Aviation Day brings community to West Michigan Regional Airport

The crowds drove in and flew in for the annual Wings of Mercy CareAffaire, made even bigger with help from the West Michigan Regional Airport and community partners.

West Michigan Regional Airport and medical transport non-profit Wings of Mercy co-hosted the expanded event Saturday and titled it Aviation Day.

The day included the annual Wings of Mercy’s annual Runway 5K and fly-in CareAffaire pancake breakfast, as well as food trucks, flight experiences, and other family activities.

"There were a lot of great opportunities for kids to learn about aviation," says Grace Spelde, Managing Director of Wings of Mercy. "Partnering with West Michigan Regional Airport is wonderful, because they have that beautiful facility. It was a great community event and we hope to build on it in the future."
The EAA Young Eagles offered free flights to children during the WMRA/Wings of Mercy Aviation Day, Saturday, Aug. 20, 2022.Flight Path offered flight simulator experiences during Aviation Day at the West Michigan Regional Airport, Saturday, Aug. 20, 2022.Aviation technology old and new was on display during Aviation Day at West Michigan Regional Airport.
Wings of Mercy provides transportation to patients who are unable to fly commercially to long-distance medical appointments. Wings of Mercy is fully funded by charitable donations that go toward fuel expenses, with volunteer pilots and staff who coordinate the flights. To learn more about their mission and how to help, visit wingsofmercy.org/. The CareAffaire is the nonprofit’s largest annual fundraiser.

“Aviation Day is a part of our broader efforts to engage the community and provide educational opportunities that highlight the impact and benefits of aviation in the region,” WMRA Director Aaron Thelenwood says. 

In that same vein, West Michigan Regional Airport has also been hosting Food Truck Fridays this summer, featuring different food trucks on site each month.

“In some ways, Aviation Day was the first of its kind, but it really piggybacked off of an already established event, the CareAffaire,” says Amanda Davio, project administrator with the West Michigan Regional Airport Authority, which oversees the West Michigan Regional Airport. “This year we decided to take the opportunity to turn it into a bigger community event.”
Families could see aviation technology in action with several flyovers during Aviation Day at West Michigan Regional Airport.
The Hooligan Flight Team did several flyovers during Aviation Day at West Michigan Regional Airport, Saturday, Aug. 20, 2022.
The day brought together several aviation and education-related partners, such as local RC model airplane club Tulip City Air Force, Holland police and fire, the Polar Patrol, and the Vintage Car Club of Holland.

The EAA Young Eagles participated and the Hooligan Flight Team did several flyovers, and Flight Path offered flight simulator experiences throughout the day. 

“The coordinated effort brought out a super great crowd,” Davio says.
Aviation technology old and new was on display during Aviation Day at West Michigan Regional Airport.
Great Lakes Drone Co. showed off its search-and-rescue drone units as well as some coordinated flying with its performance drones.
Great Lakes Drone Co. showed off its search-and-rescue drone units as well as some coordinated flying with its performance drones.

The day also highlighted new aviation technology such as vertical takeoff/landing and electric planes.

Flight attendant and children’s book author Barbara Lynn Freedman had copies of her book, “Congratulations, First-Time Flyer!” available for purchase with all proceeds benefiting Wings of Mercy.
Aviation Day expanded on the annual Wings of Mercy CareAffaire event. West Michigan Regional Airport co-hosted a community aviation day at the facility, Saturday, Aug. 20, 2022.
“It was really cool to make connections with other parts of the Holland community as well — to be able to create those connections with the airport for upcoming events,” Davio says. “We’ve really been focusing on making the airport a community space. It is paid for with taxpayer dollars.”

Read more articles by Andrea Goodell.