Aviation appreciation: Planes of all shapes and sizes attend airport event

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Flying a plane gives Lee Gilbert a different kind of perspective.

After all, the pilot is able to see the world from above.

On Saturday, Lee showcased his 1951 L21 Army plane acquired in the 1980s, and allowed guests to tour his craft.

The plane show Lee participated in was one of numerous activities on Saturday that were part of Aviation Awareness Day at University Park Airport.

“It gives me a different kind of perspective on how insignificant I am and how wonderful that is, and what a privilege that is to be up in the air with such a great vantage point,” Lee said.

The fifth annual event was hosted by the airport and Penn State at the General Aviation Terminal to educate guests on all things aviation. It was also a chance for Boy Scouts to receive their aviation badge for participation.

Ian Pettenati, of Troop 2221, was one of the Scouts in attendance.

He toured the airport, tower and some airplanes; studied aeronautical charts; and even helped launch gliders.

But watching the takeoff and landing of airplanes was his favorite, even though they were so loud, the 12-year-old had to cover his ears to muffle the noise.

Ian was one of about 70 Boy Scouts from central Pennsylvania who attended. And it put some, like Wyatt Pettenati, closer to Eagle Scout status.

“It was a good, fun day, and we learned so much, and were able to be hands-on with a lot of it,” Wyatt, 13, of Ashville, said. “There were a lot of cool things we don’t get to see every day. ... By doing things like this you can accumulate badges that are required to be an Eagle Scout.”

Event organizer Beth Lerew said in the four years the Boy Scouts have participated, about 150 badges were awarded.

With Boy Scouts from 10 troops, this year was their largest showing, Lerew said.

“We’re not only growing with the number of (Boy Scout) troops partaking in the event, but we see a lot of new faces who come out just to see what we’re offering,” Lerew said.

About 300 people were in attendance Saturday.

The event included airplane tours and shows, aviation career seminars, face painting and crafts for children, and a showing of a World War II T-6 Texan plane that flew in from Akron, N.Y.

“We were lucky to get that this year,” Lerew said. “When we bring in old warplanes, we usually see a lot of local veterans come by.”

About 25 private planes were also on display — most which were tenants of the airport.

And for pilots, it was a perfect day to fly.

“Everyone was reporting good conditions and it just turned out to be a nice day,” said Chris Grochel, who owns a 2000 A-1B Husky.

State College resident John Restivo’s F1 Rocket Aircraft was the last plane to land Saturday for the event.

And though a small plane, it had a big impact on guests, as groups of people lined gathered around the jet to see it.

Restivo’s craft was a yellow and purple custom painted two-seater plane.

He annually shows his craft to guests at Aviation Awareness Day events.

Other private planes on display included Cessnas and gyrocopters.

“Aviation is a niche industry, but we’re tight and love what we do,” Lerew said. “It’s the kind of community that is there for you.”