Oakland County airport shows off at annual air show, open house

West Bloomfield Beacon | Published August 31, 2017

 Pictured is the view of the West Bloomfield area as seen from a T-6.

Pictured is the view of the West Bloomfield area as seen from a T-6.

WATERFORD — It’s hard to hide an airport, but Oakland County International Airport may be one of the county’s biggest hidden treasures, according to officials.

The airport held its annual open house and air show on Aug. 27.

“It’s a neat little gem that a lot of people don’t know about,” said Bill Mullan, OCIA media and communications officer. “That’s the point of the air show and open house: for the public to come out, learn about the airport and be pleasantly surprised by what they see when they get here.”

Over 50 planes were on display during the open house, along with fun for aviation lovers and newcomers.

“People bring their planes over, sit by them and answer questions,” said pilot Bob Redner. “Even with regular airplanes, people always have questions.”

Three acts wowed the crowd during the air show, which was extended from one hour to an hour and a half in 2016.

Michael Vankin, of Dacy Airshows, kept the audience on the edge of their seats as he did flips, tricks and aerobatics in his Extra 300 plane.

Greg Koontz and the Alabama Boys, a comedic aerobatic group, entertained guests with their aviation antics, complete with landing a Piper Cub plane on top of a moving truck.

The star of the air show was a race over land and air — a Ford F-450 with three jet engines blasted down the runway, engines roaring, racing against an Extra EA300, which was the winner.

Two World War II-era planes made their first-ever appearances at the open house, visiting the airport from Liberty Aviation Museum in Port Clinton, Ohio: a B-25 bomber, named “Georgie’s Gal,” and a Lake Erie Warbirds TBM Avenger, a dive bomber.

Those planes joined over 50 other aircraft on the ground, along with their owners, so guests could check them out and learn more. Visitors could even enter some of the planes to see their internal structures.

Open house guests could tour OCIA, the first-ever Leadership in Engineering and Environmental Design Gold certified general aviation terminal in the nation and the oldest airport in Michigan. The building uses geothermal and solar heating to heat the terminal and the water used in the building.

“We’re pretty proud of this terminal,” said Mullen.

Though the airport isn’t open to commercial traffic, it’s the second-busiest airport in the state, next to Detroit Metropolitan Airport, said Mullen. The airport sees mostly business traffic, as well as personal traffic from people with their own planes.

“We relieve commercial airports of a lot of their private and business needs,” said Mullan. “We see a lot of that.”

OCIA was the first airport in the country to be registered and certified by the government in 1928. In 1929, the airport hosted Michigan’s first-ever National Air Tour, sanctioned by none other than aviation pioneer Orville Wright.

“It not only has history, it has impact,” said Mullan. “We maintain a good relationship with the community nearby.”

Mullan said the airport accounts for $60 million in economic impact in Waterford Township. Though the airport is operated by Oakland County, it is not supported by the county’s general fund. OCIA relies on revenue made through the fixed-base operators and other fees associated with flying to and from the airport.