Aviation Day returns to county airport

This weekend SOAR of Greene County is hosting Aviation Day at the Greene County Airport. Guests can enjoy airplane pull competitions, skydiving demonstrations and free airplane rides for kids ages 8-17, among other activities.

This weekend SOAR of Greene County is hosting Aviation Day at the Greene County Airport. Admission and parking are both free and attendees can enjoy food, vendors, aircraft displays, demonstrations and even free airplane rides, said Rich Judy, SOAR president and CEO.

“All of the pilots are donating their time, their materials and their aircrafts,” said Judy, a local aviation enthusiast who flies regularly for pleasure, business and with the civil air patrol.

Max Loughman, one of SOAR of Greene County’s founding members, said the weekend will kick off on Friday Aug. 16 at 5 p.m. with an aircraft pull, coordinated by Battle 4 Warriorz.

“It’s like a strong man competition,” said Kristie Volchko, secretary of Battle 4 Warriorz.

Teams of five will compete to see who can pull multiple vehicles 50 feet in the shortest amount of time. The main obstacle is a C-54 aircraft that weighs close to 50,000 pounds, according to Loughman.

During the pull, attendees can enjoy live music and purchase rolled ice cream from the Udderly Fresh food truck. Volchko said there is no admission cost, but the fee for competitors is $300 per team, with proceeds benefiting Aviation Days.

Note: all event times are weather permitting.

“I learned to fly at the Greene County airport and was able to turn it into a career,” said Loughman, who recently retired after 35 years of piloting for American Airlines. “There’s huge careers in aviation right now.”

“It can bring lots of economic stimulation into Greene County,” Judy said of the airport. “Having the little gem of an airport will allow businesses to come in and do business and fly out all in the same day.”

According to an event flyer, Saturday will begin at 10 a.m. with a skydiving demonstration by Skydive Pennsylvania, which is based in Mercer. Three skydivers will jump and one of them will hold an American flag.

Later that day children ages 8-17 can ride in an airplane, free of charge.

Judy noted that the free airplane rides are through the Young Eagles program and a parent or guardian must be present to sign a consent form. The rides are limited to one per child and the parents cannot ride with the child. However, Aviation Day also offers rides at $25 per person and parents can accompany their children if they also pay the fee.

Tim Chopp, a Greene County native, will display his C-54 aircraft throughout the weekend and participate in a candy drop on Sunday at 4 p.m. Judy said SOAR of Greene County is selling parachutes for $20 each, which will have a Hershey bar tied to it. Sometime that afternoon, the C-54 will do some loops around the county and drop the candy on the airstrip for all the kids.

This candy drop is inspired by Gail Halvorsen, a retired U.S. Air Force pilot who gained fame for dropping candy to German children during the Cold War’s Berlin Airlift.

“It’s our showcasing of our airport and all that aviation has to offer,” Loughman said of the weekend.

Aviation Day is in its ninth year, Loughman said. SOAR of Greene County was unable to host it last year because of construction at the airport, but each year tries to put on Aviation Day during the third weekend in August.

Loughman said he and the other founding members started meeting informally in 2007 and became a formal group in 2008. SOAR of Greene County became a 501c nonprofit in 2014. SOAR stands for “Support Our Aviation Resources.”

“(We) want to show off the airport for citizens of Greene County, Southwest PA and Northern West Virginia,” Judy said. “We want to make a statement with this airport.”

And that doesn’t stop with Aviation Day. Throughout the year SOAR of Greene County hosts events like movie nights with an inflatable movie screen on the airstrip and pancake breakfasts.

“We try to do something once every couple of months,” Judy said. “We want to show people what it’s like to be on the other side of the fence, so to speak.”

“We don’t do enough to promote aviation and all aspects of aviation,” Loughman said. “We’re a coal community and an oil and gas community and that is great, but (we) can be so much more.”

For more information on SOAR of Greene County, and to keep up to date with its event offerings, visit soarofgreenecounty.org.

To sign up for the Battle 4 Warriorz aircraft pull, visit the Airplane Pull 4 Freedom Facebook page.

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