Cortland Airfest

The view from the cockpit during a ride-along at the Cortland Airfest. 

When the Warbirds begin to take to the skies over Cortland once again, all will know that it is time for the Cortland Airfest once more, the 10th anniversary of the annual festival that celebrates flight in a variety of ways.

This year, the airfest is taking place July 20, from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m., and boasts a packed day for its attendees: Breakfast is served, followed by a “Wings Seminar” presented by David St. George, a pilot. There will then be a talk by author and pilot Ace Abbott, a lunch of barbecue served and then three lucky participants will win be selected from a raffle to ride in the C-47 Whiskey 7, a WWII-era plane that parachuted troops in on D-Day according to the airfest’s website.

Going on all day will be a display on General Levi Chase, a display provided by the Central New York Living History Museum, and a forum to talk to The 99’s, the International Organization of Women Pilots. Rides in warbirds, planes and helicopters will all be available for a charge.

The event attracts between 3,000-4,000 people annually, according to Spaller, who has been involved with the event since its inception. Like so many festivals do, he said it started out small but has grown exponentially, though it is still organized by a team of just 6-10 people.

“It’s a combination of rides and airplane activity,” Spaller said. “The more planes that are flying, the better, with interesting planes for people to see. The big ones are pretty neat, because it’s a smaller airport and a smaller runway so seeing them operate out here is pretty cool.”

Spaller also said plane owners get a chance to show off their own machines, either that they have purchased or planes that they have built or refurbished themselves.

There isn’t a specific part of the event that Spaller likes more than others; instead, he mostly just takes joy in the fact that it happens at all. The organizing team, as small as they are, draw a lot of satisfaction from seeing the reactions of the crowd on the day of the festival, particularly those who aren’t used to flight.

“Everybody is excited about being there, it’s a fun day and it’s rewarding,” “You get people who have never flown in any kind of airplane ever and they’ll come and we’ll give them rides. The kids are wide-eyed, excited. There’s a lot of good energy and activities going on throughout the day. That’s very generally my favorite part of the whole thing, is just that it happens.”

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