By Ray Cober
The Rocky Mountain Metropolitan Airport (formerly Jeffco) hosted an open house on June 9. The everyday business of the various flight schools, charter and other general aviation activities of the field gave way to the exciting sights and sounds of thundering jets, roaring antique warbirds and colorful vendor stands.
“It was an exciting day,” said one volunteer. “We had perfect weather, the people were really nice, and it’s been great fun for us.”
While the main attractions were buzzing overhead, a variety of aviation and non-aviation businesses and organizations kept the crowd entertained on the ground. Classic cars joined classic planes, thanks to the Chassis Lassies, a car enthusiast club for women. The Ninety-Nines women pilot organization offered both breakfast and lunch, keeping the crowd well fed.
Familiar and famous favorites, such as P-51 Mustangs, a B-25 bomber and a TBM Avenger from the Commemorative Air Force shared ramp space with lesser-known workhorses like the CAF’s C-45 Expeditor, the military version of the Beech 18. More modern hardware included a former Swiss air force de Havilland Venom jet and a UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter from nearby Buckley Air Force Base and the Army National Guard.
Buckley also contributed a Colorado Air National Guard F-16 flight display. Although the supersonic front-line fighter put on an impressive aerobatic and resounding performance, it faced stiff competition from a simple, silent flyover, performed by one of the most awe-inspiring and fearsome weapons in the United States military arsenal: the B-2 stealth bomber.
As exciting and attention grabbing as the aerial events were, the ground vendors attracted their share of crowds, with everything from simple stands to full-blown demonstrations. Representatives from Redstone College and its Broomfield campus, along with Metropolitan State College of Denver and Casper College of Casper, Wyo., were present, promoting their aviation-related degrees. Redstone College offers degrees in avionics and aviation and claims to be the number one airframe and power plant technical school in the nation. Casper College, in partnership with Crosswind Aviation, Inc., offers a professional flight-training course, in addition to promoting 80 other majors. Metropolitan State College of Denver offers a number of aviation degrees and professional pilot and aviation management courses. Metro State also had an additional presence, with separate booths promoting both its Alpha Eta Rho aviation fraternity and the Flight Team, an organization of students who compete in flying competitions with other s
chools across the country.
“You get to see a variety of people and opportunities within the industry, and you get to see opportunities expanding,” Logan Huffman, Alpha Eta Rho president, said of his organization. “We’re members of a well-respected program at Metro and are a close-knit group. We’re glad interest in aviation is expanding.”
Something for everyone
Exhibits catering to the more casual enthusiast included Rocky Mountain Diecast, with well-stocked stores of souvenirs in the form of various die-cast and plastic cars and planes, as well as model kits, eagerly snatched up by children and adults alike. Wooden Models Unlimited also provided many souvenir opportunities, with its handmade mahogany models.
For those who’ve always wanted to experience the thrill of skydiving without having to leap out of a perfectly good airplane, SkyVenture Colorado handed out pamphlets and coupons, encouraging event attendees to try out their indoor vertical wind tunnel. SkyVenture is responsible for training skydiving teams from countries all over the world, including Moscow, Poland, South Africa and Australia, but its center can also be used for such events as birthday parties and corporate team-building.
The Specialty Tours & Travel exhibit reminded visitors that they can use aircraft to get to fun destinations. Attendees even had an opportunity to try out the Segway two-wheeled scooter, which keeps its balance through fluid state electronic gyroscopes, not unlike those found in the latest general aviation aircraft. Not only does the Segway offer mobility for people, but it’s also used as a means for transporting a large amount of weight. Capabilities, a Westminster-based company, showcased personal transportation scooters and various comfort products, such as seat cushions, back support and a necessity for many pilots, the TravelJohn.
Perhaps one of the most appreciated booths at the air show was the BeautiControl booth, demonstrating sunburn prevention and treatment and lube oil-busting soaps, along with other health care products. PartyLite’s booth attracted a crowd with its stockpile of pleasantly scented candles, and U.S Safety Professionals offered residential and commercial safety solutions. Even Tupperware had a presence at the event, with collapsible plastic tubs that would be at home in cramped general aviation aircraft everywhere.
All fun aside, the world of aviation also represents a serious means to help those in need. Booths featured two charitable organizations, LifeLine Pilots and Angel Flight, which provide free air transportation for those with medical needs. Both organizations are comprised of volunteers who donate their aircraft and time to ensure that patients get the treatment they need. Another volunteer group, Homefront Heroes, was on hand to bring attention to its program, which sends care packages to military families.
Farmers Insurance Group’s display promoted its child ID kit and the Missing Info on Lost Kids program. The Federal Aviation Administration Safety Team was represented among the vendors, promoting safety in aviation.
Exhibitors also included parts manufacturers, such as Fast Advanced Composite Technologies, which advertised its GA product line that included radomes and fairings made from carbon and Kevlar. Aero Propeller & Accessories, Inc., a related company, also showcased its line of aviation performance products.
