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Annual fly-in hosts aircraft of all types
Flight center staff was on hand
Sawyer Waters, 8, of Gainesville and sister Sullivan, 5, look inside a Piper J-3 Cub Saturday during the 43rd Annual Cracker Fly-in at the Lee Gilmer Memorial Airport in Gainesville. - photo by SARA GUEVARA

When the sky is the limit, pilots put their passion in their craft — their aircraft.

Pilots flew in from all over the Southeast Saturday and flaunted the winged machines before judges at the 43rd Annual Cracker Fly-In at the Lee Gilmer Memorial Airport in Gainesville.

"It's a car show for airplanes," Cracker Fly-In coordinator Winn Fletcher said.

Despite bad weather early in the morning, 125 aircraft took to the sky to join the event and pancake breakfast put on by Experimental Aircraft Association Chapter 611.

Judges awarded trophies in several categories, including best warbird, best antique, best hand-built and best of show. A ladies choice award was given to a white Staggerwing Beach biplane, chosen simply for being the favorite of six young ladies.

Larry McIntire and his wife Janet of Marietta waited patiently for judging alongside their red and gold 1954 Cessna 195, aptly named "Miss Scarlet."

In previous years "Miss Scarlet" was named "best classic" and still boasts its original instrument panel.

Janet admitted she doesn't know how to land the plane, though, if anything were to happen.

"I learned to fly and every time we sat down to supper he was quizzing me," Janet said of her husband, smiling. "I finally said, ‘I'll be the wife, you be the pilot.'"

Flying is a family tradition for many of the pilots who attended Saturday's show.

Brandon Sorenson, 18, said he plans to follow in his father's contrail and get his pilot's license on Monday. Friend and pilot, Buck Roetman, teased Sorenson saying his family's passion for flight is a "birth defect."

Roetman flies a red and white, two-passenger Eagle, which he uses to perform stunts in airshows. He finished working on his airplane on the 100th anniversary of flight in 2003.

"I can't call it a hobby, it's more of a habit," Roetman said. "A habit is something you'd have to go to the doctor to get rid of."

For those who wanted to pick up the habit, Lanier Flight Center was on hand to talk with prospective pilots about flight training and owning an aircraft.

Brad Sasser, a member of EAA 611, spent a year and a half in flight training. When he graduated in 1998 he said he felt he was "free at last."

"When you can get in there and you're controlling your destiny and you can see the earth from above and see what God has created, it's just amazing," Sasser said.

For those who preferred a more immediate sense of awe, Sky Soldier and Jungle Air were there to give people the opportunity to see Gainesville from a bird's perspective in a 1936 WACO biplane and a Vietnam era Huey Helicopter.

Tanner Foreman, 6, and her mother Tina smiled as they landed in the helicopter.

"It was great," Tanner said. "I think I want to fly one when I grow up."


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