The Chronicle -

By Dana Merryday
Chronicle Contributor 

Do it yourselfers to 'fly-in' to Jim Wright Field

 

August 29, 2019



COTTAGE GROVE – The first recorded airplane landing in Cottage Grove occurred on June 14, 1919, in a field off South 6th Street. The party included four planes, Oregon Governor Olcott et al., and one pilot who excited the several thousand spectators by performing some daring stunts and maneuvers. One resident was so taken with the magic of flight that he went home and started to build his own plane.

Oregon has a long tradition of aviation and that can-do attitude coupled with a fierce independent streak. In 1921, Oregon established a state board of aeronautics to register pilots and airplanes. This included inspection and issuing license plates, much like the ones for cars. It didn’t matter to the state inspectors whether the plane was home-built or from a factory, the aircraft just had to be safe and airworthy.

When the federal government got around to regulating airplanes it was under the Commerce Department. Thus began a tussle between the government and the makers of their own planes that had been approved by Oregon, but denied certification by the Feds. A group of flyers known as the Beaverton Outlaws flew into the face of this authority. They had gravitated to the private Bernard’s Airport in Beaverton, a gravel-strewn field. The pilots didn’t take kindly to the federal inspectors poking into their flying business. They figured, rightly, that they were licensed by Oregon and they were going to go right on flying despite threats of fines.

The Civil Aeronautics Administration (forerunner of the FAA) eventually took Oregon to court but the case was dismissed. Pearl Harbor ended the debate as all civilian flight within 100 miles of the coast was banned. Many of the trained Oregon pilots, being fairly young, volunteered and became valuable members of the Army Air Corps.

Oregon aviator George Bogardus, who was one of the Outlaws, took up the fight after the war. In 1947 he flew his home-built, federally unlicensed airplane, “Little Bee Gee” from Troutdale, Oregon to Washington D.C. There, he petitioned Congress and this led to having homemade aircraft approved for flight under an experimental category license. On his way home, he made a detour to New York City to do a victory lap around the Statue of Liberty.

Bogardus’ actions led to the formation of the Experimental Aviation Association whose 170,000 members, with their home-built planes, make up about 15 percent of the general aviation fleet. He is enshrined at the Oregon Aviation Historical Society (OAHS)’s Museum on Jim Wright Way, named for another famous Oregon aviator who left us too soon.

The spirit of building one’s own plane is still with Oregonians. On Saturday, Aug. 31, the second annual Great Oregon Home-Built Fly-In will descend on the west end of Jim Wright Field. There will be a pancake breakfast starting at 8 a.m. and all-day activities. I spoke with Tim Talen, an organizer, who shared some highlights of the Fly-In.

“We want to remind folks that Oregon cornered the market in aeronautics in the 1920s, and that Oregonians (stood) up for the right that a man with reasonable intelligence and abilities can build and fly his own plane,” Talen said. He went on to say that there will be planes from the 1930s and 1940s as well as a Heath-Henderson – a home-built powered by an inline four-cylinder 1920s motorcycle engine.

“Of course, you never know who or what will show up,” Talen added. There are almost sure to be some RV planes – the most successful kit form of home-built plane. Located in North Plains, Oregon, Van’s (Richard VanGrunsven) Aircraft has had more than 10,000 RVs built and flying worldwide.

Janice Scanlon, executive director of OAHS told me that the museum will be open, as well as the restoration hangars, for tours, where visitors can observe the process of historical aircraft being lovingly brought back to life. This often involves making missing parts.

“One of the most interesting (things) to me is just to listen in on the stories pilots are sharing, along with tips and advice,” Scanion said.

There will be historical DVD presentations all day. Come early for the pancake fundraiser breakfast and see some very interesting pieces of Oregon aviation history – and even more interesting, the unique breed of Oregonians who insist on building and flying their own planes. Same as it ever was. Folks from Creswell, feel free to fly on over!

 
 

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