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Breakfast With A Purpose
By Ben Keirn, Contributing Editor & Photographer

Pilots love a good airport, good camaraderie, and, of course, a good meal. So it is little surprise that most fly-ins involve a meal of some sort, whether breakfast, lunch, or both...aka, brunch. The vast majority of pilots are typically on the lookout for a good hamburger, still called the "hundred-dollar hamburger," in spite of the fact that you're going to spend well over that just for the flight these days. Breakfast fly-ins, too, have their perennial favorites. And one of those favorites was the headliner of the recent Shrine Fly-in and fundraiser at Fort Wayne International Airport.

Whether you call them griddle cakes, hot cakes, pancakes, or flap jacks, the ubiquitous pan-fried syrup transporter is found at fly-ins all over the Midwest. And the folks at the Shrine breakfast know how to pump them out. With a turntable style cooker, two volunteers can keep the batter dropping, the spatulas flipping, and the pancakes stacking. The fine folks who came out, whether by car, plane, or helicopter, had no reason to go away hungry.

Several folks polishing off their brunch as the Shrine Bear, who can be seen out near the vehicles and aircraft, greets visitors young and old.

Perhaps you can tell by the ten-foot-tall, walking, inflatable bear, but this isn't just any fly-in. This is a breakfast with a purpose. The proceeds of the fly-in are donated to the Shriners Hospitals for Children. Each year folks gather at the Fort Wayne International Airport (KFWA) to have a good feed, see a few interesting aircraft, have some good conversations, and support the invaluable work of the Shriners hospitals. But the children weren't just the focus of the funds, they were the focus of the event. There were clowns making balloon animals, in addition to the aforementioned larger than life, walking balloon animal. There were also opportunities for the younger generations to sit in several aircraft cockpits and see what their futures might hold.

The Vans RV6 was a hive of activity, with many wee ones drawn to the bright paint. The low slung aircraft was, undoubtedly, more inviting than imposing to those of a smaller stature.
The Bell 206 on site was in immaculate shape. Doesn't look like they've ever hit a cable, let alone a bug, with this one.

As is proper, the aircraft were the center of attention. A civilian Jet Ranger, a medevac helicopter, and the RV6 made up the attractions on one side of the tarmac. The RV6 was a big draw for the littler folks, with sleek, sports car lines and a paint scheme to match. The owner was more than happy to help the prospective pilots into the cockpit and explain the various buttons, knobs, gages, and controls.

The easy entry of the rear clamshell makes this Eurocopter EC-635 helicopter a fantastic medical evacuation chopper.

The team standing by at the Lutheran Hospital helicopter had their share of visitors, and rightly so. The technology represented by the medevac helicopter is not just thrilling, it's also reassuring. Not to mention, the presence of a medical helicopter was very fitting. The purpose of the fundraiser was, after all, to raise support for the Shriners Hospitals. Their facilities, which are spread across the United States, provide much needed specialty care, such as burn treatments, cancer treatments, and orthopedic surgeries for children.

The T-28 Trojan on display was a beautiful example of the early jet fighter pilot trainer. This one has really been dolled up.
The business end of the trainer is a massive, Lycoming built, Wright R-1820 radial engine and three bladed constant speed prop. The spinner and fuel rail were glistening in the sun, thanks to a lot of elbow grease on someone's part.

The aircraft on display at the other side of the tarmac included a Piper Seneca that had flown in for breakfast and a T-28 Trojan. With the tricycle gear, this aircraft looks like an easy first step into the realm of warbird ownership. But you would probably find it easier to attain a tailwheel endorsement, than to meet the Michigan Warbirds' recommended prerequisites for training in the T-28. With systems designed to mimic early jet fighters, there is a lot to learn before you ever get to start the engine.

A Mustang at the fly-in...the ground-based version.
There was also very nearly an F-100...alright, it was a D-100. And rather than being a jet fighter, it was a pickup. But hey, it was a beauty, and it's only two letters off from being an F-100.

The Shriners event also brought out some interesting land transport. A beautiful Mustang was front and center, with its canopy slid back. Also on display was an old Dodge pickup, which has been spectacularly refurbished. The fire truck sitting next to the D-100 looked in pretty good shape itself. All in all, pretty impressive, since the red "grass rig" has been hanging around on this earth for the past forty-some years, and firetrucks aren't exactly coddled.

The Fort Wayne Shriners put on a great event, with several interesting sights and a marvelous meal. The airplanes that came in on the fly-in day included a Cessna 172, a Mooney M-20, a Piper Cherokee and, the rarer variant, Dakota, as well as a couple of Beechcraft Bonanzas. I couldn't imagine a better place to go for Sunday brunch after church than to the airport to get a fantastic meal, see some of my favorite forms of transportation, and help out some folks in need. So if you see that the Shriners in your area are advertising a fly-in on or on your local airport bulletin board, be sure to head out to the tarmac and enjoy a breakfast with a purpose.

By Ben Keirn, Contributing Editor & Photographer
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