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Grumann fans meet at airport

by Linda Hiller

Members of the American Yankee Association, which include owners of light aircraft models manufactured by American, Grumman American, Gulfstream and American General are meeting at the Minden-Tahoe airport this week, hoping to have some fun and celebrate their love of flying a “classic” Grumman aircraft.

“Grummans are the sports car of small planes,” said pilot and conventioneer Ron Rogers, 59, from Forest, Va. “They’re highly maneuverable and also cool-looking. When you land, and slide back that cockpit cover, it’s very cool.”

The charm and attraction of Grumman airplanes has to do with many things, according to pilot and AYA newsletter editor Steve Williams.

“Most of the Grummans you see are over 20 years old,” he said. “They were manufactured from 1969 to 1979 and then again in the early 90’s, but for the most part, the models we have are the older ones.”

To describe a Grumman airplane as a “Volkswagen with wings” would not be far from reality, Williams, 40, said.

“The engine is a 108-horsepower, horizontally-opposed, four-cylinder, air-cooled carbureted engine, and actually similar to that of a Volkswagen,” he said. “The difference is the dual ignition system, with two spark plugs per piston.”

Williams said Grumman aircraft range in price from $12,000 to $60,000. There are two-seat models, single engine four seaters and a twin engine four seater. All are named for cats – the Cheetah, the Cougar, the Tiger, the Lynx, etc.

Flying cross country, either to conventions or to pick up a plane has its rewards, both pilots said.

“I bought my Grumman in Kentucky and flew home along Route 66,” said Williams, who lives in Mountain View, Calif. and works as a computer programmer. “It was an awesome flight.”

Rogers, a software contractor, said he planned his flight here from Virginia to include passing over the Great Salt Lake at just the right light.

“It took me 18 hours to fly here and that was one of the highlights,” he said. “It was definitely worth it.”

Rogers’ wife, Wendy, flies the right seat, he said.

Come on over. On the agenda for today and tomorrow, the last two days of the convention, are dawn patrol flights from 6 – 8 a.m. both days, a flour bombing contest, a spot landing contest and other outdoor flying activities taking place in the morning hours.

Participants will also be taking various tours in the area of Lake Tahoe and the Carson Valley. Many of the indoor events will be taking place at the Carson Valley Inn and the Minden Best Western. This is the first time they have met in Minden, Williams said.

“We have 2,000 members all over the world, so we try to meet on the east coast one year, in the middle the next, and then on the west coast after that,” he said.

Grumman convention participants will not only be competing in relays and the aforementioned events, but will have the opportunity to add to their general knowledge of flying in a small plane at a FAA presentation on safety at 1 p.m. Thursday.

The public is invited to come take a look at a classic Grumman aircraft while they’re here, Williams said.

“Grumman has a long history of building strong aircraft, including historic aircraft, since before World War II. Grumman pilots are proud of that heritage,” according to a statement on the AYA Web site, http://www.aya.org.

For more information, contact the airport at 782-9871 or drop by and have a look at these unique private aircraft and their enthusiastic owners and pilots.