OHTM’s 2017 “Rally” Event
Here’s a riddle: How many tires would there be in one place in Maine, if you gathered a half dozen aircraft and eighty vintage cars, motorcycles and trucks for an air and auto show? So far, so good? OK, now double the aircraft total, and triple the automobile total because you have to add the entire contents of a world-class transportation museum’s collections, since the event was held at the Owls Head Transportation Museum. The Museum’s Wings and Wheels “Rally” was held at the western end of the Knox County Regional Airport on the weekend of August 5th and 6th, 2017 – featuring this amazing number of airplanes and autos both indoors and out. By the way, some of you might have guessed around a thousand wheels, but did you remember to add in the tailwheels and the spare tires too?
In reality, there’s no telling how many tires were actually present at the Wings and Wheels Rally, nor would there be an easily obtainable “actual tire figure” But let’s talk a bit about what did happen in the MidCoast Maine area at Owls Head last summer…
On the Ground:
I went to the Sunday Rally event, which was blessed with cool and dry weather. Autos from all over the Midcoast region of Maine flocked to the show, and more than a handful made a full day of it from further away, such as Damian and Ann Hall, from Pictou, Nova Scotia, Canada. Many auto enthusiasts not only come to display their vehicles, but to catch up with friends they’ve made over the years too… More than a few car buffs mentioned that it’s the friendly, “family” style atmosphere of the Rally that keeps them coming back each year. The size of the gathering isn’t overwhelming, with what seemed to be a few thousand fans each day. This is a big funding event for the Museum, which has numerous fun and history-laden shows throughout the year. If you bring a car (rules state pre-1997 qualify as show cars) through, you and a friend get in for free!
The show cars and many fine autos that would be auctioned off later that month at the 2017 New England Auto Auction were lined up along a closed runway, and people’s attention bounced between the air attractions and the ground attractions. Close to one hundred vehicles were present outdoors, which included many auction vehicles, and the Museum’s indoor collection was open to all spectators too.
In the Air:
A breeze kicked up by late Sunday morning, and afternoon fair weather clouds didn’t hamper the aviators from flying their routines for the audience. The Knox County Regional Airport, sometimes known as the Rockland Airport, is a busy summertime destination for vacationers and summer home owners looking to enjoy the Maine coastline. A temporary flight restriction was in place to allow a group of performers to put on an hour long display of aerobatics and memorable photo passes for the thousands of spectators to enjoy.
During the morning, a few of the Museum’s replica World War I aircraft were outdoors, including the eye-catching SPAD XIIIc.i replica that wears the colors of Eddie Rickenbacker’s personal mount soon after World War I ended, when he commanded the 94th Aero Squadron – the famous “Hat in the Ring” unit. The Museum’s original, and rare Curtiss JN-4D “Jenny” made an appearance this year too; last year it was going under some restoration work. Plus, the Museum’s 1923 Fokker C.IVA is a fully restored original aircraft too, which commands attention.
The main flying program began early in the afternoon, featuring a pair of civilian aerobatic performers on either end of a pair of warbird demonstrations. First up was Dan Marcotte, who calls Vermont his home. A self-proclaimed “dream enthusiast”, he’s chased dreams on the ground and in the air. Speed seems to be a common denominator in his life; he began racing stock cars, dirt bikes and motorcycles around New England in his teens. One of his first dreams was to travel over 200 m.p.h. over the ground, which he did in 2001, when he travelled to the Bonneville Salt Flats and exceeded his set goal on his third day of racing.
Soon, he got interested in ultralight aircraft while working at a Vermont airport and gave into his desire to fly. After attaining his pilot’s license, and with only eighty hours, he travelled to Reno Nevada in 2003, completed his Pylon Racing School qualifications in the Formula One class, and raced to a 4th place finish in the Bronze Class on his first try. While returning from Reno that year, he competed in his first IAC aerobatic competition, placing second, too! Soon, he reached another goal, breaking the 300 m.p.h. barrier at Bonneville… and added to his aerobatic credentials by attaining a Commercial pilot’s license and a surface-level aerobatic waiver.
