A yellow plane maneuvered through the sky with twists and turns as spectators looked on, snapping photos with their cameras or cell phones.
The aerobatic performance was one of two air shows Saturday during the Columbus Municipal Airport’s fourth annual Aviation Day that drew a crowd to the city’s airport, many of them families with young children, who looked on in awe.
Columbus resident Tim Porter came to Aviation Day for the first time with his wife Evy and their three sons, 1-year-old Ransom, 3-year-old Scotty and 5-year-old Evan. Porter said he’s always been interested in airplanes and hopes to obtain his license to fly someday. And he said the event was an opportunity to spend time together as a family.
It also allowed him to introduce his children to something new that they hadn’t seen before, he said.
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“It’s not often you get to bring kids close to a plane,” Porter said.
Visitors descended on the municipal airport’s runway, where they were able to see a variety of different aircraft up close while also getting a hands-on experience to see and touch helicopters such as the UA-60 Blackhawk that was brought to the event by the Indiana National Guard.
Sgt. Camillo Dickman, who is stationed in Shelbyville, said visitors could get a close-up look at the helicopter and many parents snapped photos of their kids who sat inside the Blackhawk.
The day-long event was also a celebration of the 75th anniversary of Bakalar Air Force base in Columbus and the 25th anniversary of the Atterbury-Bakalar Air Museum.
Aviation Day is an important event for the museum, which strives to preserve the history of the airbase, said Nick Firestone, board president.
Firestone also took a moment to take in his surroundings as he reflected what he was enjoying most.
“Seeing all the people and different types of aircraft and the airshow,” he said.
Columbus resident Heather Shireman also came to Aviation Day with her 3-year-old son Adam and said she wanted to show him different aspects of aviation since her husband is a pilot.
“We like the air show, too,” Shireman said.
The event also was on track to set a record number of attendees this year, said Brian Payne, airport director. He was pleased with the overall turnout just before noon, saying the annual event is not only meant to educate the public, but to inspire youths to consider aviation as a future career.
“It’s a great day,” Payne said. “We do it to get people excited about what we love.”
A car show, bounce houses and food also were part of the event, which featured 11 Model A cars brought in by members of the Model A Restorers Club that were parked outside the air museum.
Groups with different ties to aviation, including the Indianapolis chapter of the Tuskegee Airmen and Aviation Nation, also were available to answer questions from the public.
Aviation Nation is a local after-school program that gives high school students a chance to learn how to build an airplane.
Robert Kelly, who serves as the organization’s president, said Aviation Nation is about two years old and started in North Vernon and has since expanded to Columbus. High school students in San Antonio, Nashville and Omaha are also involved in building airplanes, Kelly said.
Kelly said the students’ involvement in Aviation Nation is meant to attract kids to aviation, and to also teach them the values of teamwork, craftmanship, leadership and pride, an acronym for personal responsibility in daily effort.
“That goes above and beyond aviation,” Kelly said. “We’re teaching a lot of life lessons.”
Students from Columbus North, Columbus East and Columbus Signature Academy — New Tech high schools are working on building what will eventually be a 70-foot aircraft as part of a two-year project that was showcased at one of the airport’s hangars. Kelly said he enjoys working with kids who might think they can’t build something such as an aircraft and seeing them grow as individuals.
“It’s fun,” Kelly said.
The Bartholomew County RC Fliers Club also used Aviation Day to exhibit their model airplanes, said Jeff Rauch, vice president of the organization.
“It’s an opportunity for us to give back to the community and let them know we’re available in the area,” Rauch said.
Columbus resident Larry Gann stopped in at the event to look at the aircraft and described himself as an “aviation buff.”
Aviation Day is something he tries to visit every year just to see the different types of aircraft brought out for the event, he said.
“Watching the gracefulness of those things fly is amazing,” Gann said.