The Grand County Experimental Aircraft Association supports and educates young pilots

Keith Whitemarsh, co-owner of Kremmling’s Grand River Aviation, poses next to his Cessna 182 Skylane, with his father-in-law, Dennis Carpenter, and sons, Clancy and Weston Whitemarsh. Keith and Dennis gave the excited kids a chance to get on the plane and practice being a pilot during the EAA Pancake breakfast and fly-in.
Meg Soyars/Sky-Hi News

Blue bird skies and a calm breeze blessed Granby Airport during their annual EAA pancake breakfast and flight on Saturday July 2nd. The flight, sponsored by Experimental Aircraft Association of Grand County Chapter 1267, supports local students pursuing an education in aviation.

Event attendees secured front-row seats by the runway to watch private planes land and take off into the bright blue skyline of Emily Warner Field. They admired the planes on the tarmac and many chatted one-on-one with the pilots.

Dr Penny Hamilton, who runs the 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 flight.

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

“The proceeds from the auction are used to pay for summer camps and scholarships for children. 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 association, which offers flight lessons, boot camps and other opportunities nationwide.

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

Oshkosh, home of the association’s air force academy, is a mecca for aspiring airmen across the United States. During their week-long 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 are between 12 and 17 years old,” Gore said. “They are all local students – from Winter Park, Tabernash and Granby. … In recent years we have also had students from the Kremmling. Our program is for all young people in Grand County.

A display next to the auction stands lists more than 100 local students who have been awarded college scholarships by the chapter, so they can pursue the study of aviation. This year, 10 lucky students received scholarships, thanks in part to proceeds from the breakfast and the fly-in auction.

“We have two young women this year under our university scholarship program. They are both in aeronautical engineering. 3.9 GPA, both. They are doing great,” Gore said.

The auction allowed buyers to support young locals in an effort to get some fresh air. Penny Hamilton said the proceeds could send four or five children to summer camp – “huge. People are so generous,” she said.

One of the handmade artworks in the auction was an airplane made by local artist Mike Evans of FabricFishy. Evans created the airplane by cutting and placing strips of batik fabric to form 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 proceeds going to fund summer camps and Oshkosh 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 always supported Granby Airport, helped add Emily Warner Field to the airport’s name. Captain Warner, a resident of Granby, was the first female captain of a scheduled American airline.
Penny Hamilton/Courtesy Photo

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

The GPS instrument approach has made Granby Airport an all-weather general aviation airport, since pilots can use the technology to fly to the runway even if they cannot see it in bad weather or fog.

The Ninety-Nines, a non-profit organization that supports female pilots, was also recognized for its contribution to the Grand County EAA chapter. Emily Warner, namesake of Granby Airport, was a member of the Ninety-Nines, which has chapters around the world.

Once their bellies were full of pancakes, many families headed to the tarmac to watch the planes take off for their respective homes. The kids had the chance to climb 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, along with his stepfather, Dennis Carpenter, helped the children onto the plane and taught them about flying and the art of piloting. Whitemarsh said that in addition to operating Kremmling Airport, Grand River Aviation offers flight lessons and scenic flights over the Grand Rocky Mountains.

At the Aviation Museum at the end of the runway, Dave Lively, past 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 non-stop over the Atlantic Ocean, stopped over at the Knight Ranch airfield in Granby and taught the owner of the Knight Ranch how to fly. Lively also talked about President Dwight Eisenhower, who was a pilot and often vacationed in Fraser.

“He was here in Fraser on vacation once, he signed 69 bills in one day!” Vivid said. “When you are president, there are no ‘holidays’.”

Visitors to the Museum could consult the Pioneer Wall of Fame, which features signs of individuals who played an important role in the establishment, preservation and promotion of Granby Airport. After Commissioner Linke was recognized during the fly-in, his framed photograph was placed on the wall next to previous winners.

With the support of Commissioner Linke, Penny and Bill Hamilton, as well as Donna Gore and Rick Howard, the airlift was a success. After the event, Gore said it was their biggest success yet, raising enough money to send eight kids to camp and fund four college scholarships. Although she played a starring role, Gore pointed out that the pancake breakfast and flight wouldn’t have been possible without the help of the community.

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

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