'This is a time machine': Magical machines: Wings, Wheels and Warbirds draws thousands


PITTSFIELD >> Larry "Lunch" Labriola is a pilot. He flies an L-39 Albatross jet.

He loves it, but his principal reason is more pragmatic more romantic.

"This is a time machine," he said from the cockpit of the L-39. "I can get from here to White Plains in 15 minutes and be sipping a drink within 30. I can get out to Nantucket in an hour and I don't have to deal with the ferry."

"Lunch" and his L-39 were pushed by about eight volunteers down one of the runways at the Pittsfield Airport on Saturday morning, away from about 150 spectators.

As he taxied down the runway, Lunch gave a quick thumbs up and the cockpit cover closed. Within 15 minutes, with a thunderous roar, the L-39 shot into the gray skies.

"That was amazing," an awestruck young man standing nearby said.

The Pittsfield Municipal Airport hosted the first Wings, Wheels and Warbirds show on Saturday afternoon. If the traffic was any indication, it was quite a success. Organizers estimated about 5,000 spectators attended the event throughout the day.

It seemed like more than that. Traffic was bumper-to-bumper most of the day. Even at 3:30 p.m., 90 minutes before the end of the event, cars were crawling into the airport.

There were various types of prop and jet airplanes of varying sizes. There was also a car show sponsored by the Pittsfield Piston Poppers to benefit Soldier On, as well as a motorcycle show. There was food and various types of vending booths. There was live music. It was a gray day, but the planes still flew.

And make no mistake. While the cars and motorcycles were certainly cool, it was the airplanes that brought in the business.

"It's a great event, a great family event," said Cliff Allen of Boston, a pilot who was a flight instructor at the airport several years ago. "I'm happy to be a part of it."

Allen flew into town in his Cirruss SR-22. The Cirruss is the only plane with a deployable parachute, according to Allen.

"So if all else goes wrong, there is a ripcord inside the cockpit you can pull, and the plane will float to the ground," said Allen.

This was, in part, an event for the kids. A few hundred yards away from Allen, Charles Rapkowitz, 6, his brother Henry, 8, and his step-brother Liam Conn, also 8, were literally jumping around in excitement as they inspected various planes.

"Well, I've never been in a plane, and I like planes," said Liam shyly.

"Henry thinks we can get a ride on a helicopter!" exclaimed Charles.

That was pretty much the end of the interview. They and their parents headed resolutely toward one of the helicopters.

No word on whether any of the boys got a ride, but 3-year-old Megan Kie — "I'm almost four!" — of West Stockbridge got to sit in the cockpit, according to her mom, Nancy.

"This is pretty amazing," admitted Nancy Kie. "You don't get to see planes up close like this. Megan got to sit in the cockpit of a helicopter."

Megan confirmed this with a shy nod.

"And I think she wanted to see if she could fly it," her mother laughed.

Megan confirmed that with a nod, as well.

But it would be unfair to leave out the car and motorcycle show. Robert Cisi of Long Island was visiting relatives in Chatham, N.Y., and decided to stop by with his wife.

Cisi is a vintage car buff. He directed a reporter to a 1939 Ford COE, a snub-nosed truck. COE, explained Cisi, means Cab Over Engine.

"It's an interesting look," he said, noting that the vehicle wasn't optimally aerodynamic.

"But it's just fun to see these old cars, and the owners all do a good job restoring them," he said.

Contact Derek Gentile at 413-496-6251.


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