World of aircraft

SOUTH GLENDALE — Brand Boulevard will turn into an open-air hangar filled with planes, helicopters and other aircraft for one day next summer.

Glendale-based nonprofit Friends of Aviation, which will organize the event, works as an umbrella for charities such as Angel Flights — whose volunteer pilots fly cancer patients to treatments — and Challenge Air, which arranges flights to lift the spirits of terminally ill children and their parents.

A pilot since his youth, Friends of Aviation President Nick Rahkonen said he founded the nonprofit to "let people know what aviation is all about."

"We realized that pilots and aviation people tend to get sectioned off from the rest of society," he said.

With fundraising especially difficult in the current economy, nonprofit officials dreamed up a flight festival as the ideal way to generate awareness and cash.

The nonprofit had hoped to hold the air festival this summer, but postponed the event in light of logistical concerns.

On Saturday, the Glendale Downtown Merchants Assn. hosted a fundraiser at Palate Food and Wine on Brand Boulevard to help raise funds for the event, which is slated for Aug. 13.

"We really thought the idea was fantastic," said association President Helen McDonagh. "We're all for bringing events to downtown Glendale."

Glendale — which once served as the location of the Grand Central Airport — has a rich aviation history, she said, which makes it the perfect site for the flight festival.

On Saturday, a brightly colored personal helicopter stood out against the restaurant's drab parking lot during the event.

The "mosquito" helicopter served as a sneak peek of aircraft that will be on display at next summer's festival, Rahkonen said.

Saturday's event also served as a kickoff of McDonagh's one-year term as president of the Glendale Downtown Merchants Assn.

In the next year, the organization hopes to bring more people to downtown Glendale through a variety of events, she said.

"If people don't come, they won't know what's here," she said.

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