Skies were clear and blue on Saturday for the Durango-La Plata County Airport’s Aviation Celebration.
About 2,500 people passed through the gates to eat, enjoy music, watch a few planes take off and learn more about aviation.
“Too often, people just come here to hop on a plane,” Airport Director Kip Turner said. “But there’s so much more going on here.”
The airport used to host air shows years ago, so the airport began planning last year to reintroduce an annual aircraft celebration.
Officials are planning for an $85 million terminal expansion, but Turner said Saturday’s event was about the community.
“We want to get back to those full-fledged air shows,” Turner said.
Forty aircraft were on display, including Experimental Aircraft Association planes, an F-16 fighter jet from Aurora’s Buckley Air Force Base and a C-130 transport plane from Kirtland Air Force Base in Albuquerque. Many were open for families to climb inside.
Dan Bergman, a flight nurse with CareFlight, said the airport operates with two full medical crews for a helicopter and a fixed-wing aircraft. The helicopter can go straight to the scene of an emergency, while the fixed-wing comes in handy for longer transfers.
Medical crews were dispatched just last week for two rescues in the Weminuche Wilderness Area, Bergman said.
A huge aircraft wasn’t within Jim Jones’ means, so he built his own. Once he obtained a private pilot’s license, he bought a kit from a Kansas manufacturer in 1996 and had his Rans Airaile ready for flight four years later.
“It’s unique in that it uses a Suzuki motor engine,” Jones said of the compact aircraft. “Most have a Rotax engine, which costs over $10,000. I got mine for $2,000 from a junkyard.”
The Rans can cruise at 65 miles per hour and can fly for up to three hours. Jones has used it to sight-see around the Southwest.