May 24, 2018
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Astronaut to speak in Greenville at fly-in committee’s banquet

By Diana Bowley, BDN Staff

GREENVILLE, Maine — Astronaut Michael Lopez-Alegria, who set the record for the longest space mission of any American astronaut, will be guest speaker at the annual International Seaplane Fly-in banquet this coming weekend.

Lopez-Alegria, a veteran of three space shuttle missions and an international space station mission, will speak on his experiences during Saturday night’s banquet, according to Darralyn Gauvin, secretary of the fly-in committee.

Gauvin said it is hoped that Lopez-Alegria will be available earlier in the day at the Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife hangar, where most of the fly-in activities will be held, to talk to visitors and pilots.

“It really looks to me like we’re going to have a very good turnout; the interest seems to be a little higher,” Gauvin said of this year’s fly-in. “I’ve also noticed more local interest.”

The focus of the International Seaplane Fly-In is aviation education for participants and spectators alike, Gauvin said. The nonprofit fly-in association also provides a scholarship each year to a high school student planning aviation studies.

More than 100 people from throughout the country and Canada have registered, and more are expected to register before events begin on Thursday, Gauvin said. Last year, there were about 125 airplanes based at the Greenville Municipal Airport, and a similar number of seaplanes participated in the event, she said. Many pilots return each year for the camaraderie.

One New Jersey pilot told Gauvin in an e-mail last month: “Only death can make me miss it. After this year and this depressing economic downhill slide, if I have to, I’ll walk to Greenville.”

Believed to be the largest boost to the Moosehead Lake region’s economy, the fly-in drew an estimated 10,000 spectators last year, and that number is expected at this year’s event if the weather is good, Gauvin said. She said organizers eventually hope a study can be done to determine the full economic impact the annual event brings to the region.

Most of the lodging facilities are full and local restaurants fare well from the attraction, according to Gauvin.

Activities for the fly-in include a cruise on the steamship Katahdin on Thursday night, pilot contests on Saturday and Sunday morning, a large craft fair, public breakfasts on Saturday and Sunday, a steak and lobster cookout at the municipal airport on Friday, displays of unusual airplanes, and demonstrations at the hangar and at the municipal airport.

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