History buffs and aviation enthusiasts alike gathered at the Katama Airfield in Edgartown on Saturday afternoon for a chance to see restored World War II airplanes in action. The planes — two trainer aircraft and a transport plane — were flown in as a spinoff event to the Those Who Serve exhibit at the Martha’s Vineyard Museum.
“It’s important to show that exhibitions in museums come off the walls, that they’re alive. Some of them are living history,” said museum executive director David Nathans during an interview at the event.
The planes began to arrive at noon, each cruising once over the airfield to give attendees a good look before circling around to touch down on the grass runway. Pilots brought the aircraft back to park outside the hangar area, where past met future as the young children in attendance clustered around the planes to ask questions.
The vivid blue and yellow wings of Dave Fetherston’s 1941 Boeing Stearman drew many onlookers throughout the day. Mr. Fetherston, who is from Mansfield, bought his plane in 2004, marking the latest chapter in the Stearman’s long history. The aircraft was primarily used to train new pilots during World War II; following the war, it was put to use as a crop duster until being fully restored in 1990.
The many past lives of Mr. Fetherston’s Stearman underscore the idea that every plane, like every pilot, has a history all its own. In bringing the planes to the airfield for the public to see in person, these stories could come to life.
“People that love aviation talk about aviation all the time,” said Heather Robillard, also of Mansfield, who had flown in for the event with husband RenÃ© and daughter Maura in their 1947 Super Cruiser. The Robillards were among several Massachusetts-area pilots in attendance, and are regular visitors to the Katama Airfield.
Mrs. Robillard also noted the importance of the fly-ins for passing on the spirit of aviation to a new generation. “Unless you’re brought up with [flying], you might not be exposed to it except at events like these,” she said.
A more scaled-down spirit of aviation was on display at the Martha’s Vineyard Model Club’s booth, where local model builders had brought some of their handmade planes to exhibit at the event. Carl Watt of Edgartown, who has been creating models since Christmas of 1943 and often designs his own miniatures, pointed out that the construction of the small aircraft was sometimes as complex as that of their full-sized counterparts.
While the model builders were a hit at the airfield, however, the real powerhouses were the vintage planes.
“It’s a very exciting and emotional experience for some people,” said Mr. Nathans. “I think because we’re at war again — maybe not as big, but as emotionally engaging for many people — it reminds us of why we do those things. It reminds us that people do sacrifice for freedom.”
Mr. Fetherston echoed the sentiment as he explained why he had joined the ranks of modern-day aviators. “Freedom — that’s what flying is all about,” he said.