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Warbirds will return to Whiteside airport

ROCK FALLS — Thanks to a show of local support, another event combining aviation and history will land at the Whiteside County Airport July 17-19.

"The Last Time" premiered in 2010 with 26 DC-3s and C-47s, in a celebration of the 75th anniversary of the Douglas DC-3.

Dan Gryder, an Atlanta pilot and instructor and one of the event organizers, and the airport board held an open house Sept. 14 to gauge support for another such an event, and "the feedback from the meeting was very positive," Gryder said.

Even more aircraft are planned for the 2020 event, which won't be "a duplicate" of the one a decade earlier, airport manager Darin Heffelfinger said.

It's a huge undertaking, and Heffelfinger and board President Drew Wilkens are working on the logistics. They want to make it memorable – and annual – and for that they need volunteers.

"There's a lot of different jobs that have to be done," Heffelfinger said. "From helping out on the ramp, parking cars, clean up crews, bus drivers to transport to take the airplane crews from the airport to local hotels."

"We've had about a dozen people come forward who really want to get into the planning portion of it," Wilkens added.

After the Whiteside show, the planes will fly off to AirVenture Oshkosh 2020, which will be held July 20-26 in Wisconsin.

These are rare planes, and there aren't many left that can still can take flight – parts are hard to find, which makes it too easy for people to scrap planes "that fought for of freedom during World War II," Wilkens said.

"There's a lot of history there, besides being really awesome airplanes."

Gryder, a Sterling native, is the connection between the airport and the warbirds, and there's no doubt he will make good on his promise to bring them in, Wilkens and Heffelfinger said.

He's made several preliminary calls, but pilots typically don't plan their yearly flights until after the first of the year, Gryder said.

He was able to get an early commitment of B-17s from Collings Foundation, a nonprofit transportation preservation society based in Massachusetts.

The foundation had four B-17s until this morning, when one wrecked in Connecticut, Gryder said.

Preliminary reports were that at least seven of 13 people aboard the vintage bomber, which crashed at Bradley International Airport near Hartford, were killed.

Seven were injured, including one person on the ground, and the plane was destroyed.

“One less B-17 in the world now," Gryder said. "It underscores the rareness of these.”

More information

For more information about the Whiteside County Airport, go to Whitesidecountyairport.org or visit them on Facebook at facebook.com/whitesidecountyairport/

Those interested in volunteering for the event in July can contact airport manager Darin Heffelfinger on the Whiteside County Airport contact page. Drew Wilkens can be reached at dwilkens@whiteside.org.

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