Flying machines of all kinds were on display Saturday at Durango-La Plata County Airport as part of the second annual Aviation Celebration.
The eclectic makeup included drones, private planes, military aircraft and experimental craft, including ultra-light planes. There also were fast cars, flight demonstrations, heavy equipment for airport operations, live music, and food and drink.
The featured attraction of the day was the U.S. Army Golden Knights Parachute Jump Team, which performed areal tricks from 7,000 feet before landing safely on the ground. The group, which made two jumps Saturday, did it from a CH-47 Chinook helicopter rather than its usual fixed-wing plane because of an air-intake problem with the plane.
Aircraft serve many purposes – including recreational enjoyment, transportation for commuters, saving people from the high country and fighting wars – and the Aviation Celebration did a good job of showcasing all of those facets, said Mancos resident Chris Roach, who is a volunteer with the Civil Air Patrol.
“It’s a good representation of the breadth of the purpose-driven aircraft,” he said.
For spectators, it was a chance to get up close and personal with equipment and an industry that most people aren’t used to being around, he said. The event was held south of the airport terminal on the tarmac, an area that is usually off limits to the public.
Some of the flying contraptions stoked awe and curiosity; Roach said he is always mesmerized by the Chinook helicopter, which has two rotors.
“It looks like a rock with egg beaters,” he said, adding, “I’ve always been suspicious of things that fly backwards and sideways.”
Southwest Colorado is ideal for aviation in some respects but not so much in others. For example, the flying weather tends to be favorable, Roach said, but pilots should be certified for mountain flying, where the air is thin and wind direction can be erratic.
For Durango resident Frank Valen, it was his second year to attend the Aviation Celebration. Last year seemed to have more aircraft, he said, including an F-16 fighter jet, but it didn’t have the Army Golden Knights. (An F/A-18 Hornet happened to land at the airport during the event, but it didn’t appear to be involved with the celebration.)
He said it’s a nice end-of-summer event and a way to enjoy the outdoors and see equipment that most people will never get to see up close. He was there with his grandkids, Gabe Wyne, 10, Chris Wyne, 7, and Alex Wyne, 6.
“The kids love the emergency vehicles,” he said.
He hopes the event will continue and grow.
“This thing could be ridiculously huge if promoted a little more,” Valen said. “Whatever this community wanted to make of it, they could.”
Army Sgt. First Class Kevin Presgraves, who completed two parachute jumps Saturday, compared Durango’s fledging aviation show to his favorite hometown ma and pop diner. Sometimes, it’s just what the heart needs.
“I absolutely love this,” he said after signing an autograph for a boy. “We love the small shows. I love all the shows, but I really love the ma and pop shows.”