Wings over Wasilla

WASILLA — Planes will be flying through the sky of Wasilla in record numbers this weekend as the Wings Over Wasilla airshow returns after more than 20 years.

Aviation enthusiasts from around the state will begin flying into the Wasilla Airport on Friday evening for the celebration of aviation and the Wasilla Airport itself. The last time this event was hosted at the Wasilla Airport in 1997, the air strip was gravel.

“Just making people aware of our airport and then the users just get to use what we think is a fabulous facility,” said Wasilla Public Works Director Archie Giddings.

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The WOW airshow will feature flying family fun for all. The Friday banquet at the Menard Sports Complex from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. will be the first chance for pilots to register for any of the competitions. The Carhartt Brothers will provide music on Friday, and a silent auction will be held. The Saturday celebration starts early with pancakes from 8 a.m. to 9:30. Opening ceremonies will begin at 10 a.m. with demonstrations and drop-in’s from parachutes and LifeMed. The Short Take Off and Landing (STOL) competition will start at 12:30 p.m., on Saturday.

With the popularity of general aviation in the Last Frontier, Airshows begin in late March and extend throughout the summer months. Mike Koskovich hosts his own airshow from his hangar on Meadow Lake in March and has had as many as 64 planes and three helicopters fly in for friendship and as an excuse to get their planes in the air. Koskovich received a telephone call late last December, along with six other aviation enthusiasts who were asked to form the Wasilla Airshow Advisory Committee.

“I thought well heck yeah let’s do that,” said Koskovich.

Koskovich mentioned how instrumental Wasilla Mayor Bert Cottle has been in promoting the development of WOW. Cottle was also instrumental in starting the immensely popular Valdez fly-in which attracts some of the best private pilots in the country to take part in the highly competitive STOL competition. What Wasilla has that Valdez doesn’t, according to Koskovich, is the weather. While Valdez’ wet and unpredictable coastal climate is not as conducive to predictable scheduling, WOW in mid-June is prime time for flying.

“He very much realizes the importance and the impact of general aviation in Alaska so he’s been a real advocate,” Koskovich said of Bert Cottle.

Alaska’s long history with aviation has produced a love of flying statewide. The annual Alaska Airman’s Association show in the FedEx hangar is listed as the third largest general aviation gathering in the country. The AAC met monthly up until May, and have been meeting weekly since in preparation for WOW. Along with the STOL competition and candy drops for kids on both Saturday and Sunday, WOW will feature what Koskovich calls a ‘STOL squared’ competition, which functions like a shuttle run for planes. Koskovich hopes that the popularity of the airshow helps promote the Wasilla Airport as a hub to take pressure off of Merrill Field and Lake Hood. While many pilots will be flying in with hopes of taking a title when they leave Wasilla, many aircraft will land just to show off. Static displays of aircraft will be judged on Saturday night. Koskovich is excited to see some of the antique aircraft that will be displayed in Wasilla this weekend.

“We put the word out and it’s amazing what comes out of some of these hangars when they open the doors,” Koskovich said. “A lot of history and some real interesting and pleasing to look at beautiful airplanes.”

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