By Jeff Mattoon
If staffers at Front Range Airport (FTG) in Watkins, Colo., have their way, the 2007 Gathering of Mustangs and Legends will occur on its territory. Stallion 51 Corp., a P-51 Mustang flight operation based in Kissimmee, Fla., is planning the four-day event.
This first event was last held in Kissimmee in 1999, displaying some 65 P-51 Mustangs and hosting a dozen World War II flying aces. The goal for next year’s historic event, the “Final Roundup,” is 100 Mustangs and 50 aces—the largest gathering since WWII.
“The 2007 Gathering, besides being a wonderful and exciting event, will prove to be a huge economic tool for the region,” says Dennis Heap, Front Range director of aviation. “We could possibly accelerate our approved infrastructure improvements by five years.”
Heap, along with a squadron of support from Adams County Economic Development, the Federal Aviation Administration, the Adams County Sheriff’s Department, area banks, hotels, CDOT and a small gaggle of war heroes, just to name a few, pitched the idea of using Front Range to the event’s site selection team at a luncheon on March 8.
“Every turn with the selection committee seemed to bring an overwhelming positive response. They were clearly not used to having such a large community group represent an airport vying for one of these events,” beams Heap.
In his presentation, Heap pointed out significant reasons why FTG is the perfect location for the event. Those reasons included large, unobstructed land mass and full cooperation of the FAA, whose representatives at the luncheon said there would be absolutely no problem with this event being staged under the umbrella of DIA’s Class B airspace and that they would take care of everything. Heap also mentioned ample parking and shuttle service, as well as easy and abundant highway access.
Heap said that the spectacular Front Range view of the Rockies is certainly better than any of the views one might get in Columbus, Ohio, another location wrestling for the event. Besides Rickenbacker International Airport in Ohio, Jefferson County Airport is also being considered.
This is a wonderful possibility for the growing airport, but it almost got away.
“We had apparently received a letter from the event organizers, but it was misplaced. We then received a call from them asking if we wanted inclusion, and saying that we might have an ideal location for the event,” recalled Heap. “We’re very happy they called.”
The event is being called the “The Final Roundup” because of the aging group of pilots and crew who flew and maintained these historic aircraft, but it will likely not be the final Gathering of Mustangs. Front Range is eager to offer its facilities for an annual gathering. And why not? Organizers hope to draw some 50,000 people per day for the four-day event.
If Front Range is awarded the 2007 Gathering, they have experience under their belt. For the past two years, FTG hosted the Rocky Mountain EAA Regional Fly-In. Last year, the event drew some 450 aircraft and 13,000 attendees.
The site selection committee will announce their decision sometime this month.