This past Saturday, the Ramona Airport hosted its annual Open House, an admission-free event that allows the community to take a peek at the airport’s activities, both on the runways and behind the scenes.
The gates opened at 7 a.m., when a delicious pancake breakfast was served, and festivities, displays, and demonstrations lasted until 3 p.m.
Air Traffic Control Tower personnel provided guided tours of its facilities throughout the day as they guided aircraft of all shapes and sizes on and off the busy runway and landing pads.
CalFire, who has based its firefighting operations out of Ramona Airport since 1957, also opened its Air Attack Base to the crowds, showcasing its aircraft and equipment, and answering questions.
The Classic Rotors Museum, also free to visit, is an all-volunteer nonprofit venue—a building packed to the gills with helicopters whose designs are as varied and unique as Ramona. From some of the earliest chopper models to truly experimental machines, all were on display allowing onlookers an opportunity to get within arm’s reach of some incredible aircraft.
Terry Robinson of the Classic Rotors Museum was proud to highlight an H-21 Shawnee, affectionately known as “The Flying Banana.” Introduced in 1949 and retired in 1967, the tandem-rotor H-21 was commissioned by the US Army and Air Force as a multi-mission transport craft and saw service in the Vietnam War.
The H-21 was also the first helicopter to make a nonstop flight across the United States. Folks at Ramona’s Classic Rotors Museum are proud to say that their H-21 is the only operational model in the world today. With a maximum range of 550 miles, according to Robinson, the museum is commonly asked to fly its “Flying Banana” to air shows all across the Southwest.
Also on display outside the museum was an airplane that looked like it might have flown right off the pages of a sci-fi comic book. The DP1, designed by Tony DuPont and DuPont Aerospace, was donated to the museum and remains one of its most unique items.
Howard Northrup, a test director and a backup pilot of the DP1 project, explained the interesting history of the experimental craft. Known as a “proof of concept” project, the DP1 was originally designed in the late 1980s, officially funded in the late 1990s, and took its first flight in 2002. Designed with the capability to fly unmanned by remote, the DP1 was the world’s first turbofan powered vertical/short takeoff jet aircraft.
“Once you get off the ground,” Northrup said, “it’s just like any other jet.”
Lunch was available, provided by Los Amigos, and Smokey Bear was roaming around, bringing smiles to faces young and old. Tricked out trucks lined one runway, their chrome and custom paint glistening in the midday sun.
The U.S. Forest Service was on hand, providing information, showing off its equipment, and even letting kids fire up the sirens and talk over the microphone.
There were arts and crafts and drinks and snacks—fun for the whole family, without breaking the bank. Ramona Airport, the Classic Rotors Museum, forest service, CalFires, and all of the other participants in the open house rely on the support of the community, and they said they are appreciative of that support and proud to host such a great event each year.