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37th Annual Sentimental Journey Fly

Jun 09, 2023Jun 09, 2023

Jun 21, 2023

CALE BLAKELY/FOR THE EXPRESSCody Scott Smith poses with his PA-17 Vagabond airplane. The plane was owned by Smith’s great-grandfather, which he tracked down in a hangar in Michigan.

LOCK HAVEN — The 37th Annual Sentimental Journey Fly-in started out yesterday, and brought with it a slew of aviation enthusiasts, all connected by their love of soaring through the air.

For local residents like John R. Spencer III, the fly-in gives him a chance to give back to his community and work with his extended family. He’s been flying for 35 years and has been all over the U.S., visiting Florida, Missouri, the Carolinas and Ohio, to name a few.

“I started flying in 1988. I just hit the ground running with it and haven’t looked back,” said Spencer.

His entire life he’s been surrounded by aerial fanatics, with his mother being a stewardess and his dad a pilot. His extended family tells the same story, with his stepfather being the president of Sentimental Journey and a stepbrother working the Cheyenne series of airplanes for Piper. Although he’s flown solo for most of his life, he’s recently picked up a partner, Ronald Dremel, who happens to also be the president of the Piper Aviation Museum, making Spencer’s flying family deeply rooted in Lock Haven.

For Cody Scott Smith, flying gives him a chance to reconnect with his grandfather and great-grandfather, who were both private pilots. Smith is a commercial airline pilot for United Airlines and recently went on a search for a plane from his family’s past. His great-grandfather purchased a PA-17 Vagabond from Piper and flew solo in it before passing it onto his son for the same purpose. The plane ended up being sold in the 60s, leaving Smith’s family.

CALE BLAKELY/FOR THE EXPRESSSome of the planes already in attendance at the airfield are pictured.

Smith wanted to continue the tradition though and honor his grandfather by bringing it back home.

“Because he loved it, I grew up loving it,” said Smith. “We always talked about finding it and buying it back from them.”

He ended up putting a search out for the plane and found it covered up in the corner of a hangar in Michigan. The current owner wasn’t planning on using it anymore, so Smith made an offer and purchased it, flying the plane all the way back from Michigan to Pennsylvania. Although Smith’s grandfather passed away a few years ago, he knows that he’s making him proud flying in the same aircraft he did.

“It means the world to me to have it,” said Smith.

The Fly-In also brings in visitors from all over the country, with the Bradford family and their pilot, Aubrey Clark, coming in from North Carolina.

CALE BLAKELY/FOR THE EXPRESSSome of the planes already in attendance at the airfield are pictured.

Dee and Cynthia Bradford own the Bradford Field Airport in Huntersville, N.C., and have three generations of Bradfords fly in their Piper J-3 Cub, with Clark making it four.

The Bradfords needed a pilot and ended up meeting Clark through a chance encounter with one of her old coworkers. Dee Bradford went up with Audrey to see how well she flew, and was blown away at her ability with only three years of flying experience.

Since then, Clark has become an extension of the Bradford family, flying to shows around the country with the couple. She loves the feeling of being up in the air and has grown quite attached to the aircraft, becoming very adept at piloting it.

“You spend so much time in the thing, you start to get absorbed in it,” Clark said. “It’s a part of me, an extension of myself.”

The Bradfords and Aubrey Clark have no intention to stop their travels anytime soon, with a visit planned to Wisconsin coming up next for the trio.

More visitors are sure to arrive with the Fly-In only just beginning, so make sure to head down to the William T. Piper Memorial Airport and join in some of the festivities.

The Fly-In will be running from 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. now through Saturday with $12 daily passes for adults and $5 for children.

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