Fifth annual Wings-n-Wheels soars for crowd of thousands

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By William K. Alcorn


Ron Kocka of Mecca Township was one of thousands who took advantage of nearly perfect weather Sunday to attend the Wings-n-Wheels extravaganza at the Ernie Hall Aviation Museum.

The fifth annual event featured vintage aircraft buzzing the crowd while re-creating the dive-bombing sounds of World War II.

The museum is adjacent to SLOAS Airfield with a north-south, 3,000-foot runway just 4 miles west of Youngstown-Warren Regional Airport.

The planes were parked on the east side of the airfield, and row after row of more than 800 hot rods and classic cars, including Kocka’s 1953 Buick Super with a V-8 engine with 322 cubic inches of displacement and a Dynaflow automatic transmission, lined the west side of the airfield.

“You can sit here and see the world go by – people, cars and planes – overhead. This is one of the best shows around,” said Kocka, sitting by his car. He is an Air Force veteran and Niles RMI Titanium retiree.

Kocka’s comment is the kind that Bill Griffin, owner of the airfield, director of the Ernie Hall Aviation Museum and founder of Wings-n-Wheels, likes to hear.

“There is a lot to see and do. Where else can you see 100 planes and nearly 1,000 cars and bikes. I hope patrons leave saying that the $10 admission was well-spent,” said Griffin.

“People tell me this is the best show and the best-run show they’ve ever been to, and that they are already talking about coming back next year. That’s special to me,” Griffin said.

The proceeds are used to keep the museum going and to help Northeast Ohio Adoption Services and the Animal Welfare League of Trumbull County, he said.

Especially enjoying Wings-n-Wheels were Ron and Kathy Carroll of Austintown.

Ron, who was inducted into the Ernie Hall Aviation Museum Hall of Fame in 2015, has been a pilot examiner for 30 years. He gave Griffin and his son their pilot licenses. Kathy is a commercial pilot and flight instructor for single- and multi-engine planes.

Paul Orend of Bethel Lutheran Church in Boardman, attending Wings-n-Wheels for the second time, said he is impressed by the scope of the event.

Orend said his church sponsors an event with 60-70 bikes and cars as a fundraiser for the church youth group. “You need a good turnout,” he said.

”It’s a nice gathering, a nice meet-and-greet to talk to other plane people,” said Brett Betz of Aurora, who flew to Sunday’s Wings-n-Wheels event in his 1965 Cessna 210.

“It’s a wonderful show that has grown substantially since I was here two years ago,” Betz said.

A ceremony was conducted Sunday afternoon to honor Bethany Root, a Maplewood High School graduate, in which she was posthumously inducted into the Ernie Hall Aviation Museum Hall of Fame.

Root, 34, one of only three female crop dusters in the United States, and manager of the Amelia Earhart Memorial Airport in Atchison, Kan., died July 16 when a World War II P-51 Mustang, in which she was a passenger, crashed.

“That P-51 was coming to Sunday’s show,” said Griffin.

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