by LIZA MITCHELL
Automobile and aviation enthusiasts, start your engines. The Jacksonville Executive at Craig Airport (JAXEX) and the Experimental Aviation Association (EAA) are gearing up for the second annual Wings and Wheels event from 10 am to 4 pm on September 8. JAXEX is located at the corner of Atlantic Boulevard and St. Johns Bluff Road. Complete info is available at www.wingsnwheels2012.com.
The family-friendly event will feature a static aircraft display and car show, live entertainment, food vendors and children’s activities. “We called it Wings ‘n’ Wheels because we definitely wanted to have airplanes and an aviation-themed event, but we brought cars into it too, because we have a really huge car club population in Jacksonville. We definitely wanted to tap into that,” says James Moffitt, general aviation specialist at JAXEX. “It’s always a good event when you have a couple of different things that people enjoy. It helps to bring people out to the event.”
Airport Manager Tiffany Gillem says this year’s event is special because it commemorates 10 years of the Jacksonville Aviation Authority (JAA) operating as its own authority. “We had two goals coming into planning this event. One is that it is our anniversary for the authority, celebrating 10 years as an independent authority. Each airport has hosted an event, and this is our community event. We wanted to promote the use and the value of the airport to the community as well as provide opportunities for youth to get involved in general aviation.”
The inaugural Wings ‘n’ Wheels event was cohosted in 2010 by JAXEX and Chapter 193 of the EAA. That event drew approximately 4,000 people. This year, event organizers are expecting over 5,000 people to attend. Wings ‘n’ Wheels 2012 will feature classic muscle cars like the Chevy Corvette and Ford Mustang, antique models, hot rods, and exotic cars such as the Ferrari and Lamborghini. Over 40 types of aircraft will also be on display, from the Cessna 172, the most popular single-engine training aircraft, to the Vans RV home-built kit planes. “It usually takes three years, maybe more, to build this type of aircraft. It’s not something that you build over the weekend and go fly,” Moffitt says. “It takes many years of painstaking riveting and cutting and tooling to get the aircraft flying. They put a lot of heart and soul into these. They are very, very dedicated.”
Local flight instructors will offer a short flight around Jacksonville in a Cessna 172 for $30 per person. The high-wing plane seats four and is a perfect way to enjoy a panoramic view of the airport’s 1,342 acres, including two paved runways and its own air traffic control tower. “They will leave here and go west toward Downtown and do a big circle and land,” Moffitt says. “It’s a relatively inexpensive way to get into a small aircraft and go fly around.”
A portion of the proceeds from the event will benefit the EAA’s Young Eagles program, which was developed to help raise kids’ interest and awareness in aviation. The program offers free ground lessons, aircraft rides and scholarship opportunities. “That program helps to reach out to young children and get them excited about aviation,” Moffitt says. “It’s a really useful tool. They raise quite a bit of money to help out with that.”
The Beechcraft 1900, a twin turboprop aircraft with a 19-seat capacity that is used for corporate travel, will be on hand for people to board and learn firsthand what it would be like to travel in a corporate jet. Adamec Harley, one of the event sponsors, will also have a few of their cycles on display.
The Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department will sponsor a Kids Zone with fire trucks on display, bounce houses, face painting and the chance to use a real fire hose to put out a mock fire. Vendors, including Firehouse Subs, will have sandwiches, snack food and cold drinks that families can enjoy under the shade of a large pavilion tent. “People can get out of the sun, sit down and actually have a good meal on a Saturday afternoon and enjoy everything we have to offer,” Moffitt says.
JAXEX was originally named after Jacksonville native James Craig, a World War II naval aviator who lost his life aboard the USS Pennsylvania during the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. The airport previously served as a joint civil and military airport that housed an Army Aviation Support facility and National Guard helicopter units before they were relocated to Cecil Field.
The first U.S. Navy Blue Angels air show was staged at JAXEX on June 15, 1946. Today, JAXEX handles approximately 400-500 aircraft operations daily and maintains over 300 single- and multi-engine personal aircraft and small commuter planes.
Up, up and away
by LIZA MITCHELL