Airport lifting off with Awareness Day
Flying the friendly skies.
Since the Sullivan County Airport opened for business in 1966, they have celebrated most every year with its Aviation Awareness Day. This year’s edition is scheduled from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Saturday.
“We try to do this every year to raise community awareness, help people realize this is their airport,” Sullivan County Airport Manager Ron Walker stressed. “A lot of people think (the airport) is for a specialized group, but it’s not.”
Featured attractions include airplane rides, demonstration flights of remote control model aircraft, old airplanes, static displays of airplanes and displays from colleges, civic groups and local organizations.
One local group participating, according to Walker, will be Sullivan High School’s Super High Mileage Team.
“They couldn’t have got the mileage they have without the use of the airport … doing all their tests and everything,” Walker said. “In national competition, they’ve won second and sixth place this year. That’s not just high school, it was against colleges, too. They will have a display also.”
Airplane rides are always a favorite for young, old and everyone else in between.
“We’ll be offering airplane rides on a donation basis,” Walker said. “The pilots donate their time and owners donate their aircraft. We’d like to see $15 a person to cover all the fuel expenses. We furnish the fuel, so that helps the airport offset that fuel expense.”
A huge appeal of this event is also the introduction to flight.
“A lot of people just come up to take airplane rides,” Walker noted. “Year before last, a family came and wanted grandma to take a ride … she’d never been in an airplane before. It was for her birthday present.
“She was just awed. She said ‘no wonder people just love to fly’, she was just taken aback so much.”
The star attraction lifts off at 4 p.m. with the aerobatic flight demonstration by Billy Werth, a regular participant in this event.
“Billy is a great guy,” Walker smiled. “He has some relations here out of Sullivan County … he grew up just outside of Terre Haute and graduated from Indiana State University.”
A fear this year is multiple events scheduled in the area — Corn Festival in Sullivan, Coal Festival in Dugger — will negatively impact crowds at the airshow.
“This year, I’m afraid, we’ll have more of a scaled back event unfortunately, because of all the other activities going on in the county,” Walker stated. “But we’re still looking for a good crowd to come up.”
Walker wouldn’t predict the number of attendees, but he remains hopeful of a big crowd.
“I’m so busy, I don’t count noses,” Walker laughed. “We’ve had, I would say, 300 or 400 people in years past. Some come and go (during the day).”
It was a quiet day at the airport on Monday, except for Walker and his staff mowing the grounds inside and outside the airport grounds. But the traffic will pick up this weekend.
“We’re not a high-density airport by any means,” Walker noted. “We’ll have generally three to five operations, maybe more, a day. Did have more jet traffic recently because we have one of the more economical jet fuel prices in the area. That’s encouraging people to drop in. That helps the county get more notoriety.
“I’m starting my fifth year now, and it’s almost consistent the first time somebody land’s out there and they get out of the plane and look around. Almost consistently you hear the remark, ‘Man, you have a pretty airport here’. We’re proud of that.”
Walker had a suggestion for people having difficulty deciding which events to attend this weekend.
“I know it’s a busy weekend but we’re encouraging people to take a few hours to come out and enjoy the airport,” Walker said. “Come out take a ride, come back in (town) and see the parade, then maybe come back out and watch Billy Werth.”
The airport is located northwest of Sullivan, about a mile north of SR 154 on CR 200N.