CEDAR BLUFF, Va. — Hundreds of local residents came out for displays of aerial acrobatics, historic airplanes and a chance to ride in a helicopter at the Tazewell County Airport Saturday.
Airport Manager Jerry McReynolds said the 2013 Tazewell County Air Show brings aviation enthusiasts from several states and across the region together.
“We have pilots from Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Kentucky here,” McReynolds said. “The weather has been very favorably. We had a state aircraft from Virginia here.”
Jennifer Ball of Council, Va., came out with her family to the air show for the first time.
“Our children are really interested in planes and my husband wanted to take pictures,” she said. “It’s both fun and educational. We’ve gotten to meet a lot of the pilots and all have them have been interesting. The kids loved getting to sit in some of the planes.”
Michael Sotherland of Haysi, Va., — a pilot himself — came with his 3-year-old son.
“I really enjoy aviation,” Sotherland said. “I am training for my private pilot’s license and my son enjoys coming to the airport when I train. I thought he might enjoy the air show as well. We have been looking at all the different planes. This really exposes him to something new and will help make great memories for him. When he gets older, he will know more about the choices out there for him. He was very excited to get to see the plans up in the area and wants to fly them himself.”
Rebekah Roberts of Tazewell, Va., said her family enjoyed getting to see the different types of planes up close.
“We had wanted to come for years, but this is our first time we’ve actually made it out,” Roberts said. “We wanted to see all of the planes. It’s a good day out for the family. I think its good to show the kids new things. I could inspire them to choose a career path. It’s important to give them as many experiences as possible.”
Mike Helbert of Lebanon, Va., came out with his grandson.
“I’ve never been to the air show before and he’s never been,” he said. “He’s interested in airplanes, so I thought he would enjoy it. I think it’s a good activity for the kids. It’s something fun to do for just the two of us. We’ve been enjoying the Navy planes especially and the show itself.”
Tony Royal of Blacksburg, Va., brought his 1967 L-29 Delfin to the air show.
“I wanted to show it to people since most people haven’t seen this kind of aircraft,” he said. “It is Soviet built and when the Berlin Wall fell, the commanders of the base there sold off a lot of the war materials. There are very few of these planes on the east coast. This is a part of Cold War history. You get to be up close and personal, see it and touch it. It makes it real for people.”
Royal said he enjoys getting to educate people about the plane and talk with other pilots.
“It’s fun for me to meet people and quiz them about the plane,” he said. “Hopefully, this will inspire more people to fly. The kids love it and that’s one of the main reasons I bring it. It’s a good thing to show people our country’s history as well. These air shows bring the community together and show them what is out there.”
McReynolds said he feels the air show is an important way to introduce youngsters to flying.
“Sometimes, this is the only opportunity kids get to see an airplane or to ride in a helicopter,” he said. “You never know what will turn kids on to flying. You get kids interested in this when they are young and they are more likely to stick with it. We are hoping to do a lot more training here, especially with young people.”
McReynolds said the show also demonstrates the importance of having a local airport.
“Its amazing how many people how many people haven’t seen an airport,” he said. “This opens up the facility to them and shows them what the airport has to offer. The airport is the gateway to economic development and to the county itself.”