Annual fly-in – a popular event for pilots


All summer long, pilots attend fly-ins. Every airport has one and they are an opportunity for pilots and the public to talk about their beloved planes with the passionate pilots who own them.

The Port of Orcas fly-in is always the first weekend of August and this will be its 26 year. The event, sponsored by the Experimental Aircraft Association Chapter 937, will start on Friday, July 31 and continue on Saturday, Aug. 1 and Sunday Aug. 2 with as many as 100 planes flying in from Washington and Canada.

The pilots will camp next to their aircraft during the weekend and meet up with old friends who they have not seen since the previous year’s fly-ins. It is the beauty of the area that makes this one of the most popular fly-ins in all of Washington, according to Dwight Guss who organized this year’s event.

Guss, who grew up with airplanes like most people grow up around cars, has been flying since he was a teenager and thinks the fly-in is one of the best events Orcas has to offer. Guss is also one of the local Mercy Flight pilots who flies three or more times a week, often on flights taking Orcas residents in for medical appointments and cancer treatments. He also flies family members of people who have been flown to the hospital by Airlift Northwest to join their loved one.

Paul O’Donnell of Bellingham will be back this year with his zebra-striped experimental plane, known as a Sonex as he has been for the past four years.

“I always attend the Orcas fly-in because it’s local and a grassroots activity,” O’Donnell said. “It’s a nice place to fly in to. Lots of kids come to the Orcas event and I like to let kids sit in the plane and experience it.”

O’Donnell attends six to eight fly-ins every summer, including those in Arlington, Concrete, Bayview/Skagit and Orcas.

“It’s a chance to talk airplane talk and see old friends,” Guss said. “I see pilots from all over the Northwest that I have not seen since the previous year.”

The Eastsound Fire Station will be holding a pancake breakfast on both Saturday and Sunday morning from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. and cooking flap jacks, sausage and eggs for $7 a plate.

Though pilots and planes are the center of the event, the gathering of antique and experimental aircraft will draw island residents, visitors and spectators.

This year Guss has arranged for one of the new Airlift helicopters and its crew to attend the event and pass out applications for membership.

“It’s a great deal,” Guss said. “It’s $79 a year for the whole family and people never know when they are going to need to be airlifted off the island. The cost without insurance is around $10,000 for an emergency trip when they medivac you off the island. I always ask people if they have a membership and they always say they have been meaning to do it but have not gotten around to it yet.”

He hopes that having the new helicopter at the fly-in will encourage people to sign-up.

Every year local artist Frank Loudin designs a special logo for the T-shirt and cap for the fly-in, which he gives as a gift to the Experimental Aircraft Association.

On Saturday, Aug. 1, the area will be filled with more than just planes as the 10th annual Orcas Road Classics Car Show brings “all makes, all models and any condition” car to the Airport Park. The show, sponsored by Orcas Auto Tech/Orcas Towing, Classic Body & Paint, Island Automotive/NAPA and Novus Windshield Repair, is free of charge.

Anyone can exhibit their car and there will be prizes for Best in Show, Viewer’s Choice and Best Motorcycle.