This Week's Poll


Wings Over Suwannee

A flying success

Nothing brings excitement to a crowd like fast aircraft in an airshow. -Photo by Jeffry Boatright

Ground training provided for the little ones during the Fourth Annual Wings Over Suwannee last weekend at the Suwannee County Airport. -Photo by Jeffry Boatright

By Jeffry Boatright

It really is enchanting when children of all ages watch pilots ascend their aircraft into the air, maneuver the machine about the skies and gracefully land before anxious spectators. Last weekend, Experimental Aircraft Association, Chapter 797 certainly provided plenty of magic for onlookers to savor during its Fourth Annual Wings Over Suwannee Aviation Festival.

The annual event, which places emphasis on aviation education, was indeed a success. With approximately 40 pilots available to showcase their skills and respective aircraft, spectators found bountiful opportunities to get up-close looks at experimental aircrafts and vintage planes. As always, the skilled pilots were more than willing to discuss their aircraft and experiences with onlookers.

The festival, which is free to the public, also featured plenty of antique and unique cars and motorcycles. Nostalgic automobiles and motorcycles were displayed throughout the event for visitors to enjoy.
In addition to the aircraft and auto displays, numerous vendors were available to sell savory foods, hand-maid crafts and even farm tractors. It truly was an event that reflected the essence of North Florida with numerous organizations represented at their respective booths.

Spectators who simply couldn’t resist the urge to go airborne also had an opportunity to do so. Helicopter rides were available to those wishing to fly. Although there was a 40-dollar fee to ride in the helicopter, free airplane flights were available throughout the weekend for Young Eagles.

The Young Eagles program is a focal point of EAA 797. The association sponsors this program to foster interest in aviation among youths ages eight to 17 years of age. The Young Eagles program affords youths who aspire to become pilots an opportunity to fly with a qualified pilot free of charge. According to organizers, participants receive several valuable benefits which will enable their pursuits in the aviation field.

Young Eagles Kenyon Beasley (left) and Ky’vontaye Beasley (right) prepare to join pilot Brad Bedenbaugh (center) for a Saturday morning flight during the Wings Over Suwannee event.
-Photo by Jeffry Boatright

Most Young Eagle flights are conducted during rallies and fly ins, and a parent or guardian must sign the activity waiver before the youth may fly. According to Alan Rice, who serves as technical counselor for EAA 797, the Young Eagles Program is an important aspect of the organization, and there are tremendous opportunities awaiting today’s youth in the field of aviation. That is the primary reason that Wings Over Suwannee expanded its aviation education day on Friday, March 29, Rice explained.

This year’s event featured nine teaching stations for students, Rice said. Friday’s activities included various aspects of airport design and infrastructure, a rocket building station and aircraft robotics. For those students interested in pursuing a career in aviation, instructors were available to explain military aviation careers and other affordable flying strategies. A class in agriculture aviation was also offered to those in attendance. Rice stated that approximately 45, mostly home schooled students, took advantage of the opportunities offered throughout the day on Friday.

According to Rice, the agriculture aviation class was a big hit with students from Lafayette High School’s drone technology course attending. “Drones will revolutionize agriculture,” Rice predicted as he explained the various ways they are already used in the field of agriculture. Describing the use of agriculture drones as relatively inexpensive, Rice asserted that it is a viable approach to check crop and livestock conditions in otherwise difficult areas to examine.

There were displays appealing to everyone during the annual Wings Over Suwannee Aviation Festival. Hooked On Heroes is scheduled to take veterans fishing April 6, at the Sea Hag Marina in Steinhatchee. For more info call 386-288-4445.
-Photo by Jeffry Boatright

Drones will eventually be the primary method used in spraying crops, Rice further predicted. Many countries have already embraced the use of drones in spraying crops and trees. While drones were not on display during Saturday’s event, a number of remote control airplanes were on display. Those in attendance also enjoyed the PowerChute display and watched in amazement as local PowerChute pilots soared around beneath a parachute with a motor and propeller harnessed on their backs.

There was truly something for everyone to enjoy during the 2019 Wings Over Suwannee Aviation Festival.

While we must wait another year to enjoy what has been labeled as the “Crown Jewel of Suwanee County Aviation Festivals,” flying enthusiasts can still enjoy the monthly pancake breakfast on the third Saturday of each month. The next event will be April 20, from 8:30 a.m. until 10:30 a.m. The cost is only five dollars, and helps support the Young Eagles Program. For more information, please visit the EAA 797 online at

Aircraft of all shapes and sizes was on display throughout the weekend for the Fourth Annual Wings Over Suwannee Aviation Festival.
-Photo by Jeffry Boatright