By Brett Nachtigall
HOT SPRINGS – It was an international affair at the Hot Springs Municipal Airport this past weekend as the fourth annual Badlands RV Fly-In played host to approximately 120 people, and 58 RV airplanes, from all corners of the United States as well as Canada.
Fly-In host Larry Vetterman of Hot Springs said this year’s event activities were designed to showcase Hot Springs’ local attractions with bus shuttles into town to such places as The Mammoth Site, along with organized meals at the Allen Ranch and Woolly’s Western Grill.
The four-day event – from Thursday, Sept. 6 through Sunday, Sept. 9 – also included an aerial tour of the Black Hills on Saturday where participants took off from Hot Springs and flew over Mt. Rushmore followed by a stop in Wall for an event hosted by the town’s mayor.
Unique to this particular fly-in is the fact that each of the pilots attending had built their own aircraft themselves from an “RV” kit. While the general design to each of the aircraft are very similar, pilots are able to choose different engines and propeller combinations and can personalize interior amenities.
Sizes also vary as an RV3 has a single seat, the RV4 has two seats – one behind the other – while an RV6 features seats side-by-side.
One such RV6 side-by-side plane attending the fly-in was flown to Hot Springs by Ken Asbe and his wife Julie, both from Clear Lake, Iowa. This was the Asbe’s first-ever trip to the Black Hills by air, despite coming here several times previously by motorcycle.
Both Ken and Julie said that there is nothing quite like the view of the area by airplane.
“You really get to see things from the air that you never get to see from the ground,” he said, adding that the quicker travel time is nice too. From their home in Iowa, they could typically make it to the Black Hills in about 10 hours, while the travel time by air was only about three hours. “And that was with a stop in Yankton, too,” Ken said.
Dick Gates of Naples, Fla., was also attending the Badlands RV Fly-In for the first-time ever. Now at the age of 70, Gates said he first learned to fly at the age of 63. The RV8 he flew to Hot Springs for the fly-in took him about 2 1/2 years to build he said.
One of the stars of this year’s fly-in was a 1949 Piper Super Cub, owned by Roger Meggers of Baker, Mont. With the serial number 1, the plane was the very-first Super Cub produced by the aircraft maker and has been completely disassembled and restored to its original form – right down to its Lockhaven Yellow and Hickory Brown paint job.
Meggers said he found and purchased the plane in 2010 from Kelly and Norman Coffelt from Bend, Oregon, who had owned the plane since 1966. Prior to the plane’s rediscovery 2 1/2 years ago, it was thought that the oldest Super Cub still in existence was one with the serial number of 4.
Since Meggers purchased and restored the plane, along with his son Darin, he has flown it to several air shows, and even won the “Grand Champion” award at this year’s show in Oshkosh, Wisc., known as the “world’s largest air show,” according to Meggers.