Marathon Memories

marathon-memories-topThe Marathon Airport (MTH) was a stopping off point for the first-ever AirCam adventure flight in March 1999 when two AirCams and a Drifter flew from Sebring to Key West, Florida. The trio of airplanes dropped in to MTH to refuel and enjoy some conch chowder before flying on to the Keys. This past fall, Marathon Key was the final destination for an AirCam adventure.

While the rest of the United States suffered with miserable weather as storm systems crisscrossed the country, 20 Air Cam owners and enthusiasts enjoyed a weekend of beautiful weather on Marathon Key on November 14-16, 2014.

A total of five AirCams participated in the fly-in, with three AirCams departing from Sebring Regional Airport (KSEF) on Friday morning, including: Phil Lockwood and Robert Meyer, flying the factory demonstrator, N912LA; Sean Cushing and David Culler, flying Rafael Collado’s AirCam; and Bob Schaeberle and Richard Johnson flying Bob’s AirCam amphib.

After a stop at Everglade City for lunch and a fuel top off, the three AirCams continued on to Marathon Key. Once there, Mort Dunning, his wife Mary, and Mort’s AirCam from Tavernaero Park joined the group, as did Mike McLoad, his wife, Sylvia, and Mike’s AirCam. Mike recently completed his AirCam amphib. Meanwhile, Aaron Whitaker drove from the factory, bringing spare parts and other equipment that might be needed over the weekend.

Also joining the fun on Friday afternoon were: Matt and Mia Gilbert, of Vero Beach, Florida, Matt’s pilot, Kyle Rupert, and his friend, Erica VonBampus, all of whom took the opportunity to go on a demo flight with Robert, while the remaining AirCam pilots did some local flying.

Later on Friday afternoon, Lewis Jollett, flew in with Ron Owen and his wife, Nancy, in their Cessna 310 to join the festivities. Following drinks and dinner at the Tarpon Creek restaurant on the canal, the AirCam group retired for the night to their respective rooms at the Holiday Inn in Marathon.

Saturday morning dawned bright and beautiful. While there were opportunities to go snorkeling, kayaking, fishing, kite surfing, or visit Marathon’s Dolphin Research Center, the AirCam folks elected to enjoy the camaraderie of the group as well as some local flying to enjoy the beautiful sights of the Keys. Sean and David, both former Navy pilots, had the opportunity to visit the commander of the Key West Naval Air Station in Key West.

Robert offered more demo flights to those who had made reservations. Lewis was one of the first to take a Saturday demo flight, and that flight sealed the deal for him. Debating between whether he should build an AirCam or buy one already built, Lewis decided to buy a used AirCam. With his retirement imminent, he didn’t want to miss out on a minute of AirCam flying time.

In fact, Lewis, retired from United Airlines as a Boeing 777 captain, making his final flight from Los Angeles, California, to Sydney, Australia, in mid-December 2014. A graduate of the United States Air Force Test Pilot School, he flew F-16s in the service.

And Matt Gilbert officially joined the AirCam family during the weekend as well, purchasing an AirCam kit. Robert Meyer was able to satisfy Matt’s need to get to work ASAP on the kit by swapping delivery dates with another kit owner, and Robert now reports that Matt has made great headway on his kit and will likely be flying his AirCam within the next couple of months.

The Marathon AirCam adventure was a relaxing weekend of fun and camaraderie, fulfilling its mission completely.

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We departed SEF around noon on Thursday and flew low level after passing Lake Placid direct to Everglades City (X01). The weather and temperature couldn't have been any nicer, even the winds were pushing us. After landing at Everglades City, we were whisked away to City Seafood for lunch. We ordered cracked conch, stone crab, shrimp, grouper, and oysters. This trip was quickly becoming a seafood festival /AirCam fly-in! Finishing our waterfront dining we departed for the flight from Everglades City to Marathon.

From Everglade City, we followed the coastline, flying over the mangrove forests and thin strips of beaches. This area is part of the Everglades National Seashore. Our southerly course then took us over the waters of Florida Bay, which is part of the Gulf of Mexico, for about 40 minutes until we reached Marathon Key. Photos by Robert Meyer

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One of the many little islands that dot the Ten Thousand Islands area in the Everglades National Seashore. Note a group of kayakers are having a great adventure, too. Photo by Richard Johnson

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The line-up of five AirCams at the Marathon Airport; a nice mix of amphibs and landplanes.

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Left to right: Mia Gilbert, Erica Von Bampus, Kyle Rupert, and Matt Gilbert listen in as Louis Jollett gets a quick ground school less from Robert Meyer (opposite side of aircraft) in preparation of a demo flight.

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Mort Dunning and his AirCam, aptly named “Mort’s Magic Carpet.” Mort and his AirCam are based at the Marathon Airport.

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Louis warms up the Rotax engines as Robert prepares to get into the aircraft for their demo flight. After the flight, Louis was sold and decided to buy a used AirCam; he didn’t want to wait to begin his AirCam adventures.

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Mike McLoad’s recently completed amphibian is the subject of the conversation in this photo. Mike’s wife, Sylvia, standing on the float, visits with Mort Dunning, while Mike (wearing the blue visor) talks about his aircraft with David Culler, Bob Schaeberle, and Sean Cushing.