Making dreams come true
Chances are that people—casual enthusiasts, active pilots or just along for the ride—attending the air show had dreams to fly at least once. Flight schools and other fixed base operators were on hand to help make those dreams come true. The airport’s own FBOs had a heavy presence, but flight schools from other airports were available as well, such as Key Lime Air and Associated Precision Aircraft and Flights, Inc., of Centennial Airport.
A Cessna authorized representative, Key Lime also offers charter and air cargo services, as well as piston aircraft service through Precision Aircraft and full flight training through Flights, Inc. Key Lime had a special offer available during the event: a free Trek mountain bike with the purchase of a new Cessna aircraft.
Specialty Flight Training, Inc. was another Cessna associate present at the event and perhaps the newest; its grand opening was on July 1. The new FBO plans to offer a full pilot’s shop with Jeppesen aviation supplies, as well as tail wheel and mountain flight training and computer-assisted testing services.
Journeys Aviation, another local FBO, opened its seven aircraft to the public, and instructors were available to answer questions. Its fleet includes a Diamond composite aircraft.
Another local FBO was Premier Helicopters, which offered flights in the Robinson R44 and had a number of smaller R22 helicopters on static display. Premier has an association with Utah Valley State College for its associate and bachelor’s aviation degrees; students can obtain course credit for the college from Premier. Premier is also working with Colorado Northwestern Community College.
Raffles were held for rides in New Attitude Aerobatics’ Pitts S-2B aerobatic biplane and Western Air Flight Academy’s advanced Cirrus aircraft. As flying is expensive and not without risk, financial and insurance groups, such as ING, Farmers and Aerospace Planning Group, a financial firm specifically addressing aviation, were available to give support to future and current pilots. The presence of Hertz car rental was a reminder that pilots may also need transportation away from the airport.
A pilot’s ultimate dream is perhaps aircraft ownership, and the class of light sport aircraft is making that dream closer to reality for many. Skyraider Aviation, Inc., of Erie, is Colorado’s only sport pilot flight training school. In addition, Skyraider also offers the SportStar SE LSA aircraft for training and rental. The aircraft offers such features as a 100-hp Rotax 912 engine, a Garmin 296 global positioning system and a composite propeller. The SportStar SE on display had logged 360 hours in the previous seven months, a testament to the growing popularity of the new aircraft category.
Fractional ownership is a fast-growing GA category. Sky Shares, LLC, offers various fractional ownership programs, including quarter and one-eighth shares of a brand new Beechcraft G36 Bonanza.
Historical and military displays are perhaps the biggest draw of any air show’s ground events. The Spirit of Flight Center of Lafayette touted its historical displays and aircraft restoration. The Civil Air Patrol was out in full force, with 30 uniformed members that included cadets volunteering and assisting during the event, along with a static display of a new Cessna 182 Skylane.
A sizeable pack of visitors surrounded a display by Colorado Kampfgruppe, a World War II reenactment organization. With members dressed in accurate German, British and American war regalia, its extensive military field tent display included authentic weaponry and copious amounts of information. According to one member, the group was asked to attend the event in commemoration of the recent D-Day anniversary and to carry out the group’s primary mission “to honor veterans, who, in many cases, cannot tell their stories.”
The warbird displays represented nearly all eras of air combat, from WWII to the present. Huge crowds gathered around the B-25, Martha Jean, a de Havilland Venom jet fighter, a MiG-17 and a Colorado Air National Guard F-16, all of which made flying displays. Another eye-catcher was CAF’s huge Grumman TBM Avenger and an accompanying C-45. Matt McNamara, the Avenger’s pilot, assisted excited enthusiasts as they climbed onto the plane’s wings for a look inside the cockpit.
“We’re an all volunteer group, and lots of blood, sweat, tears and money goes into this,” said McNamara.
The group flies aircraft representing all major conflicts from WWII to the present. The Avenger on hand, based at CAF’s Rocky Mountain Wing of Grand Junction, was, during its time, the largest aircraft designed for carrier operations. It easily dwarfed even the twin-engine C-45.
The C-45, based on the workhorse Beechcraft Model 18, was a navigational and multi-engine trainer, with a typical crew consisting of a pilot, instructor and three students. The aircraft on display was built in 1942 and was based at Selman Field in Monroe, La. Stan Peterson, leader of the CAF Mile High Wing, based at Platte Valley Airpark, proudly presented the extensive documentation and history of the aircraft. Inside was an interior worthy of any Learjet, a sign of its postwar use as an executive aircraft. Flanking the CAF display were a number of other historic aircraft, including a T-33 jet trainer, three P-51 Mustangs and the Army National Guard’s UH-60 Black Hawk helicopter display, which made an impressive low pass as it left the field after the day’s events.
The event was as busy as it was long. With the field crowded with interesting and engaging displays and even some unexpected gems, everyone found something interesting and fun—that is, whenever their faces weren’t turned skyward.