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Midways annual fly-in slated for Saturday
Berg with one of two Aeronca planes
Steve Berg, a former Air Force pilot who owns Berg Park Aerodrome, poses with one of his two Aeronca planes. - photo by Courier file photo

The Grass Strip Foundation is hosting the fourth annual fly-in and open house from 9 a.m. - 4 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 19, at Berg Park Aerodrome in Midway.

Steve Berg, a former Air Force pilot, said the foundation is a nonprofit education and preservation foundation dedicated to preserving vintage, experimental and general aviation aircraft.

“The general public doesn’t realize the importance of aviation,” said Berg, explaining that most people think aviation mostly is for the military or passenger airlines. “They don’t realize that air freight moves fruit, vegetables and even livestock from one side of the world to the other. Those cargo planes carry a lot of stuff.”

Berg said he started flying a year after he graduated high school and received his Air Force wings and commission in 1960. He trained as an Air Force Cadet beginning at Lackland Air Force Base near San Antonio, Texas, then onto Bainbridge, Ga., for his primary in the Beechcraft T-34 and Cessna T-37.

He chuckled and said while he was training inGeorgia, he fell in love with the Peach State and Georgia women, which is why he came back.

After training in Bainbridge, he was sent to Reese Air Force Base in Lubbock, Texas, where he learned to fly the T-33. Ultimately, he was stationed in Wichita, Kan., where he learned to fly the B-47 Stratojet, a long-range strategic bomber with six jet engines.

“I may have flown the actual airplane that is at the (Mighty) 8th Air Force Museum (in Pooler) as it was stationed as a training aircraft while I was going through B-47 upgrading,” Berg said. “I will never know for sure.”

Berg said he is hoping for a good turnout for this year’s fly-in. He said attendance increased each year except last year, when Hurricane Sandy was offshore. Average attendance has been about 300, he said.

Although the gate to the grass strip airport opens at 9 a.m., Berg said the event really gets under way at
11 a.m. with the color guard and posting of the colors.

In addition to letting the crowds be wowed by the aircraft taking part in the fly-in, Berg said he hopes to attract more artists than came to previous fly-ins. He said he’s been an avid photographer since he was in the service and has won photography contests. Much of his work involves aircraft, but he also likes to focus his lens on nature, like a spider web or a close-up of a Magnolia blossom.

Berg conducted a tour of his airport facilities for the Courier on Tuesday morning. In addition to a drive onto the airstrip, he showed off a large beacon light and his two Aeronica single-engine planes. The 75-year-old just laughed when asked if he still flies. Then he lifted a small hatch at the front of one of his planes to take a look at the engine. Everything looked OK.

Berg said his aerodrome sits on 40 acres and includes a 2,400-foot grassy runway. He looked around in his hanger that contains his planes, various tools and equipment, and then across the grassy runway and the orange barrels that mark the left and right limits.

He sighed and smiled then said he had “pretty nice facilities” now, which he hoped to share with the public during Saturday’s fly-in.

He was pleased to point out that this year’s event has a real bathroom rather than portable toilets. A small trailer was donated to the airport, he said. On the back end of that trailer, Berg said he installed plumbing for a bathroom.

Berg said he still is looking for more corporate and individual sponsors for this year’s fly-in. He’s also inviting local arts and crafts vendors and classic-car owners. Sponsors, artisans and vendors are invited to take advantage of free booth space, he said.

For more information, call 884-8666 or 572-8688.

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