Chatham Airport gears up for its
annual open house and fly-in
Whether it’s the mythological Icarus greedily grasping for the sun, a host of angels appearing in the skies over Bethlehem during the birth of Jesus Christ, the Chinese invention of the kite, or Leonardo da Vinci’s fascination with flying machines, humanity’s obsession with the heavens is timeless.
For most of us, the closest we get to soaring among the stars is on commercial airliners. For others—like Chatham Municipal Airport Manager Tim Howard and his colleagues—aviation is a driving force in their lives.
“Since I was a little kid with his fingers through the airport fence, I’ve loved, loved airplanes,” says Chatham Airport pilot and airplane mechanic Kyle Takakjian, a Coast Guard veteran and retired Truro police chief. “Three thousand feet of roadway gets you 3,000 feet down the road, but 3,000 feet of runway gets you to the world.”
In order to share their love of flight, Chatham Airport staff members, family and friends will host the sixth annual Chatham Airport Open House, Community Day and Fly-In on Saturday, June 8, from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. While the original intent of the event was to build a stronger bridge between the greater Chatham community and the general aviation airport—known by the call letters CQX—conversations with Tim, a pilot, and his wife, Christine, uncover an additional motive behind the open house.
For Tim, a love of flight is woven into his DNA. His maternal grandfather, Philip Martini, was a trained airplane mechanic who served as a tank/truck mechanic in World War II, and his father, Tim, is an Air Force veteran and airplane pilot. Not everyone has such a genetic advantage, so the Howards hope that their annual open house will kindle a passion for aviation in the youngsters who visit.
“We love the airport so much that we want to share it with everyone,” says Christine Howard, who agreed to Tim’s marriage proposal in mid-flight over Cape Cod. “Younger people aren’t being exposed to flight like many people our age were, so the open house allows us to involve all generations in our love of aviation.”
The Howards’ passion for flight is contagious, and for father and son, planes played a major role in the wooing of their wives. While Tim romanced Christine in the skies over Cape Cod, he wisely did so in a slightly safer manner than his father, who announced his romantic intentions while soaring over the Show-Me State, Missouri, as a college kid. “My dad decided to buzz my mother and her friend with his Cessna while they were sunbathing in my mother’s yard, and he had a close call with the oak tree at the end of the cul-de-sac,” recalls Tim, who worked on the restoration of the Enola Gay while a college intern with the Smithsonian National Air and Space Museum in Washington, D.C. “Luckily, for me, Dad missed the tree, and my maternal grandfather took a liking to him because he was a pilot and in the ROTC.”
While visitors won’t witness such reckless flying at the open house, they’ll get to enjoy the exciting “aircraft flour-drop competition,” an aerial version of bocce ball in which pilots and their chosen “bombardiers” will see who can drop a one-pound bag of flour closest to a bullseye on the ground.
Guests can also check out privately owned World War II warbirds, current military craft from nearby Otis Air Force Base, and plenty of private planes. Dozens of static aircraft will be on display, including one from PlaneSense, a company that offers fractional jet ownership.
“We’re never sure if our requests for military aircraft are approved until about two weeks before the open house, but in recent years we’ve had a National Guard Black Hawk [helicopter] and a Coast Guard chopper,” says Christine.
Interested in what makes planes tick? If so, you can get a look under the hood of an airplane at Stick’n Rudder Aero Maintenance, the CQX maintenance shop that will be open to visitors. Aspiring pilots can also learn more about Stick’n Rudder’s flight instruction while at the event.
For those adventurous souls interested in an aerial tour of the region, the airport’s sightseeing service, Stick’n Rudder Aero Tours, will offer its three trips at normal costs. The 15-minute Washashore tour encompasses the towns of Chatham, Orleans and Eastham, as well as Pleasant Bay. The Clamdigger excursion, at 30 minutes, includes the aforementioned towns plus Brewster, Harwich, Wellfleet and Truro. The hour-long outing, the Great White, loops south around Monomoy Island and north to Provincetown, and extends a little further out into the ocean, promising a greater chance of sighting marine life.
Those intrigued by planes but not quite ready for takeoff can learn about remote flight from the Discover Flying Remote-Controlled Aircraft Club, which will have several aircraft on display.
Fans of old-school ground transportation can enjoy a large contingent of classic cars, courtesy of several regional clubs that include, among others, the Model-A Club of Cape Cod, the Cape Cod Classic Car Club and the Cape Cod Hot Rod Association. Individuals are welcome to display their vintage vehicles as well, with no reservations required. The Nauset Model Railroad Club will also showcase several working displays.
Members of the U.S. Coast Guard and Coast Guard Auxiliary will be present, as well as members of the Town of Chatham’s fire and police departments. In addition to answering guests’ questions, the town’s first responders will introduce visitors to their vehicles and equipment.
One of the biggest attractions, at least for the kids, is a fire truck ride. “The kids love the antique fire truck,” says Tim. “One of our pilots, Peter Doolittle, is also a truck mechanic, and he gives rides on his truck. That’s a huge hit, as is the face painting.”
In addition to the face painting, other child-friendly amusements will be available in a dedicated “kids’ area.” Food will be available in the airport’s Hangar B Restaurant, and Larry’s PX Service will offer picnic-style food outdoors.
Each year, the open house features a nonprofit organization. This year’s guest will be Turtles Fly, Too, a Boise, Idaho-based group that coordinates the rescue of sea turtles with the help of volunteer pilots. Representatives from the organization, as well as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, will be on hand to discuss sea turtle migration patterns, what puts the turtles at risk for stranding, and how to conserve their species.
Fundraising efforts, which include a raffle for a free biplane flight and lunch for two at Hangar B, will benefit Monomoy Community Services and Angel Flight Northeast, an organization that arranges free air transportation for rural residents who need access to lifesaving medical care in urban centers. Several CQX pilots volunteer for Angel Flight Northeast, flying Cape Cod-area residents to big-city hospitals in Boston and New York.
“The airport is really a labor of love for Tim and his team,” says Huntley Harrison, a pilot who serves as vice chair of the Chatham Airport Commission. “In addition to Tim working there full time, his wife handles marketing for the airport, and his father, uncle and sister frequently fly in from all over the country to help. It’s truly a family operation.”
Admission is free to the Chatham Airport Open House. To learn more about the open house and CQX, visit chathamairport.com. And for more on the topic of sea turtles and the local efforts to protect the species, click here!