Dennis Hicklin, a resident of Seattle and longtime fly-in aficionado, attended the recent Flabob Fly-in:
This was going to be a unique and a bittersweet affair as I took off to Flabob this year for the second gathering of the flying circus and "canceled cavalcade of the air" , but the picture of the monkey on the pilots back on the Flabob web site pretty much told the tale of the future at this little time machine of a airport. I found my way to the airport and it was sundown on Thursday evening. The gates were open, there were a few planes already there on the ramp, about 20 of them and the big DC-3 that lives there as well.
Even though there wasn't anybody around at that time, it was still worth a walk around the field to see if any of the planes were having late evening conversations under their canopy covers that only the other planes could hear. All quiet, the radials that had powered them there, were cooled down, so no ticky ticky sound of metal shrinking back into shape.
Ahhh the feel of the warm summer breeze that never seems to go away, down here, the temperature is lovely, and the rustle of dead palm fronds high above my head provide a gentle sound of ghost's that linger at that height.
Up at the crack of dawn. I went right out to the ramp, and it was evident that there was going to be a breeze today, we will see how that goes for the lighter aircraft. After I had texted my friends to see where they were, the boss of that crew said, check the cafe, and sure enough, the father and son team of Eric Presten and son Ben were at a table with sleepy eyes waiting for their small parade of eggs and toast to march across their table. I sat down and the familiar old conversation picked right up where it had left off many times over. "airplanes, people, places, faces, births, deaths, hey didja hear, no I didn't, you don't say, yeah, it never changes" - I never tire of that.
For a Friday, even though the winds kept a few planes from landing, those that knew what this weekend was, and if they were fortunate to get away early on this Friday, there was a steady stream of people coming to the airport to see the planes that would congregate there. With the advent of the web and word of mouth through the aviation community, those that could be there would be there. The temperature rose and the shade was at a premium on the tarmac. I had made a few rounds earlier to get good shots of the various planes and shapes that caught my eye. I knew a good thing when it was presented to me, one of the spare chairs under the wing of the Bleriot was prime real estate, and to move as the shade spot responded to the sun arcing over head was a small price to pay, as I listened to the various stories that Eric would tell to various people that either knew him or just wanted to know about the plane.
Pretty much for the remainder of Friday, it was very comfortable to just lounge in the chair under the Bleriot wing. Before you know it, the red Volkswagen ramp car was wheeling by telling us it was time to come down to the big hangar of EAA chapter #1 to enjoy beer and pizza and Friday night films, the features this evening was "Skyking" and "Dambusters." As people found their way into the hangar, it didn't take long to get the big swamp coolers going to give some relief from the heat outside. Sitting next to me was a gentleman named Peter Swarez who owned a very nice red and white WACO PYT, we had met earlier that day and had swapped stories about all things mechanical. Another gentleman wandered over to sit at our table and it was retired General Pat Halloran, whom I had met years before at Oshkosh when he flew the Comet replica there to show it, that was when I met Motorcycle Mike as well that year. It was fascinating to hear the questions that Peter had posed to him about his years in the U2 and the SR71, living history indeed. It was also very cool to sit next to a man that had flown those planes and was also enjoying watching Skyking as well.
The next morning I was determined to get up very early and get out to the field just before the sun rose over Mt. Rubidoux , I was out the door in Costa Mesa, at 5:45 AM and was on the field at about 6:30 AM, perfect timing, no one was out there and the wind didn't exist. I knew there would be a great chance to see Eric fly the Bleriot.
After the starting ritual that required the support of the Presten family, with dust a-flying, and the run up completed, Eric throttled back and proceeded to taxi to the end of the grass and get her turned around - ready to make a hop the length of the field, over the grass. Just not prudent to take her around the patch if she quits, with no place to really set her down safely, but this would have to do, to see her fly at least, and it was damn well worth it to see such a cool piece of history in the form of a replica being graceful in the air.
As the day progressed along, the weather was perfect, it allowed a lot of other fine flying machines to come to Flabob and participate in the "non cavalcade". It was cool enough to see a lot of beautiful planes just fly around the patch. I was surprised to see old friends of mine I had known for years show up in a freshly restored 1929 Travel Air biplane that they had owned since 74, and it was now flying. I was fortunate enough to get a ride in it as well, so did Eric's wife. I shot a picture of her as she got out of the Travel Air known as "old countdown," N4321, you could see the expression on Deb's face, as it was obvious that she really did enjoy her flight with Stewart.
As this little short story comes to a close, I felt fortunate to have been there for this second gathering at Flabob for the flying circus and history in the air "cavalcade", even though it was slightly hampered by the powers that be, it came off nicely. As the sun set I got a last look at the racers all together as they sat proudly before they were put away, and I got one last shot of the sunset as it depicted the Wright Flyer out in the parking lot. All to quickly, I would have to be back on the jet on Sunday to fly home to Seattle to the rain and overcast and leave the endless summer of the dust and palm trees of Jurupa valley behind.