Two years ago, the Gaithersburg Airpark drew between 5,000 and 6,000 people to its 50th anniversary celebration.
This year’s celebration on Saturday will be smaller, but still tons of fun, said airpark operator Sandy Poe.
Visitors will be able to munch free burgers and hot dogs, participate in a paper airplane contest, take discounted rides, view some of the park’s aircraft and watch an air show by local pilots.
The Federal Aviation Administration will also be at the event, honoring Dick Goetze, a retired Air Force Major General, with its Wright Brothers Master Pilot Award, granted to pilots with more than 50 years of exemplary commercial flying.
Goetze has been flying for more than 62 years. He was a licensed pilot before he attended the Air Force Academy, he said.
Though he lives in Arlington, Va., Goetze prefers to fly out of Gaithersburg. “Physically, it’s probably the closest [to home],” he said. He started flying there “years and years ago” because it was where his cousins and friends used the airport themselves.
“It’s a fabulous place to fly in and out of,” he said.
Goetze co-owns Attorney General Aviation with Laytonsville native Bob Miller, a medical negligence and malpractice lawyer. The pair own two airplanes, (“like owning a car with my wife,” Goetze joked) one of which was already based at Gaithersburg Airpark.
“It was very fortuitous it was stationed out of Gaithersburg,” he said.
Keith Miller, executive director of the Montgomery County Revenue Authority, which owns the airport, said he hopes that the open house will help educate Gaithersburg residents about the park.
“There are lots of articles about the noise ... we want to give people the chance to see what’s really going on here.”
The airpark, which hosts two flight schools, also hosts several volunteer organizations, he said, like Veteran Airlift Command, Wounded Warriors, Pilots N Paws and Angel Flights, which transports rural patients who might not otherwise be able to travel to and from appointments.
Pilots also run other volunteer flights to transport organs, or to move rescued pets from shelters that can’t accommodate them.
“It saves a lot of lives, having the airport here,” Poe said.