In 2010, Dan began air show performances in his single-seat 10-200 Ultimate biplane, and has added a few more aircraft over the years, like his two-place AcroDuster Too!. In 2015, he added a jet car to his stable, which he built himself around a General Electric J-85 engine out of a Northrop F-5 Freedom Fighter – complete with afterburner. Believe it or not, Dan said that he built his car for show, not necessarily for speed. As an accomplished racing car builder, he could have saved weight in several areas to enable it to go faster, but instead designed the car to operate at a slightly slower speed than the top jet dragsters on the racing circuits do, to stay in front of the crowd just a bit longer. This jet car has brought Dan through a full circle – autos to planes and back to autos… although his top speed has grown by a wide margin from where he began. As the first performer to take the stage, his aerobatics in the black and yellow biplane revved the crowd up.
For World War II warbirds, a trio of immaculate aircraft took to the skies at various times. Although not part of the flying display, the Commemorative Air Force (CAF)’s Arizona Wing B-17G Sentimental Journey was on hand during a stop in its’ cross country tour, giving rides to paying passengers ranging from elderly military veterans to curious historians. The Flying Fortress made a few trips before and after the flying exhibition.
Mark Murphy flew some blistering passes in an FG-1D Corsair wearing Marine Lt. John Glenn’s markings before he became an astronaut. And the B-25 Mitchell, “Axis Nightmare” from the Tri-State Warbird Museum in Ohio, alighted for some spirited passes too, and finally joined the Corsair for some formation passes.
Talking to Mark Murphy, I asked him if he had a flying preference between the Corsair and his P-51D Mustang “Never Miss” (the North American-built plane was in the middle of an engine change during this year’s show), and he answered that with over one thousand hours in the Mustang now, he felt very familiar with it and would choose it to fly. After watching this pilot in the Corsair at a Rhode Island air show the previous month and then at Owls Head, the plane and pilot looked pretty much in synch together too!
The final aerial performer was Californian Bill Stein, flying his Zivko Edge 540. It was Bill’s first performance in Maine, although he’s flown in the state before. He arrived only a few days earlier after performances at the EAA Airventure show at Oshkosh Wisconsin, via Ann Arbor Michigan. Multiple GPSs helped him navigate to Rockland. I asked him how he prepared for flying aerobatics at an airport that he’d just arrived at for the first time. He said that there was a standard aerobatic box along the show runway; the far edge of the pavement from the crowds was an edge of the box, which was easy to define. The box was four thousand feet long by five hundred feet wide, and his highest maneuver – the knife edge spin – would begin some thirty five hundred to four thousand feet above the ground. The area is flat, with only a wind sock to watch for as he flew his routine down to fifty feet above the ground at times.
Although he practiced his routine at Rockland only once before the weekend shows, he’s memorized it so well that he didn’t have any issues with the unfamiliar surroundings. The flat nature of the coastal topography was not a factor; with few obstacles around the area, and having the runway “easy to see” at Rockland, he called the venue “a great place to fly”. A main concern of his during his performance is to keep track of the MidCoast Maine horizon by looking out the side of his Edge to a sighting device on his left wingtip, especially during spins.
The location on Maine’s coast actually helped his performance, as it was really right at sea level and gave his engine as much horsepower as possible, compared to a higher elevation field. I asked Bill about his standard flying routine, and if he adds maneuvers to it. He has modified his show over the years, and he said that if there’s a new piece that he might want to add, he’ll practice the maneuver and after being confident about it, he’ll ask a few airshow people to critique the piece. If it is adopted, he’s always keen to ask spectators how they liked it too. Fellow photographer Scott Zeno and I were discussing the flying show later, and both of us agreed that Bill’s show was somewhat hard to photograph, both because of our unfamiliarity with his routine, and due to his constant high energy turns, which changed his direction, altitude and attitude a lot! Another quality of his show is the amazing color-changing pearl paint scheme of his aircraft, which changes shades with different angles of sunlight!
What a way to spend a day in Maine… beautiful weather, interesting people, and loads of antique and modern planes and cars. The Owls Head Transportation Museum’s “Rally” offers many interesting and entertaining sights and sounds in a picturesque setting. It also has hundreds of wheels to look at too!
Special thanks go out to OHTM’s Sophie Gabrion, who arranged for our special access for the auto and aviation event… and to the many volunteers who made the day possible. Visit our auto story at Motorecon.net for more car photos too!