Though cold, windy weather affected turnout and performances for the Air Fair at the Salida Airport Harriet Alexander Field on Saturday, a few hundred aircraft enthusiasts came out anyway to enjoy viewing some unique aircraft.
The annual event was preceded by a pancake breakfast hosted by the local Knights of Columbus as a fundraiser.
One of the kickoff events was a skydiver, Rusty Watkins, who landed on the field, displaying an American flag, as The Star-Spangled Banner was played.
According to skydiving record-holder Lee Hunnicutt, it was his 6,666th skydive. He dedicated his jump to his father and both grandfathers, in honor of their military service.
While participants seemed to thoroughly enjoy the event, it was revealed that some of the planned events had to be canceled. Among those that had to cancel due to weather conditions at Front Range Airports include the air show by the Rocky Mountain Renegades team and the appearance of some of the vintage World War II aircraft.
Participants still got ‘up close’ to historic planes including a vintage “Bird Dog’ Cessna used for surveillance, and in combat for the U.S. Army and Marines in Korea.
The army green model was known as ‘The Jeep with Wing,” and also saw duty in Vietnam in observation missions, intelligence photography and occasionally, as a gunship.
The Bird Dog also saw extensive use by the Civil Air Patrol for many years.
The model on hand Saturday is owned by Phil and Ardie Phillips of Albuquerque, N.M. Phil flew the plane when he served in Vietnam.
Despite less than favorable weather conditions, one of the highlights was the appearance of the small French-built Fouga CM-170 Magister jet, a familiar presence at the airfield.
It made a close approach over the field before landing and drew the attention of dozens of people attending, to look over the sleek plane.
The Fouga CM-70 Magister jet has two turbojets capable of a maximum speed of 444 miles per hour, can fly as high at 36,000 feet and has a range of 575 miles.
The plane served in the French Air Force from 1962 to 1994. In the 1980s, France began retiring the venerable jet and private warbird collectors started buying them.
Today more than 50 are on on the registers in the U.S., New Zealand and England; only a few are flying still in France, due to restrictions on them being used as civilian aircraft.
Also on hand for public viewing was the Reach Air, Airbus H125 helicopter.
It is now stationed permanently at the Heart of the Rockies Regional Medical Center in Salida, with its own hangar and crew quarters on the hospital campus.
One of the newest Reach Air pilots, Brandon Sanchez, said the helicopter is a good machine, capable of flying at central mountain altitudes, with enough speed and lift for its designated role in medical transport.
The crew on board for trips will typically involve the pilot, a medic and a flight nurse.
Depending on wind and weight, a typical flight from Salida to Colorado Springs would be around a half-hour or 45 minutes (or longer) for transport to a facility in Denver, at a speed around 120 knots, Sanchez said.