Mouths agape as Arlington Fly-In pilots impress

ARLINGTON — They sat on the runway in the shade of an old World War II B-17 bomber, gazing with open mouths at the daredevil pilot’s maneuvers in the sky above Arlington Municipal Airport.

Stephanie Loff of Arlington had never been to the Fly-In and Air Show. On Thursday, she brought along her four children and her mother, Patricia Keene of Snohomish.

Travis Loff, 5, and his little brother, Wyatt, 2, watched intently, amazed that the bi-plane pilot was able to fly upside down and straight up in the air.

“I wanna fly an airplane,” Wyatt said.

Then the pilot cut the engine.

Quietly and eerily the plane fell to earth until, at what seemed like the last second, he turned the engine on again and pulled up into the sunny afternoon sky.

“I wasn’t scared,” said Naomi Loff, 9, the boys’ sister.

“I’ve seen that sort of thing on TV. I don’t want to fly planes because I have other plans for my life, like becoming a professional singer.”

Nevertheless, Naomi and her grandma stayed glued to the action.

The annual Arlington Fly-In, one of Snohomish County’s best attended summer events, is in full swing today and Saturday, with air shows scheduled for 2 p.m. both days. Organizers say the event attracts an estimated 50,000 people and generates an estimated $20 million for the local economy.

Pilots from around the country attend the event, participating in the air shows, displaying their small aircraft, offering and attending workshops and posing with children in front of their planes.

Lynnette Coy of Marysville camps out all week at the Fly-In. Her stepfather was a pilot and she continues his tradition of participating in the event each summer. On Thursday, Coy’s four kids enjoyed riding in the child-size flight simulators.

Fly-In director and Arlington Mayor Barbara Tolbert bought the hydraulic toy planes from Seattle’s Museum of Flight last year, and the rides have been popular, she said.

Addie Coy, 5, and her brother Caleb, 4, waited patiently in a long line for their turns at piloting the simulators.

“It was good,” Addie said after her ride. “Let’s go again.”

Back over at the B-17, the bomber’s flight crew chief Peter Bolke of El Paso, Texas, said he sees fewer and fewer World War II veterans at the air shows he attends each year around the country.

“It’s sad,” Bolke said. “What I miss most is all the war stories they would tell.”

Today is Vintage Day at the Fly-In, and Bolke hopes he might meet some older veterans.

Until then, he is happy to show the B-17 to young people, such as the Loff kids.

“Where else can your children have such a great opportunity to get right up close to an airplane?” Stephanie Loff said.

“It’s a pleasure to watch the kids take in all the action.”

Gale Fiege: 425-339-3427; gfiege@heraldnet.com.

Arlington Fly-In

The event continues through Sunday at the 188th Street NE entrance to the Arlington Municipal Airport. Vintage Day is today, with a parade in the afternoon. Car Show Day is Saturday. In addition, shuttles can transport people from the Fly-In to the downtown Arlington Street Fair.

Air shows are 2 p.m. today and Saturday, with special military presentations in the history area. Plane rides, B-17 tours, jet simulator rides, exhibits, workshops, free activities for kids and food booths are planned. Gates open at 8 a.m. Kids are admitted free. Discounted tickets and more information are available at www.arlingtonflyin.org.

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