This story was originally published in November 2007.
The dogs bark as I roll the bikes out of the garage into the cool morning air. The sun has not yet begun its slow climb into the eastern sky. It will be a chilly ride until the sun comes up, but I am happy that my Widder heated vest will keep me warm in the autumn air. I am up early to meet Wayne Sroyter, a photography friend who also rides a bright yellow Honda Gold Wing trike. We are up early this morning so we can attend the fly-in at the Ponca City Airport. Held the first Saturday of each month, rain or shine, this tradition has been going on for over 20 years. Started as a way to raise funds to pay for airport improvements, the fly-in has become a regional event, with pilots from all over Oklahoma and surrounding states dropping in for a warm breakfast and friendly companionship.
We decide to meet in Edmond at the I-35 and Edmond Road interchange. Although I normally avoid interstate travel, today time is critical since we don’t want to miss the start of the early morning event. A nice warm day will often see over 200 airplanes land at Ponca City for breakfast. Pilots and passengers arrive in all types of aircraft, from World War II fi ghters and bombers to vintage biplanes to home-builts and normal production aircraft. Airplanes begin arriving by 7:00 am and most have departed by 11:00 am. Visitors to the fl y-in are able to walk around and look at the planes, talk to the pilots, eat breakfast and enjoy a nice morning of riding, flying and fun. To see the action we needed to arrive around 8:00 am.
A quick run up I-35 to Tonkawa, then a right on Highway 177, takes us to the Conoco oil refi nery on the southeast corner of Ponca City. As we near the airport, we see small planes entering the airport traffi c pattern, heading downwind to land on Runway 17. An old Stearman biplane is followed by a bright yellow Piper Cub, while a v-tail Bonanza circles and waits for the slower planes to land. Turning north on Waverly Street, just north of the refinery, we roll into the airport and towards the Booster Club’s hanger at the north end of the airfield. We arrive in time to see a few dozen airplanes scattered around the ramp, and a line of people awaiting a breakfast of scrambled eggs, bacon, sausage, pancakes, fruit, and biscuits and gravy, with hot coffee and orange juice to wash it all down.
Wayne and I park the bikes near some old cars, including a 1965 Corvette Coupe that was still under restoration. A smattering of motorcycles rounds out the gathering, glistening in the early morning sun. Nobody can resist pulling out the camera at such a site. On this trip I am providing advice to Wayne on shooting for the magazine, so we wander around gathering photos of the event, trying to tell a story with our pictures. Once that is done, we wander inside to grab some breakfast and visit with old friends. Planes land and depart in the background, the noise welcomed by this aviation community.
On the ride home we decide to do some sightseeing. We head south out of Ponca City on Highway 177 towards Stillwater and Perry. Seeing a sign for Red Rock, and having heard about the proposed coal-fired power plant, we make a quick right turn to cruise through the tiny town. Not much there, so we continue west and then south to Perry, the wrestling capital of Oklahoma and the home of Ditch Witch. Although previous commitments do not allow us to explore this interesting downtown and courthouse, I vow to come back soon for a more in-depth visit.
With the luxury of time on our return, we are able to shun the interstate, turning south on Highway 77 and riding through Orlando, Muldrow and then Guthrie, one of my favorite turn-of-the-century towns. We part ways there and I roll into my driveway at noon, a nice morning ride completed with a good friend to an interesting destination.
To learn more about the Ponca City fly-in, Google “Ponca City Fly-In” and you will find lots of information. It is held the first Saturday of every month, rain or shine – but you want to pick a nice weather day to see the most airplanes. It is a great destination for early risers.