New England Air Museum hosts ‘Great Aviation Adventure’

By Lisa Stone - ReminderNews
Windsor Locks - posted Mon., Jul. 1, 2013
New England Air Museum visitor Linda Mikan photographs John Race’s 1940 bi-plane, while passenger Jim Noonan (on far right) returns from a private flight. Photos by Lisa Stone.
New England Air Museum visitor Linda Mikan photographs John Race’s 1940 bi-plane, while passenger Jim Noonan (on far right) returns from a private flight. Photos by Lisa Stone.

The New England Air Museum hosted its two-day “Great Aviation Adventure” on June 22 and 23, allowing guests the change to view many different planes, including Connecticut Army National Guard’s UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter, Sikorsky’s commercial S-76 helicopter and 1955 Hiller J-12c helicopter. Also on display were a Zenith CH-801 STOL, a Bombardier Challenger 850 business aircraft and an RV-6 homebuilt plane, along with several other privately-owned planes from various locations. Of course, the main attraction was the flying B-25J Mitchell, which was restored and is now known as “Panchito.”

The owners of the “Panchito” offered their plane as a fundraising tool for New England Air Museum. It took five passengers at a time for a 30-minute flight. The cost of this adventure was $425, and the money raised was to assist the NEAM with plane restorations.

According to owner Laurie Kelly, the “Panchito” was used in the movie “Poncho Barnes” in the 1970s, which starred Valerie Bertinelli. Kelly and her husband, Larry Kelly, spent several years restoring the “Panchito.” The right engine has been replaced five times.

Bob Welch is a pilot from Moose Head, Maine. His seaplane is his “everyday driver,” according to Welch. “I live in a very rural area on Moose Head Lake in Maine. Deliveries are very difficult for trucks. My friends and neighbors hardly ever see fresh fruits and vegetables, so I fill my plane with the wonderful produce that comes from areas like this and I bring them back home so everyone can have fresh foods that they would not normally have access to. They, in turn, make home-made meals for me.”

Welch said that being a pilot “is really a way of life. The way you would jump into your car and go somewhere, I take my plane and get a haircut.” He encourages people of all ages to consider getting a pilot’s license.

Harland Avezzie of Westfield, Mass., has been flying since 1979. He helps to restore planes for NEAM. He also helped with the restoration of the “Panchito.” “I restore cars and motorcycles as well as planes. I have restored an Indian motorcycle for the NEAM,” said Avezzie.

Avezzie takes his grandson, Logan, with him when he goes flying. “I’m going to be a pilot, too,” said Logan. According to Avezzie, the age for a pilot’s license is 16.

South Windsor resident Jim Noonan took a spin in John Race’s 1940 bi-plane. “It was well worth the $180. I was blown away at how fascinating it was. I even got to take an aerial picture of my house,” said Noonan. “I would encourage others to do the same.”

According to Race, the passenger weight limit is 325 pounds. “Two people could fit in the seat, but the weight cannot exceed 325 pounds,” he said. “People can reach me at to schedule a flight.”

In 1998, Mark E. Horan began the restoration of his dad’s Piper plane. He finished it in 2004. “My daughter was only 3 years old when I began the restoration, and she was 9 by the time it was finished. She loves the plane, so I call it “Lil Miss Katelynn.” It was a true labor of love,” said Horan.

Gina Moran said, “I am so thankful to all the pilots that are helping to support the NEAM. I am also hoping that this event inspires people of all ages to come and see us at the NEAM.”

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