said they could expect to see 135 aircraft.

"Based on the past, we get 15 percent more people every year," Fletcher said. "I meet people who tell me they have a lot of love for aviation, it's a lot of fun and they can come out here and talk to the pilots, look at the aircraft and have a good time."

As early visitors breakfasted on pancakes and sausage under tents, vintage Piper Cubs flew in and the historic little yellow planes parked on the side of the runway. Aircraft dealer Chip Allen landed and swung his 'new' Piper into line with the others.

"I'm the dealer for a little company out in Yakima, Washington called Cub Crafters and they manufacture this airplane," Allen said. " It looks very much like that airplane, built in 1947. This airplane was built in October, 2011."

Allen said his plane is a faithful reproduction of the original J3 Cub, but with a bit more takeoff speed and built with more modern materials.

As monoplanes and biplanes continued to land, a Vietnam era Huey helicopter offered rides around the airport. A modern day Blackhawk Medivac chopper recently returned from duty in Iraq taxied up the field and parked, much to the delight of three year old Victoria and two year old Parker Margerum, who clamored aboard for a closer look.

Their Mom Brooke said the Fly-In turned out to be a vacation treat for her children during their summer visit to Gainesville.

"I'm originally from Gainesville but I live in Baltimore now," she said. "We're really lucky, my son is obsessed with helicopters and jet planes and this worked out really well. We've had a great time and we've only been here 10 minutes. It's been a blast."
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