David Heath, from Winona, cleans bugs off his Navion after landing at the Natchez-Adams County Airport Sunday. Heath is one of several Navion pilots in town for the American Navion Society’s national convention. (Thomas Graning / The Natchez Democrat)
David Heath, from Winona, cleans bugs off his Navion after landing at the Natchez-Adams County Airport Sunday. Heath is one of several Navion pilots in town for the American Navion Society’s national convention. (Thomas Graning / The Natchez Democrat)

Pilots bring WWII era planes to area for Navion convention

Published 12:01am Monday, June 30, 2014

By Chase Ladner

The Natchez Democrat

NATCHEZ — A rare type of aircraft will zoom through the Miss-Lou skies this week, offering residents a chance to see some of the 500 World War II era airplanes that are still functioning.

Navion airplanes will be flying in the area this week for the American Navion Society’s national convention out of the Natchez-Adams County Airport.

The public is welcome to visit, airport director Clint Pomeroy said. The planes will be parked at the airport when not taking part in contests during the week.

Nearly 40 planes and pilots will be put to the test in three separate events, said Gary Rankin, president of the American Navion Society.

A group of planes sits on the runway at the airport after having landed throughout the weekend. At top right, the planes were originally built in the 1940s and only roughly 500 of the airplanes are still functioning. (Thomas Graning / The Natchez Democrat)
A group of planes sits on the runway at the airport after having landed throughout the weekend. At top right, the planes were originally built in the 1940s and only roughly 500 of the airplanes are still functioning. (Thomas Graning / The Natchez Democrat)

Tuesday is the speed event, where planes run a designated course as fast as possible.

Thursday is the efficiency event, where planes run a three-legged course with as little fuel as possible.

Friday is the proficiency event, which is a combination of the first two events. The planes try to get the fastest time using the least amount of fuel.

“Proficiency is the most difficult event,” said Dr. Rusty Herrington, vice-president of the Southern Navion Air Group. “I’ve won all the others, except proficiency.”

Rankin also said if the winds are low enough Monday there will be an informal balloon-popping event where pilots use their plane’s propellers to pop as many balloons as they fly around the field.

“It’s a group of friends, mostly,” Herrington said. “It’s having fun with my friends for a week.”

Pilots flew to Natchez in their own planes from all over North America, Rankin said.

North American Aviation decided to build an airplane for the civilian market on August 14, 1945, a week after America’s victory over Japan. Four months and 10 days later produced their first Navion so as to keep their engineers working until they were awarded another military contract, Herrington said.

The contract never came, and the Navion was produced in limited quantity. Production stopped in the 1970s, Rankin said.

Nearly 500 Navion planes are still functioning today, a fifth of the total amount produced, Rankin said.

“It’s kinda the Harley Davidson of airplanes,” Herrington said.