Archive for Thursday, April 3, 2008

State-wide fly-in gets its start at Vinland Airport

April 3, 2008

An effort to celebrate Kansas' aviation history got its start Tuesday at the Vinland Airport.

"Vinland's a perfect location," said Ed Young, director of aviation for the Kansas Department of Transportation after helping cut a cake during the celebration. "Aviation is a $7 billion industry in the state, and this is a small airplane manufacturing company in a small town."

It was the kickoff to an event that celebrates decades of aviation advances. A tour will criss-cross the state during the next few weeks.

In 1928, Kansas Gov. Ben Paulen went to Wichita to launch a 25 aircraft tour across Kansas. During the next seven days, aircraft would touch down in airports across Kansas, celebrating the emerging aviation industry and forever cementing Kansas's reputation as the air capital of the world.

To commemorate the 80th anniversary of this historical event, KDOT is sponsoring this tour. But instead of starting in Wichita, as did the original tour, this one started at Vinland.

For the launch party, McFarlane Aviation provided a tour of the airport.

In addition to the tour, a variety of antique aircraft were expected to be displayed. Food and drink was also provided.

Star Novak, a member of the sales department at Macfarlane Aviation Products who helped organize the event, said the launch couldn't have gone better.

"The public had a very favorable response," Novak said. "The tours were a success and the people liked seeing the aircraft. Overall, it was a great day."

Novak estimated that between 20-25 people showed up for the day's festivities.

Novak said she hoped the launch party, especially the tour, would demonstrate the aviation industry's importance for small communities.

"This was a great opportunity to show public what we do and that the aviation industry is a thriving business here," Novak said.

Sheryl Kurtz, airport manager at Vinland Airport, played a major role in getting Vinland involved, responding early when KDOT announced its plans to launch the tour.

Kurtz said she thought having the event in Vinland would benefit the community.

"Hopefully, this publicity will remind people of Baldwin and get them to fly in more often," Kurtz said.

After leaving Vinland, the tour will go on to make stops at 26 other airports across Kansas, ending at Wichita on April 8.

To become a stop on the tour, airports had to send in an application to KDOT. Applicants were asked to list their reasons for wanting to participate in the tour.

Because Vinland is such a small airport, it was not eligible to be an official stop on the tour. However, Young, director of aviation at KDOT and the principal organizer of the tour, offered Vinland a role as the site of the launch party.

Young said he chose Vinland because of its eagerness to participate. It was one of the first airports to contact him about getting involved in the tour.

"Vinland does represent what airports were like in 1928," Young said. "They still have grass runways and there are just really hospitable people there."

KDOT decided to create the tour as a way of raising publicity for Kansas's aviation industry, which Young said has suffered from employment shortages since 1947. Young hopes the tour will help people consider careers in aviation, as well as increasing traffic at Kansas's small airports.

"This is a turning point where we decide if we want to nurture the industry or not," Young said. "We're trying to get people interested again and get people involved again."

Although most people think of Wichita, the birthplace of Boeing Company, as the aviation center of the state, there are actually more than 3,000 aviation-related businesses in the state, according to Young.

The aviation industry creates more than $7 billion a year, more per capita than any other state, making the aviation industry one of the biggest revenue generators in the state, second only to agriculture.

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