Sabrina Thompson

The tarmac at the Joseph State Airport will be unusually busy July 12-13 for the 2019 Wallowa County Fly-In. What started as an unofficial gathering of pilots is now a weekend that raises money for the Joseph Charter School’s aviation programs.

The event kicks off Friday at the airport. The gates open at 5 p.m. and a banquet open to the public is served at 6 p.m. Tickets are $25 online at www.neoafoundation.org/events/wallowa-county-fly-in, and at the gate if not sold out. The meal of tri-tip, bacon-wrapped shrimp or chicken is sponsored by the Enterprise and Joseph Lions Club, and the evening also includes live music, short take off and landing demonstrations and a silent auction.

On Saturday, the gates open at 7 a.m. Admission is $5, and children age 10 and younger are free. A $10 pancake breakfast is served from 7 a.m. to 10 a.m. The day’s activities include additional STOL demonstrations and unmoving displays of planes for people to see up close, the conclusion of the silent auction from Friday night and educational activities that if completed will qualify children 18 and younger for a free airplane flight Sunday. The event concludes at 2 p.m.

This year there will be a special display and demonstration of Wallowa County’s Bud Stengel’s restored 1931 Bird CK model bi-plane that has been restored since its purchase in the 1970s. Bud’s grandson, Lucas Stengel, will provide flight demonstrations at the event. Lucas began flying because it was in his family, taking after his father, Dick Stengel, and his grandfather Bud Stengel.

“You can go wherever you want,” Stengel said when asked about his interest in flying. “You can get to places you can’t necessarily get to with other methods of transportation in a shorter amount of time. You get to see stuff from a different perspective.”

The event is hosted by North East Oregon Aviation Federation, a non-profit that was established to support aeronautical and aviation sciences at the high school level in Northeast Oregon.

“Aviation education and the aviation industry is being depleted by retiring employees, so they are looking for younger pilots to get involved,” Wallowa County Fly-In’s public relations director, Katherine Stickroth, said.

A program at the Joseph Charter School, led by Toby Koehn, has become the primary source of aviation education in Wallowa County. The funding for this program comes from grants and funds raised from the fly-in. Money also goes toward funding scholarships for graduating seniors who are looking for a career in aviation.

“It is just always fun to get together with people interested in aviation and get to know what they’re flying and what they do,” Lucas Stengel said.

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