Monmouth residents Jim Pulse, left, and Damien Beaver get a closer look at a crop duster at Monmouth Airport for the Monmouth Flying Club Fly-in Breakfast on July 4th.
MONMOUTH — The dreary morning put a damper on the 50th annual Fly-in Breakfast Monday morning.
Although fly-ins were halted, and flights were not being offered to those present, the fly-in nonetheless drew a large crowd, as it always does. Even without the attraction of the planes, the hangars at Monmouth Municipal Airport were full of laughing community members eating breakfast and enjoying each others’ company.
“We have lived here for 35 years, and we have been coming here all 35 years,” said Al Kulczewski. “There are people we see here regularly and others we only see once in a while.”
“I love seeing how the children of family and friends have grown,” added Peggy Kulczewski.
For the Kulczewskis and countless other families in the community, the Fly-in Breakfast has long been a Fourth of July staple. For many, the breakfast kicks off the holiday.
Al noted how lucky Monmouth is to have an operating airport, particularly when you consider the size of the city.
“When I moved here, I was surprised there was a municipal airport in a town this size,” said Al. “It is an opportunity for those learning to fly or those who do fly to have a place to fly in and out of, rather than having to go to a bigger city. It is opportunities like this, for us to be able to see these planes up close, that we do not ordinarily get to do.”
“It is a tradition for us to come out here. This is just where you go,” said Ralph Whiteman. “We are big fans of the Municipal Band. Not many towns this size have that. It is part of the quality of life we enjoy here.”
Ralph and Martha can count themselves among the small group of those who have attended every, or almost every, fly-in breakfast. They recalled memories from when they were children, attending the event decades ago.
“They used to have a softball tournament across the street,” said Ralph. “That would draw huge crowds.”
“I remember Jim McCoy built his airplane and flew it out here,” said Martha. “He was being directed in and flew into a hole. He was not happy about that one.”
Beginning the holiday on a positive, community-mined note helps set the tone for the rest of the day.
“The fly-in maintains the importance of the holiday,” said Ralph. “The Fourth has been very instrumental in the history of this country, and it is good that emphasis has been maintained.”
This year’s breakfast was particularly special, not only because it marked a half-century of annual breakfasts, but also because it was a celebration of the life of one of the Monmouth Flying Club’s long-time members. Paul Carner recently passed away. His wife and daughters were in attendance for the breakfast.
“This is a very nice tribute. Paul always loved to come to the fly-in, and he always supported the Flying Club,” said Nancy Carner. “Learning to fly, and anything aviation, was very important to Paul. He started at this airport and went further.”
In addition to his private flights and agricultural spraying business, Carner went on to become a United Airlines 747 pilot.
“He was a wonderful person. He was very good to those he cared most about,” said Carner.
Hundreds of pilots flew in just before the weekend to pay their respects to Carner during his visitation and funeral. Monmouth Flying Club brought in a charter bus just to shuttle them all from the airport to Turnbull’s Funeral Home.
“I was overwhelmed and very humbled that people throughout Paul’s life remembered him,” said Carner. “My husband was a mover and shaker. He lived life the way he wanted to live.”
For the Monmouth Flying Club, Paul Carner was a major success story. He climbed the ranks in all aspects of aviation, yet he never forget the airport and club that gave him his start.
“Mr. Carner had been a long-time member. He always supported the Flying Club however he could, and he always had the best interest of the club in mind,” said Monmouth Flying Club President Cal Ruderman. “To lose him so close to this occasion, it was only fitting to make it a tribute.”
For the Monmouth Flying Club, the Fly-in Breakfast not only offers a location for area pilots to converge, but it also helps to inform the public about what the club does.
“Pilots and general aviation is becoming more sparse. To see the variety of planes here is awesome, and it keeps pilots coming back,” said Ruderman. “The community loves being able to walk around the planes up close. It has become a tradition for many.”
Few outside aviation circles know just how important Monmouth Municipal Airport is to the community. Last year, during June and July, Monmouth Municipal Airport was the busiest single-runway airport in Illinois. At one point, it was the fourth busiest airport in the state.
“The airport is just the right size, and I think it does more than what the community can see. The airport helps out agriculture in the area. It is centrally-located in this area,” said Ruderman. “It is a great alternative for planes that must divert. With Smithfield and Cloverleaf, prior to them bringing out large surveying crew, they flew in planes to the Monmouth airport.”
Ruderman hopes to bring out many more planes next year to compensate for the lack at this year’s event.
“I hope for better weather and a record amount of planes to make up for this year,” said Ruderman. “The Flying Club is going to continue to expand general aviation through community activities like this.”
Original article can be found here: http://www.galesburg.com