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The Texas Fly-In

October 11, 2008     9AM to 4PM
EAA Chapter Gathering in Kerrville, TX
An old style "grassroots" EAA event
Fly-Market – Fellowship – Lunch

Small Town Airport Holds Benefit Fly-In For Young Hope
Reporting from Liberty, Texas
TXAA Staff Reporter
June 4, 2008


Hope Flies! And so did almost a hundred airplanes, right in to the Liberty Municipal Airport in Liberty, Texas (T78) on Saturday, May 31, for the fly-in event to benefit a local family.


Hope's Family

Hope's Family


Faith and Hope Neault were born February 5, three and a half months early, to Texas DPS Trooper Jamie Neault and his wife, Catrina. Faith did not survive, and Hope weighed one pound at birth. Now after several surgeries, including open heart surgery, stomach surgery, and several blood transfusions, Baby Hope Neault is gaining weight (now weighing in at 5 lbs 12 oz.) at Texas Children’s Hospital, but meanwhile, her parents have endured hardship while caring for their toddler, Cassidy, and making daily trips to the hospital to be with Hope. The family has insurance, but out of pocket expenses are expected to be around $12,000.


BBQ & Airplanes - a good mix
BBQ & Airplanes - a good mix

The communities in Liberty County rallied round the idea of a fly-in benefit for the family. Liberty County Sheriff Greg Arthur and Liberty Fire Chief Fred Collins were the first to jump at the chance to be involved, offering assistance with cooking barbeque, and planning the event. KSHN Radio station owner Bill Buchanan wholly supported the event and news director, Tiffany York, contributed many long hours to the success of the fly-in.


A group of local pilots had been talking about hosting a fly-in. When the news came out about the Neault family’s situation, an idea came to TXAA member Linda Street-Ely: Why not hold our fly-in to benefit someone in need? It didn’t take long for the community to jump at the chance to help. The date, originally set for May 10, was moved when Linda received a call from a citizen who was involved in holding another benefit the same day, for a local citizen, Mr. Ainsworth. Joe Harrison requested on behalf of the VFW and the Ainsworth family that the fly-in benefit be moved to another date so that neither benefit would suffer. In return, he offered to donate three cases of whole chickens and lots of paper goods. The event was re-scheduled and Mr. Harrison not only came through with his promise, but he was accompanied by Mrs. Ainsworth, as she wanted to support the Neault family.


Cooking the chicken were teams from the San Jacinto High Rollers, Liberty Fire Department, Kenefick Smokers, and the Devers Fire Department, using a large pit borrowed from Hardin Fire Department.


Shade where you can find it
Shade where you can find it

Prosperity Bank, First Liberty National Bank, Liberty-Dayton GM Auto World, B.J. Ford, Liberty Dayton Chrysler, KSHN Radio 99.9 FM, Oilfield Welding & Fabrication, and Clawson’s Copy Shop were among the first to step up as sponsors, and Ken Wittekiend, Master Certified Flight Instructor and owner of ProMark Aviation from Burnet, Texas, was the first to offer an item for auction: two hours of tail wheel training in his Piper Super Cub.


Many donors and sponsors joined the ranks, and calls were coming in to KSHN radio with more offers of donations, and soon the list of “Thank-you’s” took up several poster boards along the fence. Sheriff Arthur and his assistant, Vita O’Reilly, were on hand long into Friday night helping to set up for the fly-in and spent all day Saturday, tending to such details as running back to the store for more food, and emptying trash barrels.


Boy Scouts from the Liberty-Dayton area stood for several hours serving chicken, sausage, beans, potato salad, and fixin’s. All food was donated, from Brookshire Brothers, Thrif-Tee Foods, Wal-Mart, and two individuals who insisted on purchasing 1,000 pounds of meat. Drinks, paper goods, cooking supplies and other extras were furnished at no charge by other businesses and individuals, including Youngblood’s Wholesale, Arlan Foster, and Joe Harrison.

Auctioneer Glenda Shannon donated her time for a live auction and when the initial count was turned in, approximately $13,000 was raised from selling lunch plates and auction items. Donations continue to come in from people who were out of town and unable to make the event. Helen Green, representing B.J. Vacuum Service had the top bid on an AKC-registered Labrador pup, donated by Brandy Miller, and Liberty County native Jed Keck sent in the high bid all the way from Seattle, to win the one hour aerobatic instruction donated by Harvey & Rihn Aviation of La Porte. Mr. Keck grew up in the area and was introduced to aviation at the age of twelve with a ride in an airplane at the Liberty Municipal Airport. Mr. Keck’s family did not have access to a lot of funds so his aviation career began modestly as he worked as a mechanic. After earning his A&P, he went on to earn commercial fixed wing and helicopter certificates and now flies for Microsoft co-founder, Paul Allen. Mr. Keck mailed in his donation with instructions that the aerobatic ride be donated to a youngster who wants to learn to fly, but does not have the means.

Liberty’s own Quilt Queen, Melissa Griffin, donated quilt squares for people to sign and will sew them all together for a memory quilt for baby Hope, kind of a larger-than-life well-wishes card.


Flown in were a fully restored 1947 Cessna 140 (tail dragger), a mint condition 50 year old 1958 Cessna 172, Two WW II Primary Trainer aircraft the PT-13 Stearman and a Fairchild PT-19 Cornell, a Bellanca Super Decathlon, Cessna 120, 1929 Pietenpol Air Camper, North American Navion, Kitfox, Avid Flyer, Steens Skybolt, a Life Flight helicopter, Piper Tomahawk, Beech Musketeer, a few Mooneys, Beech Bonanza, Bellanca Super Viking and several Vans RV kit-built aircraft which included Steve Johnson’s RV-6 as the first aircraft to arrive.

Liberty-Dayton Chrysler donated the use of a shuttle van and driver to get pilots from tie-downs on the west side to the event on the east side. Golf cars were donated by Liberty Golf Cars to shuttle people who parked a long way down the access road.


1947 Cessna 140 Flying Museum Piece

1947 Cessna 140
Flying Museum Piece


Boeing PT-17 Stearman & Crew

Boeing PT-17 Stearman & Crew


Steve Johnson conducted an organizational meeting of the brand new Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) Chapter, #1473, at Liberty prior to donning a bright orange vest and spending the day out in the sun directing aircraft to parking along with fellow EAA members Charlie Grabien, Chet Tims, Kaleb Brown, Linda Street-Ely and Mike Ely.

Airline pilot, Aileen Watkins and her friend, Vicki Croston, fellow Ninety-Nines, along with Watkins’ infant daughter flew the last aircraft to depart Liberty. They flew Ms. Croston’s Piper Warrior based out of Conroe Texas. After reading about the Neault family on the event’s web page (http://www.libertyairport.org/hopeflies), Captain Watkins was moved to tears, holding her own newborn daughter, saying, “How could I not come and support this!”

KSHN’s Bill Buchanan ran several radio spots promoting the event and broadcast live from the airport. Monday, after the event, the radio station ran a feature story on the results, calling it “phenomenal” and “great for the community.” An estimated turn-out of 80-100 airplanes and many local citizens made the event a success. Linda Street-Ely remarked, “Not bad for a 55 year old long neglected airport that just celebrated getting a port-a-potty last month!” Special thanks also went to Elliott’s Septic for bringing an additional twelve port-a-cans for the event.


Donations can still be made
to help the Neault family:


Hope Flies!
Prosperity Bank
Attn: Debbie Skarpa
520 Main Street
Liberty, TX 77575
(936) 336-5731


PT-19 Collier


PT-19 Collier



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