BETHEL — Despite intermittent rain showers on Saturday at Bethel Regional Airport, the third annual Benefit Community Event attracted several aviation enthusiasts.
Local, qualified pilots provided scenic flights over the Bethel area for donations that benefit the airport.
In addition to fixed-wing planes, members of the local powered-parachute group displayed and flew their crafts, as well.
A handful of chutists flew to Rumford in the morning where someone who saw them fly in took them to McDonald's restaurant for coffee, pilot Randy Autrey of Bethel said.
On the flight back, he said they ran into rain 2 miles from the airport.
“It was awesome,” said Autrey, the airport's powered-parachute flight instructor.
“We got a little wet on the way back and we're drying the chutes out now,” he said.
By early afternoon, Autrey said, fixed-wing pilots had given aviation enthusiasts four or five scenic rides. Autrey flew one woman in his new Pegasus 4-stroke, two-seater powered parachute.
He said she was passing through town, saw him fly overhead, drove to the airport and asked for a flight.
The event was scheduled to be held on Oct. 15 to take advantage of peak foliage in Western Maine, but high winds pushed it to Saturday, when rain likely kept people away.
Still, those who came out could check out the cockpit of Christopher Merrill's 1952 silver and red Cessna and other planes parked on the tarmac in front of hangars.
The powered parachutes group was at the southwestern end of the airport, explaining their experimental craft to any who happened by.
Andover photographer and pilot Dirk MacKnight said he took up powered-parachute flying to augment his photography business.
“I like the bird's-eye view,” he said, working on the radio equipment of his 1999 Six Chuter.
“It's kind of fun to see this area from the air," he said. "It's beautiful on the ground, but it's quite beautiful from the air, as well.”
MacKnight said he enjoys flying powered parachutes because they travel at slow speeds with their snowmobile engines and are safe.
"Gone up yet?" he asked of a person standing nearby. "You ought to. It's safe."
Airspeed of powered parachutes varies depending on the weight in the craft.
"This particular one, because I'm small, and I have a pretty big chute on there, I think I'm the slowest one here," MacKnight said. "I probably go around 27 mph on a good day. I wasn't, coming back earlier from Rumford; I was doing more like 23."
He said he bought his Six Chuter "primarily because it can go low and slow."
He takes a lot of photographs from it, he said.
"It's perfect for that because with a Cessna or fixed-wing, anytime I had to go up, I was always going 150 mph and you can't position yourself where you need to be because you're going so fast," he said.
In his powered parachute, he said he can fly for an hour and do five hours of photography.
"For what I'm doing, looking at the scenery, it's perfect," MacKnight said.
Flying a chute also gets him close to bald eagles, another perk.
"The eagles fly with us around here, because we have so many eagles, you know," he said. "Sometimes you'll be flying and you'll look out and there's an eagle flying out 50 yards right along with you, so it's quite fun. I'm not sure what the deal is, but it's pretty exciting."
MacKnight likened that experience to being in a kayak on the ocean with dolphins swimming alongside.
“Swimming with the dolphins, yeah; we're flying with the eagles, so it's kind of fun,” he said.