Fifth annual M Mountain Fly-In taking off

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The skies over Socorro will be alive with the sounds of various aircraft this weekend when the M Mountain Fly-In takes place at the Socorro Municipal Airport on Sept. 29 and 30.

Submitted photo: B-17_Fly-In – The fully restored World War II-era B-17 Flying Fortress “Sentimental Journey” will be on display at this year’s M Mountain Fly-In, being held at the Socorro Municipal Airport on Sept. 29 and 30.

Heading into its fifth year, the Fly-In will again give residents from all around the area a chance to check out aircraft of all types, including vintage, home-built and experimental airplanes and much more, says organizer Dave Finley.

“Its been great for the general public to come and see these airplanes,” he said.

Finley, along with pilot and aviation consultant Laura Haines and a few others, first put the event together in 2008.

The Civil Air Patrol in Socorro had recently been chartered as well, so Finley and company got to work printing out fliers, putting notices in newspapers and, he said, people just started showing up.

“We know there are fly-ins elsewhere in the state. Socorro’s in a central location, we’ve got a great airport, we’ve now got some people that can help put it on,” Finley said of the original planning stages.

And since the inaugural Fly-In, the community and the city have shown the event is one that should thrive for some time to come.

“The community has supported it really well. The city has been great,” Finley said.

“The funny thing about that first one, we thought it would be a really big success if we got 20 planes to come here from out of town, and at one point we had 65.”

In past years, the M-Mountain Fly-In has played host to historic aircraft, such as the U.S. Air Force CV-22 Osprey tiltroter and the AH-60 Blackhawk helicopter, and it’s now in its third year of having Air Force support, Finley said.

He said the Osprey has proved a huge bonus for attendees in the past.

“That was a huge draw,” he said. “That’s a really neat aircraft. It’s pretty impressive just to see it land and take off.”

While he expects to see the Osprey make a return appearance this year, perhaps the real draw in 2012 will come in the form of what is probably the most iconic and notably historic American aircraft, the B-17 Flying Fortress.

“It was sort of the queen of the sky in the European theater,” Finley said. “It was a workhorse for the bombing campaign against Germany.”

And while the mere appearance of the B-17 is a sight to behold, its presence in Socorro might also give local residents an opportunity to take in an integral piece of U.S. history.

“It’s an amazing piece of history. It’s something I think every American ought to know a little bit about,” Finley said.

He pointed out that the Flying Fortress was a beloved aircraft because it could take a substantial beating and get its crew home safely, but 50 percent of B-17 crews were still casualties during World War II, and those crews made a tremendous sacrifice.

“It wasn’t by any means all glory,” he said. “It was a lot of pain and agony and suffering, with great dedication and great devotion to their country.”

Attendees will be able to walk through Sentimental Journey and rides will be available.

In addition to the various aircraft that will be present, the Fly-In will also offer entertainment, food and fun. Finley said there will be plenty of vendors on site, lots of activities, and musician Doug Figgs is scheduled to sing the National Anthem as well as the New Mexico Centennial dedication song.

There will even be a trailer devoted to the sale of B-17 memorabilia.

At around 9 a.m. on Saturday, Skydive New Mexico will be on hand to preform a jump, and there will be fly-bys and demonstrations.

At 11:30 a.m. on Sunday, the New Mexico Centennial Air Tour will make its final stop. According to www.nmcentennial.org, “the tour highlights historic aviators, aircraft, and significant N.M. aviation events, such as the first commercial air route and Charles Lindbergh’s development of aerial archeology.”

The M-Mountain Fly-In will commence at 8 a.m. both Saturday and Sunday, and admission is free.

“With the food and the singing and everything else and all the airplanes, its a great place to spend the day and see all kinds of interesting general aviation aircraft,” Finley said.