ALPENA - The 2012 Wings Over Alpena Air Show is Saturday, but people in northeastern Michigan can enjoy a unique experience with one of the planes before and after the marquee attraction. From Thursday through Sunday, a slate of public flights are available for those who wish to experience what it was like to commute in a Ford Tri-Motor plane, which was built in 1929.
There will be several different types of flights for people to choose from. There will be a sunrise tour of Thunder Bay, as well as a sunset ride in which passengers can take in the marvel of a Lake Huron sunset from the sky. There will also be shorter tours of Alpena available throughout the days. Experimental Aircraft Association-Chapter 1021 President Don Grabiel said the plane holds 11 people besides the pilot and even though the tri-motor is old, it is rare.
"There are only three or maybe five of these left in the world. They are very roomy and comfortable and were sort of the luxury liner of their time," Grabiel said. "They sort of ride like a tour bus and are very safe. They are a fairly passenger-friendly airplane."
One of the specialty flights will be a 10-15 minute tour of the City of Alpena and costs $80, or a person can reserve a place in the co-pilot seat for $125. The ride is $40 for children under 17 and free for kids five and under with a paid adult.
Friday and Sunday mornings there will be the "Sunrise on the Bay" tour, which will allow the passengers to enjoy a 45-minute flight of the Alpena area, and will include a bird's-eye view of the sunrise over the bay. The cost of the morning flight is $175 or book the entire plane for $1,500 for a private flight.
The final tour offered is the "Evening Cruise," which is similar to the sunrise tour, but will feature a sunset and will take place Thursday through Sunday at about 6 p.m. The cost of the flight is $175.
Tour Times & Cost
City Tours: $80
Thursday, 1:30 p.m.-6 p.m.
Friday, 7:45 a.m.-3:15 p.m. and 6 p.m.
Saturday, 1:25 p.m. and 6 p.m.
Sunday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m.
Sunrise on the Bay: $175
Friday and Sunday, 7:45 a.m.
Evening Cruise: $175
Thursday- Sunday, 6 p.m.
The Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center is looking forward to hosting Wings Over Alpena and wants to remind the community that while this event is open to the public, it is being held on a military installation. There are several items of importance that individuals need to keep in mind while attending the air show:
- Gates open at 8 a.m. on Saturday. No one will be granted access to the base prior to that time.
- No weapons of any kind will be permitted on the Alpena CRTC to include rifles, handguns, and pocket knives with locking blades. Concealed weapons permits are not valid on the Alpena CRTC. Any weapons found will be confiscated.
- All vehicles are subject to military search upon entering the base. All persons who wish to attend the air show will need to have proper identification available when requested. All individuals are subject to search before being admitted onto the base, while on the installation or if a situation warrants.
- No coolers, backpacks, bicycles, rollerblades, skateboards or outside food and beverages will be permitted. If these items are found, they will be confiscated.
- Baby care items such as strollers, diaper bags, formula and food will be authorized and are subject to search.
- There will be no smoking permitted on the flight line near any aircraft. Smoking will be allowed in designated areas only.
- With the exception of service animals, pets are not allowed on the base. Pets are not permitted to be left in vehicles while guests are attending the air show.
- There will not be an ATM at the event. Please plan accordingly and remember that not all vendors accept credit or debit cards.
- You are welcome to bring your own lawn chairs and blankets to sit on for observing the show. Cameras and video cameras are allowed.
Grabiel said these special offers are something extra special for Alpena and the Wings Over Alpena event because the city holds a special place in the heart of the plane's pilot.
"This is going to be a treat because the pilot Cody Welch grew up in Alpena and wanted to do something a little out of the ordinary," Grabiel said. "He sort of wanted to be able to wine and dine the people from where he grew up and offer a special experience and something for the citizens to remember."
These special tours are expected to be popular, and advanced reservations are recommended. To reserve a place on one of the tours, call Grabiel at 464-5348 or Phil Agius at 916-9282.
The Wings Over Alpena Airshow will be held at the Alpena Combat Readiness Training Center on Saturday. Gates open at 8 a.m., and flights will begin about 11 a.m.
Steve Schulwitz can be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 358-5689.