John Day will host the Oregon Air Tour 2004 on Monday, July 19, at the Grant County Regional Airport. The Air Tour is organized by the Oregon Antique and Classic Aircraft Club, and is held every other year as an opportunity for members to visit different parts of the state.

According to Tom Bedell of Philomath, former club president and current newsletter editor, the club last visited John Day in 1998.

"The first tour I was on was in 1986," says Bedell, "and we stopped in John Day that year. Then we were there in 1998."

It was the first overnight stop on the tour that year, and the club took part in the ceremonies taking place when Grant County took over operations at the airport.

"We haven't been to John Day for six years. But you've got an excellent airport there."

Bedell says that the Air Tours were first started in the early 1930s before World War II, then reinstated by the club in 1984. The idea was to promote general aviation and to do publicity for it, since airplanes weren't very common in the 1930s.

Bedell says that 38 planes have signed up to join the tour, although he isn't sure all will be taking part in every leg of the tour. Other stops in the tour include Ashland, Baker City, Pendleton, Packwood, Wash., Scappoose and Independence.

"The oldest plane is a 1938 Fairchild, it's all been restored, it's a beautiful plane," says Bedell. "It's owned by a fellow in Eugene. The newest plane is an amateur-built; it's called a Sonex. It's a two-place plane, all metal."

Other planes taking part in the tour include a pair of Luscombes, a Cessna 120, a 1949 Piper Clipper, a 1948 Piper Vagabond, a 1948 Stinson, a 1955 Cessna 170, two Beechcraft Bonanzas, a 1948 Aeronca Sedan, a pair of DeHavilland Chipmunks, a 1943 Aeronca L3, a 1946 Ercoupe, and a 1947 Piper Cub Cruiser. Some of the planes are homebuilt from kits, others are restored by their owners.

Most of the 160 members of the Oregon Antique & Classic Aircraft Club live in Oregon, although some live in Washington and California.

"It was started in 1980, and our primary purpose is to preserve and fly older aircraft, not just for static display," says Bedell, "and to support general aviation and the history behind it."

All participants in the tour are members of the club, and some join the club just to take part in the tour. They will be spending Monday night in John Day, and departing for Baker City and a tour of the Oregon Trail Interpretive Center on Tuesday morning.

The aircraft in the Air Tour will be departing Lakeview on Monday morning, and most will arrive in John Day by noon, although some of the slower aircraft won't arrive until later in the afternoon. Bedell states that the best time for visitors to view the planes is later in the afternoon, after all tour participants have arrived. The planes will be tied down and the pilots and their passengers will be available to meet with visitors.

For more information, you can contact the Grant County Regional Airport at (541) 575-1151.

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