Ground Clutter

Sept. 17, 2008
Dreamin' On

I have seen not one, but two, wonderful dreams come true. Over Labor Day weekend I spoke for the Wild West Air Fest, a fly-in in Steamboat Springs, CO. The fly-in was great, but even more interesting was the community effort that made it possible.

Steamboat Springs is a beautiful town and ski resort. Tourism is important to the area, and perhaps that’s why they jump in together and work to make a fly-in a great success.

My boss for the weekend, Joe Birkinbine, ATP Financial Services, was the event coordinator. The Chamber of Commerce was a full participant, financially and otherwise. The newspaper, Steamboat Pilot and Today, ran stories — including a story on me, the guest speaker — and radio station KBCR interviewed me the day before the show. Joe Birkinbine’s partner provided my room in a fancy resort, and Steamboat Motors provided my car. The Steamboat Springs Auto Club arranged a fine display of vintage automobiles on the ramp; the radio controlled airplane group put on quite a demonstration; and airport manager Mel Baker made us all feel welcome. All in all, one got the idea that the entire town worked to make this event a great success.

And it was. Airplanes flew in from all over, airplane and helicopter rides were available, a great crowd showed up, and a good time was had by all.

One wonderful part of the event was a special area set up for kids’ events. This area was provided by Wings Over the Rockies Air and Space Museum of Denver. Kids and parents flocked in. Free toy gliders were provided, and rubber-band-powered rockets were put together on the spot and given to kids. One of the busiest kid activities was a row of table-mounted simulators kept busy all day long. Watching those kids fly was a joy to behold. Short of an actual airplane ride, I have never seen anything that did a better job of introducing kids to the joy of flight.

That was the first dream: an entire community promoting a local fly-in. The second dream was one of my own.

I have flown or ridden in fixed-wing aircraft, helicopters, pistons, turboprops, jet aircraft, gliders, parachutes, and the Goodyear blimp. But I had never flown in a hot air balloon. Joe Birkinbine made it possible. Joe arranged for me to fly with Ian Cox, Pegasus/Wild West Balloons. I was ecstatic and am still glowing. Ian has been operating commercially in Steamboat Springs since 1982 and is a real pro.

The flight was an absolute delight, thanks in no small part to the beautiful Colorado scenery, including wildlife (fox, cranes, deer) and a real volcano on the horizon. Ian expertly landed us within a mile of our departure point and provided a champagne toast to cap off a great experience.

All in all, a great weekend. I may never get over it.