Stratford aviation enthusiasts plan ‘flight’ at Sikorsky Memorial Airport

STRATFORD — Pilots and planes from across the region are scheduled to land at Igor I. Sikorsky Memorial Airport this weekend as part of a two-day celebration of the region’s aviation history.

In addition to the aircraft participating in the fly-in, the center plans to display a working replica of the German immigrant’s No. 21 “Condor” aircraft, as well as restored fighter jets and locally built military helicopters from Sikorsky. Aircraft.

Mark E. Corvino, president of the aviation center and museum, said the nonprofit aims to attract people interested in what he called Connecticut’s unique role in the history of the ‘aviation.

“These pilots and aircraft owners want to go somewhere,” Corvino said. “Where better to go than a museum right next to an airport?”

Corvino described the fly-in as a sort of car show that, instead of showcasing muscle cars and vintage vehicles, will showcase a wide range of private planes and helicopters.

The two-day event, which begins at 10 a.m. and ends at 4 p.m. on August 13 and 14, is also open to those wishing to arrive by car. Tickets are $10 for adults, $7 for veterans, and $5 for children six and older.

Corvino said the funds will help pay for the non-profit organization’s ongoing restoration of the Curtiss Hangar, which was built in 1929 and named for famous aeronautical innovator and industry magnate Glenn Curtiss.

Once slated for demolition, the center has turned part of the historic structure into a tourist attraction to display its aircraft. Corvino said the nonprofit ultimately aims to restore the entire shed to its original condition.

The hangar is well known to Connecticut aviation enthusiasts. Famous aviators Amelia Earhart, Howard Hughes and Charles Lindbergh have all visited the facility.

“We just can’t let this go,” said Andy Kosch, a founder of the center who built the replica of Whitehead’s plane. “We need to raise all the money we can to repair the shed. It is a very historic site.

Kosch’s original replica of Whitehead’s aircraft, a second version and a third reproduction that is currently under construction, will be showcased at the weekend celebration. The first aircraft was built to help bolster the claim that Whitehead achieved powered takeoff before the Wright Brothers famous flight in 1903.

Contemporary newspaper reports and later testimony claim that Whitehead made short flights in his steam-powered flying machine in 1901 and 1902 at Fairfield, Bridgeport, and elsewhere.

The claim was disputed by Wright’s supporters, but defended by Connecticut politicians. State lawmakers even passed a bill in 2013 officially recognizing Whitehead as the first person to achieve powered flight.

Kosch’s replica has a wingspan of 36 feet, weighs around 400 pounds, and is powered by a pair of motors built into its 16-foot wooden body. Like Whitehead’s plane, the plane’s bird-like wings are made of bamboo and silk.

“People should know this story and about this guy because he spent so many years wanting to build a plane that could fly,” he said. “And we have it here.”

According to Corvino, the center’s partially restored FG-1D Corsair will be on display along with Whitehead’s replica. The plane, a fighter-bomber that played a pivotal role in World War II, was one of thousands that were assembled at Stratford.

Other center-owned aircraft that will be present at the event include a Sikorsky S-60 Flying Crane, a Hughes OH-6A Cayuse and a Bede BD-5 – a small single-seat aerobatic aircraft.

Kosch said videos of some of his replica’s first successful flights in 1986 will be shown for visitors. He said he hopes the weekend’s events will help spark greater interest in the art of flight, especially among young people who may not have been exposed to aviation.

Kosch, 83, recalled how he fell in love with planes as a young boy while traveling with his father to watch planes take off and land at what was then known as Bridgeport Municipal Airport.

“Everyone looks up at the sky and sees birds and planes flying and they think, ‘Wow, I wish I could do that,'” he said.

Kosch said his early fascination led to a lifelong affection for hang gliding, which in turn interested him in Whitehead’s legendary early flights. Ultimately, he wants the center’s growing collection of historic aircraft and aviation memorabilia to be preserved as much as possible.

“We hope that more and more people will be interested in aviation in this area,” he said. “Hopefully we can fix the Curtiss Hangar so that we have a big, beautiful museum where we can show all the planes, helicopters and flying machines we’ve been working on for years.”

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