The Airport Appreciation Day at the Western Nebraska Regional Airport was a big hit Saturday.
Planes began arriving for the event shortly after 7 a.m. and continued to fly in through lunchtime.
Though official numbers were not available yet, organizers said the attendance was right on the mark and very well attended.
“You couldn’t ask for better than this,” said Darwin Skelton, airport director.
A crowd well over one hundred showed between 8 a.m. and 1 p.m. to view the airplanes and High Plains Auto Club parked on the tarmac.
Visitors enjoyed watching the flyovers and visiting with local and guest pilots and representatives from the local police, sheriff’s department, staff and crew from AirLink and AirMed helicopter and plane as well as Western Nebraska Regional Airport emergency vehicles.
A pilot, who made regular approaches to drop advertisement banners returning to retrieve a different one, captured the attention of the crowd throughout the morning.
Members of the Kiwanis Club served a pancake breakfast. Scheduled to serve lunch also, the volunteers made the switch to grilling burgers and hot dogs around 11:30 a.m. and said they sold out of the breakfast food items.
By mid-morning the hot sun shone down on the mass of people assembled to view the KC-135, many waited over 40 minutes for the opportunity for a walk through. The tarmac was the center of sustained activity beginning with the 9:15 a.m. arrival of various personal and military aircrafts including a WW II aircraft flying in for the event from Lincoln and jet refueling tanker flown in by Tyler Sandberg, who is a member of the Air National Guard.
Pilots had perfect conditions with a slight southerly breeze and clear skies.
The Panhandle Flyers and Experimental Aircraft Association members were on hand answering questions and sharing the benefits of joining aviation clubs and encouraging people to become pilots.
Local EAA Chapter 608 hosted the event inviting surrounding members to fly in to visit for the day.
Participation by the public is encouraged as the club hopes to continue to host the family event that brings families out to the airport. The club hopes the event brings increased interest in the aviation industry while strengthening community support of the airport and introducing youth to the field of aviation.
The highlight of Saturday’s event for many children who signed up for the free airplane rides was the 15-minute airplane ride.
Emotions ranged from excitement to anxious. Parents seemed to be more anxious than their children going on the short flight.
Although parental consent is required the parent must wait on the ground.
“I hope he’s going to be all right by himself. I am sure he will be fine, he’s a daredevil,” said a nervous dad, Kris Schlager. Five- year-old Jonathan Schlager seemed to be at home comfortably seated in the pedal push tiny tot plane.
As the morning events wrapped up the P-51 WW II vintage fighter plane which had flown in earlier prepared for takeoff amid the excitement of the crowd, it quickly become a glimmer in the sky, the sounds of the engines droning as the silver body of the aircraft disappeared out of sight.