Cactus 66 March 2, 2024


Mother nature prevailed causing some restrictions for aircraft arriving from the West Coast but, in spite of this annual cool and wet phenomenon, the 66th annual Cactus Fly-in enjoyed attendance by 160 visiting aircraft and over 2000 non-flying patrons. At least 40 antique and classic aircraft appeared on the ramp for a glorious Arizona Saturday; wind was calm, temps in the low 70’s, clear blue sky. A very diverse collection of 35 rare cars filled the auto display area nestled between a suite of food vendors. The Civil Air Patrol provided information at their display on the flight line along with aircraft simulators positioned inside the airport terminal for aspiring pilots.  From the Casa Grande Chamber of Commerce six local businesses provided information relating to RV rentals, auto sales and service. Specialty food vendors were also on site. The Arizona Pilots’ Association displayed information on their mission for preserving general aviation across the state. The Christian Motorcycle Association assisted the Phoenix 99’s with aircraft parking and the Casa Grande Municipal Airport provided service from their fuel truck at reduced rates. Camping and RV parking options were reintroduced for “fly-in/Drive-in” patrons—a feature that is planned for future Cactus Fly-in’s.


The Fly-In was officially launched on Friday afternoon March 1st.  Early arrivals on Friday evening enjoyed the traditional Cactus Cocktail Hour hosted by the Classic Airplane Association of Arizona in the TCB hangar. Food and beverages were provided with lots of conviviality between old friends reunited after a six-month interval since the previous-September AAA fly-in at Blakesburg IA.

Saturday morning March 2nd saw a hornet’s nest of inbound traffic. A fleet of various aircraft including Stearman’s, PT-22’s, Fairchild’s, a Beech Staggerwing, a CJ-6, etc., descended on the field with many of these ships in “flat-pitch”. The City was awakened. The morning was glorious with clear blue skies and an emerald desert hue. The wind was minimal with landings on runway 23 “no sweat”. Aircraft parking was provided by the usual suspects under the guidance of Joel Sidell, Steve Hulland, the Phoenix 99’s and the Christian Motorcycle Association. Thanks to airport manager Dave Reffner and his staff (James, Marco and Mel) the ramp was wide-open to receive antique/classic aircraft and autos and to provide a convenient truck refueling service. The “Iron City” off-road vehicle business donated the use of two large ATV’s which served as transportation on the ramp for handicapped and for emergency medical staff. No incidents were reported but a lot of smiles were observed. The Pinal Lodge Masons and three food trucks were situated in the auto display area along with available seating for food service.

New to this year’s fly-in was the arrival of Keith Kossuth of Chino California flying his 1929 Travelair open cockpit biplane. Expectant riders were lined up all day Saturday and Sunday giving Keith and his beautiful aircraft a serious workout. Smiles and cheering were abundant on the ramp.

At 3:00pm Saturday March 2nd, in the nearby  TCB  hangar, a picnic lunch and happy hour was provided to all airplane owners. Central to this gala was the work of chef Naomi Friedrich aided by Jim Knapp, Margaret Borns, Marcy Taylor and Alicia Thompson. Seen in the crowd were many “old timer’s” to Antique aviation including Brent Taylor, Kent Pietsch, Jim and Anne Rezich, Curtis and Chrissy Clark, Ben Hawkins, David Erickson, Cliff VanVleet, Elden Iler, Marty Fleischhauer, Tom Snider, Carole Cooke, Mark Rebholz, Dave Sirota, Ted Miller, Bruce McElhoe, Tom Regier, Bill Lewallen, Julie White, Mike Evans, Pat McGarry, Tony Anger, Joe Griffith, Mark Rebholz, Carole Cooke, Jacob Hansen, and many, many more—too numerous to mention. The CAAA is deeply appreciative of the long-standing support of these folks and the vision that they have shown to introduce CAAA/Antique Aircraft to the next generation of pilots who visited the fly-in.

At 4:00pm on Saturday CAAA Director Dave Cheney counted the “Pilot’s Choice” and “People’s Choice” ballots for displayed aircraft entry’s. This year’s awards were gift certificates generously provided by Aircraft Spruce Company. Winners are, for Pilot’s Choice, the PT-22 flown by Tom Regier from Reedley California. People’s Choice was awarded to the Consolidated PB4Y-J aircraft maintained by Gosshawk aviation at the Casa Grande Municipal Airport. The traditional AAA Headquarters Award was presented by Brent Taylor to Bruce McElhoe for his immaculate Bearhawk also flown in from Reedley California. Longest-Distance-Traveled Award was presented to Jim and Anne Rezich for their excellent “resto-Ryan” having been brought (for the winter) from Rockford Illinois.

People’s Choice Award: Consolidated PB4Y-J

Pilot’s Choice Award:Tom Regier PT-22

AAA Headquarters Award: Bruce McElhoe Bearhawk

Longest Traveled Distance Award: Jim and Ann Rezich Ryan Navion

Future Look

Mark your calendars for March 1st 2025 when the CAAA will joyfully stage the 67th Cactus Fly-In at Casa Grande Municipal Airport. Expect more vendors, food trucks, on-airport RV parking and camping for pilots flying-in. CAAA directors are actively exercising ideas for guest speakers and an increasing base of “partners” to enhance the fly-in experience for aircraft and auto owners and for walk-in/drive-in patrons. Of course the Classic Airplane Association and the City of Casa Grande both look-forward to plane-owners, display-car owners, and drive-in patrons arriving for a day of fun and discovery.

Please visit the SPONSERS page to review the organizations that help make this Fly-In possible.