GREENVILLE, Maine – For two pilots from Seattle, who made a 10,000-mile flight to become the first to fly floatplanes to the magnetic North Pole, Greenville was the first place they had been where they could fly down Main Street and land on water.
Pilots Mark Schoening and Doug DeVries both flew de Havilland Beavers and were filmed on their cross-country trek by Eric Thierman, Oscar-nominated director of photography. The pilots reportedly told seaplane officials they were in awe of the local scenery and the community.
“It seems as if everyone in this town loves airplanes,” DeVries wrote on the pair’s Web site at greatarcticairad-venture.com. “This is my kind of town.”
The 35th International Seaplane Fly-in was, as one pilot declared Saturday, the “mother of all fly-ins” and another safe one to boot.
Although wind and rain from Tropical Storm Hannah on Sunday prompted a quicker end to the four days of festivities, the fly-in went off without a hitch.
Aside from a small airplane that tipped over in the water in a gust of wind Thursday and a canoeist taking an unexpected dunking in Moosehead Lake at the start of the Bush Pilot Canoe Race on Saturday, it was another perfect fly-in, according to Duane Lander, a founding member.
“We’ve got a perfect safety record after 35 years, and I relate it to the professional ability of the pilots that participate in it,” Lander said Sunday.
Not only were 70 planes and 170 pilots registered for the event, thousands of people also milled about the town, a help to the economy.
Lander said some restaurants in town pay their tax bills on their proceeds from the event.
“It brings more money into Piscataquis County than any other event of the year,” he said. “This brings thousands and thousands of dollars to Greenville. Every hotel in the area from Rockwood to Dover-Foxcroft were sold out.”
Among the airplanes on display was the Albatross Air Force rescue plane that carried prisoners of war in Vietnam from “Hanoi Hilton” back to the U.S. Don Rhymalds of Virginia, who owns and pilots the seaplane, brought 14 other people with him to Greenville.
In addition to the famous aircraft, a well-known pilot also was present. Bob Bryan, who was Burt of the Burt and I duo famous for their Maine humor, spoke to association members at their gathering. Bryan, who is involved in the Episcopal ministry, has been flying since 1966 for the Quebec Labrador Foundation.
Others who made the trek included Brian Robinson, who flew his Seabee from his home in Lindsay, Ontario, to Greenville. “We wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the seaplane fly-in,” he said Saturday. Accompanied by his brother Blair Robinson, he said it was his first visit to the Moosehead Lake region. His polished aluminum Seabee with yellow trim, one of just more than 1,000 built, was one of three Seabees at the event. Robinson had modified his four-seat Amphibian by installing a Corvette V-8 engine and equipping it with air conditioning and heating.
“It’s been very delightful and we’d love to come back,” Robinson said. He said he found hospitality at its finest, having stopped at the Chesuncook Lake House where he had a buffalo burger. Flying over the area, Robinson said, he was impressed with the reforested areas. “The land appears to be well-managed,” he said.
Allison Wheaton of Angola, Ind., who has been flying since she was 15, returned for her second international fly-in. “We had so much fun last year that we wanted to come back,” she said Saturday. The rolling hills and the big and little lakes in the Moosehead region are perfect for seaplanes, she noted.
Just as enthusiastic over the event were the spectators. Jeff Tilton of Etna came with his family and had coveted spots on the shore. “If you come early enough, you kind of get to pick your spot,” said the former Navy jet engine mechanic.
Even the fly-in committee benefits, selling programs and booth space, pumped most of the income into a scholarship fund for a local student interested in a flying career. Since no local interest was expressed last year, the scholarship was given to Jonathan Pelletier of Greene, who previously worked at the fly-in with the Civil Air Patrol.
The event couldn’t be held without the help of the community, Department of Forestry, Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife, businesses, more than 40 people who volunteered for the fly-in committee, and approximately 50 Civil Air Patrol members from Houlton, Machias, Bangor, Calais and Trenton who helped secure the area and push the airplanes about the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife property, and the Police Department, according to Lander.
Everything went smoothly, said Greenville Police Chief Scott MacMaster, who had five officers on patrol for the event. Even though the community was congested, there were no problems, he said.
Winners of the contests, first and second place, were as follows:
Bush pilot canoe race that involves partners: Tom Dunn, Hulls Cove and Jim Dunn, Otis; Allison Wheaton, Angola, Ind., and Randy Strebig, Fort Worth, Ind.
Bomb Drop, Class 1: Steve Kramer of Sebastian, Fla.; Douten Thomas of Roxbury.
Bomb Drop, Class 2: Allison Wheaton; Tom Dunn.
Spot Landing, Class 2: Tom Dunn; James Sparaga, Machias.
Takeoff, Class 4: Tom Dunn; Perry Virgin of Peru.
Takeoff, Class 2: Randy Strebig; Gary Norris, Augusta.
Takeoff, Class 8: Craig Gebo of Berlin, Mass.; Bob Welch.
Takeoff, Class 9: Mark Futch, Boca Grande, Fla.; Bob Steneman, Aspen, Colo.
Takeoff, Class 10: Tom Dunn; Gene Fielder, no address provided.
Poker Run: Lisa Reece, Georgetown.
Sportsmanship Award: Matt Sigfrinius, Idaho.