Even as local officials meet with the community to decide the fate of East Hampton Airport, a local pilots’ group is reviving its popular Just Plane Fun Day event on the airport’s field this Saturday, September 11 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. The East Hampton Aviation Association (EHAA)—which sponsors and organizes the family friendly day of flight-related fun—says their group is pleased to share the joys of aviation with the community, especially after being forced to cancel last year’s event due to concerns about the COVID-19 pandemic.
All kinds of aircraft will be on display, including antique biplanes, World War II warbirds, a classic Ford Tri-Motor airliner of the 1920s and a Cessna Citation private jet. Visits from Coast Guard and Air National Guard aircraft and the Suffolk County Police Department’s medevac helicopter are also expected. There also will be antique cars from a local collection, flybys, good food, art for kids to try, a raffle with aviation-related prizes such as sightseeing rides, and free parking nearby.
Food trucks will be on hand from Eat Me Drink Me, Noah’s on the Road, Around the Fire pizza, and Frostie’s ice cream.
“There’s a misimpression out there that the airport is for just one percent of the community,” explains Kathryn Slye, who spearheads the Just Plane Fun Day as vice president of the EHAA. “It’s not. It’s for everybody to come out and enjoy their local airport,” she adds, noting that she enjoyed air shows and events like this as a young girl.
Under pressure from some members of the community and the town board in the ongoing battle over noise complaints, the airport facility is currently facing possible shutdown after 80 years in East Hampton. A series of four in-person and virtual public sessions, two of each, to discuss the airport’s fate began today, September 9, and will continue through Monday September 20. Community members are encouraged to come and make their voices heard.
“This is not a political thing,” Slye says of Just Plane Fun Day. “It’s not about noise, it’s not about opening or closing the airport. This is about parents, kids and grandparents coming out and enjoying the airplanes, the art, the cars and an airport that has been part of the community since 1936.”
An attorney with her own firm in East Hampton, Slye, 50, says she grew up all over the world as an “Air Force brat.” Her father retired as a colonel and had three tours in Vietnam flying F4 Phantom fighter jets. When she was 13, in the mid-1980s, she told her dad that she wanted to be a jet pilot just like him. He had to break the bad news that the military didn’t take young women. That policy changed just a few years later, but Slye was already busy with college and law school, and then launching her law career.
It was only after her husband gave her flying lessons at East Hampton Airport that she revisited her dream, learning in a Cessna 172—”a bit less of a beast than an F4 but still a joy.” She now regularly flies a Super Decathlon taildragger.
“I fell in love with learning to fly,” Slye says. “It was everything I ever wanted it to be. There is nothing quite like the sense of freedom, the sense of peace you get the moment your wheels rotate off the runway and you feel that lift in the wings, and you’re seeing the world from a whole different perspective.”
In 2017, Slye helped guide the EHAA toward reviving the Just Plane Fun Day, dusting off the exciting event after a 10-year hiatus. About 1,800 visitors attended that year, with the numbers climbing to 2,300 by 2019. Now, after missing 2020, “We’re hoping this year will be our biggest yet,” Slye says.
Join the East Hampton Aviation Association’s Just Plane Fun Day this Saturday, September 11 from 10 a.m.–3 p.m. at the East Hampton Airport (200 Daniels Hole Road) in East Hampton. Learn more about the EHAA at hamptonflyers.com.