By ROGER SCHNEIDER
THE GOSHEN NEWS
The second edition of Rotors & Ribs will fill the sky June 29 with helicopters and fill bellies with barbecue.
The helicopter fly-in is expanding in scope and size and will be used to celebrate the 75th anniversary of the Goshen Municipal Airport and honor veterans. Indiana Helicopters, which is a helicopter charter service based at the airport, is the lead sponsor of the event.
Last year the informal fly-in drew 46 helicopters and their pilots and about 2,000 visitors who stopped at the airport to look over the rotary aircraft.
“This year if we could reach 60 helicopters, it would make Goshen the largest helicopter fly-in,” said airport manager Randy Sharkey. “We want to take Goshen and put it on the map.”
The event is free and open to the public. But Goshen-area residents shouldn’t expect to see anything like the Freedom Fest airshows held in the past, according to Sharkey. The slow economy killed those annual airshows, which drew more than 20,000 people.
“We feel what we are doing is a good substitution for the air show,” Sharkey said.
Instead of orchestrated airshow events, there will be helicopter pilots flying their machines into the airport from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. The pilots and public can enjoy barbecued ribs provided by Tony’s Restraurant of Findlay, Ohio and other food items provided by the 4-H Aerospace Club and other organizations.
Starting the day will be a 5K Runway Run. Registration will be at 7:30 a.m. and the run starts at 8. Cost will be $20. Online registration is available at www.FlyNewHorizons.com.
Helicopter flying is the focus of the fly-in, so there will be a free weather seminar for pilots at 11 a.m. and a safety seminar at 1 p.m. Also, 25 vendors will display items and services for helicopter pilots. Three helicopter manufacturers, Enstrom, Bell and Eurocopter will also have displays.
In one special event during the day, 12 veterans will be recognized by having them fly in two Vietnam War-era UH-1 Huey helicopters, according to Sharkey.
There will also be skydivers parachuting from a Sikorsky S-58T helicopter throughout the day.
For those wanting to go aloft helicopter rides will be available, including rides in an Army AH-1F Cobra attack helicopter. The Cobra pilot will also give a demonstration of the helicopter’s capabilities.
While the helicopters are whirling in and out of the airport, Mayor Allan Kauffman will be on hand to recognize how important the airport is to the community and its industries.
“We have always called it the gateway to Goshen,” said Denny Richmond, who chairs the city’s Board of Aviation Commissioners. “We have a lot of people who land here and never get into Goshen.”
The airport terminal features a conference room, which Richmond said is often used by local businesses to meet with executives from around the country who stop in for a quick conference.
“A lot of these people land in small FBOs (fixed based operations) all over the country and we get a lot of comments like ‘I can’t believe what we are seeing,’” Richmond said.
Over the past couple of decades the city government, through the Board of Aviation Commissioners, has worked at improving the airport. Many of the improvements have been funded by tapping into federal and state aviation funds. The runway has been extended to 6,050 feet, which allows larger jets to operate safely. New hangars have been constructed and the older ones have been kept in good shape.
The airport also has all-weather technology in place, allowing incoming pilots utilize electronic guide systems to find the runway.
Sharkey said one of the little know aspects of the airport’s operation is its expanding freight service.
“The airport has been more of a freight operation for local manufacturers,” Sharkey said. “Whether for shipping in just-on-time parts or shipping out just-on-time.”
According to a history of the airport compiled by Melvin I. Miller, the present airport was established in April 1924 by the Post Office Department to be used as an emergency landing field by airmail pilots flying from Cleveland to Chicago.
In 1927 the property was transferred to the Commerce Department, which opened the field to general use. In 1928 the first radio navigation system was added.
In 1929 the Commerce Department turned over the lease of the field to the Goshen American Legion for a year and the city assumed the lease after that and doubled the field’s acreage lease to 80.
In March 1938 the City Council purchased 280 acres for the airport.