MOUNT VERNON — It is by happy coincidence that the annual National Reunion for owners and fans of historic WACO aircraft came to Mount Vernon. The event, first held in 1958 at South Dayton Airport, had several homes before settling down at Hamilton County’s Hogan Airport from 1970-1988. The county bought the Hogan facility after the 1988 reunion, and the new operators and National WACO Club founder Ray Brandly weren’t able to make a deal for 1989. That’s where Mount Vernon entered the picture.
Brandly, a World War II bomber pilot from Dayton, had a friend named Wayne Hayes who had moved from New Jersey to a home adjacent to Wynkoop Airport. Hayes was a WACO enthusiast and had set up shop in Mount Vernon to restore the popular single-engined aircraft. As current event organizer Doug Parsons explains it, Hayes arranged with Brian Wynkoop for the airport’s grass landing strip to accommodate a busy week of WACO comings and goings, and Hayes literally hosted the visitors in his backyard.
Much has changed since 1989. Brandly passed away in 1996, and Hayes moved away from Knox County. Brian Wynkoop bought Hayes’ home, which couldn’t be more convenient for the airport owner. Andy Heins and his brother Pete, who hail from the Dayton area, took over the reins of the club, and Parsons, from Carrollton, assumed primary responsibility for organization of the reunion.
Several local businesses sponsor the event, the Lions Club handles concessions, and Civil Air Patrol volunteers look after safety concerns. It is a national-caliber event, with local flavor and organizational experience that has been clicking during this week’s 53rd WACO Reunion, the 24th in a row held in Mount Vernon.
“Things have gone very smoothly,” Brian Wynkoop said as he awaited a large group of arrivals scheduled to fly in on Thursday afternoon. “My father and uncle started the airport. I was born in 1945 and was pretty much raised here. This is our busiest week of the year.” In fact, this week’s takeoffs and landings will roughly match a normal month for Wynkoop, with 200 to 300 liftoffs and touch downs expected.
Visiting pilots can readily zero in on Wynkoop Airport, known as 6-Gulf-4 to the Federal Aviation Administration, on GPS systems. On the ground, you’ll find it just south of Mount Vernon on Granville Road.
“When I started flying, we had to plot a course and all that,” Wynkoop said, “but now you just can plug in the coordinates.” An experienced pilot, Wynkoop flies a single-engine Cessna 170 that can’t quite match the vintage of WACOs, which were built from 1919 to 1947 in Troy, Ohio. It is nevertheless a notable private aviation workhorse that was built from 1948 to 1956.