Vintage aircraft fly in to Gold Beach Airport

Thirty-five vintage aircraft cruised down the Rogue River corridor July 10 before circling the Gold Beach Airport landing strip.

   One by one, engines roaring, they made their descent to enthusiastic aviation fans waiting below.

   The Puget Sound Antique Airplane Club was visiting the Oregon southern coast as part of an eight-city tour.

Among the crews, pilot Frank Hoogkamer stood alongside his gleaming canary yellow biplane, a 1941 Boeing Stearman, along with pilot trainee Savannah Raskey, who has enlisted in the U.S. Air force.

 Raskey hopes eventually to fly C-130s or KC-135s for Uncle Sam, but wants to cut her teeth on these yesteryear planes before taking on the new stuff.

   Hoogkamer said he purchased his biplane in 1981. “It was an old, rundown crop duster in Louisiana that I fell in love with,” he said.

Ten years later, having returned his aircraft to near-mint condition, Hoogkamer donned a leather bomber jacket and gingerly turned the ignition switch.

The reborn aircraft gulped some fuel and its engine zipped back to life.

Biplanes and fixed-wing craft such as Hoogkammer’s were on display for a crowd of about 500 who came to see history up close and personal.

Manufactured widely around the year 1925, many saw duty flown by the Navy during wartime. The nimble craft could maneuver quickly and make loops and quick turns in the air.

When the invention of jet engines made them obsolete, many found their way into the private sector as crop dusters, where they could skim the ground at speeds up to 100 mph, as well as stunt flying.

Gold Beach residents may recall that the “Yellow Pearl” was one such aircraft, which offered rides over the mouth of the Rogue River up until a few years ago.

John Snyder, 85, of Gold Beach is a Korean veteran and remembers how important the planes were back in the day. Looking over at the parked fleet, he waved his walking cane to make his point.

   “(Biplanes) were the backbone of our air attack. Without them, we would have been in trouble.”   

   From Gold Beach, the durable aircraft returned to Grants Pass before departing for Creswell.

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