ISCHUA — More than 300 guests flocked to the Cattaraugus County-Olean Airport Sunday for a bite to eat and to oggle at airplanes.
The second of three Airport Support Group Fly-In/Drive-In Pancake Breakfasts planned for the year was deemed a success as 330 people gathered for breakfast.
“We’re thrilled that the community supports us and it just shows the interest the community has for us and for the airport,” said Chris Napoleon, president of the group. “Regardless of the weather, the community supports the airport.”
Along with the visitors, 20 vintage and modern planes were on display.
Gary Bobseine, and his daughter Liza, flew his 1941 Taylor Craft for breakfast from Cattaraugus. The Bobseine family, Gary, Liza and her sister and two brothers are all pilots and have flown in for the breakfast for a number of years.
Rusty Smith of Freedom has owned his 1964 Piper Colt for 15 years. The airplane was built as a “trainer for people learning to fly,” said Smith. “When the new models came out, they sold them to individuals” which is how he ultimately came to own the plane, which is hangered at the airport.
Hungry supporters also came by cars and trucks, on tractors and ATVs, by bicycle and by foot for the pancakes with New York maple syrup, made-to-order eggs, sausage, coffee, and juice.
“The pancake breakfast is not just for the flying community,” Napoleon said. “In fact, the event is supported by hundreds of community members who drive or ride in simply because they love airplanes and are excited to get up close to some interesting aircraft and helicopters.”
“You can see the improvements at the airport,” said John Eaton of Portville, who was there with his daughter, Allison and had attended the event over the years. “It’s amazing what they’ve done with the new hangers” and the other improvements they’ve made.
Truman Smith, 4, was there for the second time in his young life.
“I ate the helicopter. I ate the whole thing — in one gulp,” Smith said seriously.
“Not really,” he laughingly reassured his mother, Molly Callahan, who was enjoying breakfast too. He pointed out that he wouldn’t be scared to fly because he’s “been on a plane before.”
When asked if he had been to the airport before, Smith said excitedly that he “looked through the telescope (at the first Fly-In/Drive-In Dinner). “The moon looks a lot closer.”
Also at the event was Guiding Eyes for the Blind, which operates in Cattaraugus County, was there with dogs demonstrating training techniques. The group has members in Olean, Delevan, and Arcade, who train dogs for the blind, police, or the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.
MercyFlight of Western New York’s Bell 429 helicopter was also there for the public to check out and the crew was kept busy answering questions from the public about the helicopter and its operations. A helicopter was available for the $40 rides above Enchanted Mountains and its valleys.
Proceeds from the breakfast benefit the support group’s projects supporting the airport, the highest elevation airport in the state and the only paved airport in the county. The group provides training and safety discussions; improvements to the airport; and facilitate tours with an emphasis on youth, oftentimes hosting school groups for a tour of the facility, which was also available at the breakfast Sunday.
Any person or group who would like a tour of the airport can call (716) 557-8800 or email email@example.com.
Between the Halloween on the Hill last October, and last month’s Full Moon Fly-In/Drive-In, the group bought new custom-make double-faced amber markers which were installed on the grass strip that runs perpendicular to the taxiway. With red sides facing outbound and green facing inbound, pilots are now able to identify which strip was coming in and which was going out. The markers can go from extreme heat to extreme cold, and are capable of withstanding high winds and jet wash.
The cylinder size and shape of the markers reflects more light, allowing them to be seen at great distances in darkness and low visibility weather conditions, according to flightlight.com. They’re typically used in remote areas like the Olean Airport instead of lights, and can be added as a backup system in case of blackouts.
Through the years, the group has purchased a crew courtesy car for pilots and their passengers to go into Olean; put doors on the snow equipment shed; and provided funding to paint old T-hangars.
There is one more opportunity to support the ASG this year. The fourth annual Halloween on the Hill will be held Oct. 27 from noon to 4 p.m., where about 200 children come to enjoy the activities, food, musical entertainment and costume contests.