News and Opinion from Sisters, Oregon

Sisters set to celebrate 4th of July

The annual Sisters Eagle Airport Rumble on the Runway will take off Tuesday, July 4, starting with a pancake and sausage breakfast starting at 7 a.m. Rotary Club of Sisters will flap the jacks as vintage, experimental, and assorted aircraft land in the background.

As diners chow down in the cool of a hangar, all manner of cars and trucks will inch into their stalls. Most are for show waxed and polished to a glaring sheen. They will be as old as 80 or 90 years in some cases - classic roadsters, coupes, sedans and hot rods. Most will be American made models with a sprinkling of foreign entries.

This is about as Americana as you can get - with a uniquely Sisters brand on it. Machines that roar and defy gravity are a July 4 fixture here. It's a family affair that last year saw hundreds of young families line the runway. Add in empty-nesters, singles, tourists of all stripes, and some 2-3,000 attendees dipped in and out of the affair throughout the day.

This year looks to draw even more as the event's roots grow deeper. With a promising forecast of clear skies and temperatures in the 80s, fair weather will likely grow the crowds. More and more Sisters Country folk have deemed this the go-to event to honor America on her birthday.

There will be little variation on the theme. After all, it has worked for years now. There is one change. The event usually kicks off with a skydiver descending with a large American flag streaming as he falls gracefully to the runway to the blare of the national anthem from speakers placed around the tarmac.

"The only person licensed to freefall with a flag and flares in the area was in Madras, but has moved away," Julie Benson said.

Benson and her husband, Benny, own the airport, and are the promoters for the day's mix of events.

A search is underway for a replacement for the flag entry, but one may not be located in time.

"Of course we'll have lots of fun airplanes," Benson said.

That includes one she owns, an AirCam twin-engine, open-cockpit experimental amateur-built aircraft. The plane has exceptional flight characteristics with stunning low-speed handling. It takes off in less than 100 feet and lands in under 500 feet and is used mostly for aerial photography and surveying. It cruises whisper-quiet, just off idle, at the low- level sightseeing speed of only 55mph while burning as little as 3.5 gph of fuel.

There will be biplanes, gyrocopters, and a Pilatus PC12 made in Switzerland. It's a 10-place, high-performance, single-engine pressurized aircraft in service to ESI based at Eagle Airport. ESI specializes in design, construction, and operations for biogas utilization projects that collectively produce over 1 million MWh of renewable electricity and over 50 million gallons of renewable vehicle fuel per year and is one of Sisters largest employers.

Benson is most excited that this year's Rumble will feature a Chinook CH47. The Boeing CH-47 Chinook is a tandem rotor helicopter developed by American rotorcraft company Vertol and manufactured by Boeing Vertol. The Chinook is a heavy-lift helicopter that is among the heaviest lifting Western helicopters.

"The one landing here is a transport version flown by the Oregon National Guard as a troop carrier," she said.

The Chinook has a legendary military heritage dating to the Vietnam war. No doubt many a spectator at the Rumble will recognize its iconic design and legacy.

There's an opening 5K run and aerobatic rides for a price from Aero Works, plus discovery flights by Bend Aircraft, flight trainers. Most of the air activity takes place in the morning of the day-long event, which is free.

Always entertaining is the race between an incoming plane and a ground vehicle, typically a souped-up truck, as they blast down the runway, the plane mere feet above the truck.

Pilots from as many as five states are expected to fly in for the festivities. As morning fades and planes take off, the runway is converted to a drag strip. And the exhilaration and hilarity get ratcheted up.

Street cars and trucks, everyday vehicles, match up and tear down the runway, some reaching speeds topping 130 mph. Neighbor vs. neighbor. Dad vs. son. Buddy vs. buddy. Truck vs. car. Porsche against BMW. Mustang opposing Corvette. Pretty much no rules with lots of fanciful bragging and good-natured ripping.

For the first time, marking the event's 10th year, Rotary will regroup from breakfast for a brat lunch as fans work up a hunger with all that fun. It's also the airport's 90th year of operations.

Parking is a wrinkle and attendees are urged to take extreme caution crossing Locust Street (Camp Polk Road). Lt. Chad Davis of the Sisters Sheriff's station told The Nugget that his department has no plans to provide traffic control in the area.

Organizers are working on parking and a shuttle.


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