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Spectators can get up close and personal with airplanes
Annual Cracker Fly-In lands Saturday in Gainesville
A Lockheed Electra 12-A taxis to a parking space July 7, 2012, after arriving at the Cracker Fly-In at Gainesville’s Lee Gilmer Memorial Airport. The plane is one of only eight such planes still flying and was featured in a film about the life of Amelia Earhart.

Originally called the Firecracker Fly-In as part of a Fourth of July celebration, the Experimental Aviation Association Chapter 611’s annual Cracker Fly-In event continues to celebrate the history of aircraft.

Now in its 45th year, the fly-in is from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. July 5 at Lee Gilmer Memorial Airport in Gainesville. Walk-ins are $3, but children younger than 12 and fly-in pilots may enter for free.

“It has been the Saturday after the Fourth (of July) for a while,” organizer Winn Fletcher said. “This year it just happens to be the fifth. So we have some mixed emotions about it being so close to Fourth of July because people complained when it was on the fourth because of family picnics and things.”

Each year, the summer spectacle draws a variety of airmen flying all types of crafts, from military helicopters to biplanes and more. Fletcher and the EAA chapter expect more than 135 aircraft in attendance.

“We’re going to have a Lockheed Electra 12-A come in, and it was in the movie ‘Amelia,’” Fletcher said. “We’re having the sky soldiers bring their Huey helicopter, and they’re also bringing a Cobra gunship helicopter which is a first for us.”

Spectators will be able to take rides in the helicopters and a four-passenger biplane for a fee with meeting pilots and learning about the other planes.

“It’s a great opportunity for the public to get out to the airport and get up-close and personal with the airplanes and pilots,” Fletcher said.

Pilots can enter their planes in the show contest, with awards given out at noon. Fire engines, police cars and ambulances will be available for children to explore along with many classic cars on show for those who prefer on-ground transportation.

Last year, the organization canceled the event for the first time in 40 years because of storms. Barring rain, however, this year’s event kicks off in traditional fashion in the early morning with a pancake breakfast for $5.

“People come from all around for pancakes,” Fletcher said. “I’ve had pilots come flying in and taxi down the runway real fast and hop out and ask ‘Am I too late for pancakes?’”

Family picnics are still welcome as people come out to admire the aircraft. Branch House Tavern will have lunch on hand for purchase.

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