Like most pilots, Jim McGauhey really loves flying. And he has the added enjoyment of piloting a plane he helped build.
“It has always been a bucket-list item,” McGauhey said of building his own plane.
It took his group of five a couple of years of working many nights and weekends to finish the Zenith CH 650, a lightweight, two-seat aircraft that he likens to a sports car with wings.
They finished the plane at Harvey Field in Snohomish in a building that serves as headquarters for Chapter 84 of the Experimental Aircraft Association. McGauhey is the chapter president this year.
While now fascinated with flying, McGauhey wasn’t always that way. He once owned a dive shop in California and his job was his passion. He added flying after taking lessons partly to help an instructor friend who needed the work. McGauhey earned his pilot’s license and his friend later became a corporate pilot.
These days, McGauhey likes working on his bucket list and also promoting general aviation. The EAA has a Young Eagles program that provides free airplane rides for kids age 8-17 and also helps them begin pilot training.
In addition to promoting aviation, McGauhey works to counter some of the myths about flying.
“I want to dispel the idea that airplanes are rich-boy toys,” he said.
He equates flying to boat ownership, and said that forming a group helps make the costs of things like maintenance and hangar fees quite reasonable.
“Most planes are owned by middle-class people,” he said. “It’s a good hobby.”
McGauhey and hundreds of other pilots will join thousands of visitors and aviation buffs at the Arlington Fly-In on July 6-8. The event, now in its 50th year, is a celebration of general and sport aviation held at Arlington’s Municipal Airport.
Arlington Mayor Barb Tolbert said the event started with a group of people flying experimental aircraft who would stop in Arlington while on their way to an air show in Abbotsford, B.C. “Now it’s the third-largest (general) aviation event,” Tolbert said. She said about 30,000 people attended the event last year, with nearly 1,000 airplanes.
Tolbert, who is a pilot herself, said her father had an airport business for experimental aircraft and encouraged the growth of the event.
She now works with some 480 volunteers to make the event successful, but said she can always use more volunteer help.
Tolbert said there will be a variety of events and activities all three days of the fly-in, with a special focus on pilot education and flying contests. A schedule of events is available at www.arlingtonflyin.org.
The Arlington Fly-In
Friday evening includes an air show followed by a fireworks display.
Saturday includes an afternoon air show and military parade, and glowing hot air balloons at night.
Sunday has a variety of flying skills contests, including one for flour bombing.
Tolbert says those with tickets can come and go for different events, and that children under age 16 will be admitted for free.
She notes that there will be an outdoor movie and classes on things like flying drones.
Also planned is an enclosed area where people can try flying drones and not have to worry about them getting out of control and flying off.
Helicopter and biplane rides can be taken for a fee, and EAA Chapters like McGauhey’s group will offer free rides for kids.
If you go
Date: July 6-8
Location: Arlington Airport, 4700 188th St. NE
Experimental Aircraft Association, Chapter 84
Offers a free airplane ride for youngsters age 8-17
Location: Harvey Field, Snohomish
Washington North Coast Magazine
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