Grand County’s experimental aircraft association supports and educates youth pilots |

Grand County’s experimental aircraft association supports and educates youth pilots

Granby Airport hosts EAA breakfast and fly-in to support Grand County youth

Keith Whitemarsh, co-owner of Kremmling's Grand River Aviation, poses beside his Cessna 182 Skylane, along with his father-in-law, Dennis Carpenter, and sons, Clancy and Weston Whitemarsh. Keith and Dennis gave eager kids a chance to climb into the plane and practice being a pilot during the EAA Pancake Breakfast and Fly-In.
Meg Soyars/Sky-Hi News

Bluebird skies and a calm breeze blessed Granby’s airport during their annual EAA Pancake Breakfast and Fly-In on Saturday, July 2. The fly-in, sponsored by the Experimental Aircraft Association Chapter 1267 of Grand County, supports local students pursuing aviation.

Attendees to the event got front row seats by the runway to watch private planes touch down and take off into the bright blue horizon at Emily Warner Field. They admired the planes on the tarmac and many talked one-on-one with the pilots.

Dr. Penny Hamilton, who runs Emily Warner Field Aviation Museum at the airport with her husband, Bill Hamilton, told Sky-Hi News that 52 planes visited the airport during the fly-in.

Another highlight of the event was the pancake breakfast. Volunteers flipped cakes until they were golden brown, cooked up sausages on the flat top grill, and poured coffee and orange juice in one of the airport’s hangars. As they waited, attendees could browse the silent auction, where mugs, shirts, and original artwork were displayed.

“The proceeds from the auction go to pay for kids’ summer camp and college scholarships. We don’t spend any private money on this,” said Donna Gore, who leads Experimental Aircraft Association Chapter 1267 with her partner, Rick Howard. The chapter is Grand County’s connection to the the association, which offers flying lessons, training camps and other opportunities nationwide.

“Our mission statement is to educate and give students an opportunity in aviation,” Gore said of the association. “We’ve sent over 100 students to aviation summer camp in Oshkosh, Wisconsin.”

Oshkosh, home of the association’s air academy, is a mecca for aspiring aviators across the U.S. During their weeklong camp, students experience the thrill of flight through hands-on demonstrations, flight simulators and lessons from experienced aviation instructors.

“We have nine students going to Oshkosh for this summer camp. They’re from 12 years old to 17 years old,” Gore said. “They’re all local students—from Winter Park, Tabernash and Granby. … In years’ past, we’ve had students from Kremmling too. Our program is for all Grand County youth.”

A display next to the auction booths listed over 100 local students the Chapter has awarded college scholarships to, so they can pursue the study of aviation. This year, 10 fortunate students received scholarships, thanks in part to proceeds from the fly-in’s breakfast and auction.

“We have two young ladies this year under our college scholarship program. They’re both in for aeronautical engineering. 3.9 GPAs, both of them. They’re doing awesome,” Gore said.

The auction allowed buyers to support local youth with goals of taking to the air. Penny Hamilton said profits could send four or five kids to summer camp — “huge. People are so generous,” she said.

One handcrafted piece of artwork at the auction was an airplane made by local artist Mike Evans of FabricFishy. Evans created the plane by cutting and placing strips of batik fabric to form into a colorful collage. Evans and his wife Kitty also had a booth at the fly-in, where they sold handmade, aviation-themed jewelry. Attendees could purchase airplane and helicopter earrings, with the proceeds going to fund the Oshkosh summer camps and scholarships.  

In addition to the auction, the fly-in featured an awards ceremony to recognize those who had helped Grand’s aviation tradition thrive. Commissioner Merrit Linke was recognized for his longstanding support of Granby Airport.

(L-R) Bill Hamilton, co-founder of the Emily Warner Field Aviation Museum, stands with Commissioner Merrit Linke as he accepts his award. Linke, who has been a consistent supporter of Granby Airport, contributed to adding Emily Warner Field to the airport’s name. Captain Warner, a Granby resident, was the first female captain of a scheduled U.S. airline.
Penny Hamilton/Courtesy Photo

“Commissioner Linke made it possible for the Emily Warner Aviation Museum to be housed inside the former airline terminal building, and for volunteers from the Grand County Historical Association to operate the museum as a free community service. He understands the positive economic benefit of airports to Grand County,” Bill Hamilton told Sky-Hi News. “He has consistently voted to support this airport and improvements. He fought for the instrument approach we just got on May 19.”

The GPS Instrument Approach has made the Granby Airport an all-weather general aviation airport, since pilots can use the technology to fly toward the runway even if they can’t see it during inclement weather or fog.

The Ninety-Nines, a nonprofit organization that supports female pilots, also received recognition for their contribution to Grand County’s EAA chapter. Emily Warner, Granby Airport’s namesake, was a member of the Ninety-Nines, which has chapters worldwide.

Once their bellies were full with pancakes, many families headed to the tarmac to watch the planes take off back to their respective homes. Kids got a chance to clamber into the pilot’s seat and try their hand at the controls of a Cessna 182 Skylane, courtesy of Grand River Aviation, LLC.

Co-owner Keith Whitemarsh, with his father-in-law, Dennis Carpenter, helped the kids into the airplane and taught them about the aircraft and the art of piloting. Whitemarsh said that in addition to managing Kremmling Airport, Grand River Aviation offers flying lessons and scenic flights over the Rocky Mountains of Grand.

At the aviation museum at the end of the runway, Dave Lively, former president of the Grand Lake Area Historical Society, was on-hand to teach museum visitors about Grand County’s aviation history. He said aviator Charles Lindberg, the first pilot to fly nonstop over the Atlantic Ocean, made stops at the Knight Ranch airfield in Granby, and had taught the owner of the Knight Ranch to fly. Lively also spoke of President Dwight Eisenhower, who was a pilot and vacationed often in Fraser. 

“One time he was here in Fraser on vacation, he signed 69 bills into law in one day!” Lively said. “When you’re president, there’s no such thing as ‘vacation.’”

Museum visitors could check out the Pioneers Wall of Fame, which features placards of individuals who have played an important role in the establishment, preservation and promotion of the Granby Airport. After Commissioner Linke received recognition at the fly-in, his framed photograph was placed on the wall alongside the previous awardees.

Thanks to support by Commissioner Linke, Penny and Bill Hamilton, plus Donna Gore and Rick Howard, the fly-in was a success. After the event, Gore told said this was their most successful fly-in yet, raising enough money to send eight children to camp, and fund four college scholarships. Although she worked in a lead role, Gore emphasized that the pancake breakfast and fly-in wouldn’t have been possible without help from the community.

“We have so many volunteers, and I want to say thanks so much for volunteering and thanks to all our local sponsors,” Gore said.

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