To the skies
Squadron entertains crowd during Pocahontas Heritage Days
POCAHONTAS — Aerobatic aircraft filled the skies north of Pocahontas for a fast-moving finale to Pocahontas Heritage Days Sunday morning.
Stunt planes from the Vanguard Squadron, of Tea, South Dakota, were the special attraction, swooping through the air to the delight of the crowds following a fly-in pancake breakfast earlier at the airport.
“One thing unique about us is our team is powered by 100 percent ethanol,” said pilot Dave Myers. “We burn a little more gallons per hour. But the planes love it; they run smooth.”
In fact, it was through partnership with the Iowa Corn Grower’s Association that Pocahontas was able to book the team this weekend, said Pocahontas Airport Commission Chair Gary McCartan.
“They rotate areas throughout the state, through the Corn Grower’s association,” McCartan said. “It was the Pocahontas area’s turn to have access to them.”
Over the years the airport has done quite a few fly-in breakfasts, where anyone arriving by plane gets free pancakes, but not too many air shows.
“It ain’t easy,” McCartan said.
It takes about four or five months to get approved, he said. After submitting a heavy load of paperwork to the FAA, the commission had to wait.
“We didn’t know until Wednesday we’d be able to have this,” he said.
Myers and the rest of the team travel throughout the summer; this year they’ll put on about 10 shows, he said.
“All as a part-time hobby,” Myers said. “Steve Thompson is a flight instructor. Mark (Ketcham) is an aviation engineer. I’m a school counselor.”
The group practices once or twice a week, Myers said. It takes a pilot about a year and a half to get “spun up” to being a qualified stunt pilot, including FAA certification and other requirements.
“Safety is first,” he said. “We’re flying really close to each other.”
Kids and adults alike could come up afterward to see the home-built RV3 aerobatic planes, plus others that had flown in for the day — and one 1956 Bell helicopter.
The helicopter didn’t come far — it just flew from the hanger to the field at the Pocahontas airport, said Dennis Dahl. He’s owned the chopper for about 20 years.
Before he bought it, the bug-shaped rotorcraft had been all over the country.
“It spent a lot of time in California, and it was wrecked twice,” Dahl said. “That was before it went to Puerto Rico.”
Skylar Ahlrichs, 8, of Pocahontas, had one word for seeing the helicopter up close.
“Awesome,” Ahlrichs said.
He felt about the same way about the air show itself.
“Awesome,” he said.
Bill Ingwersen, of Laurens, heard about the show last-minute and came down with his family. Emilia Ingwersen, 5, loved seeing the show as well, but she was also interested in the working aircraft.
“We chase those ag planes around at home, and she really wants to see those close up,” Bill Ingwersen said.
A number of yellow crop dusters were indeed sitting on the grounds, just waiting to be looked at.
“The coolest thing is the little kids,” McCartan said. “Even the golf cart rides are thrilling to them.”
Will the town get another air show in a couple years for its 150th celebration? People have already been asking him, but McCartan said it’s not a sure thing. It takes a lot of work to put one together, and there has to be some way of funding it other than ticket sales.
“It’s difficult to charge for an airshow. You can sit a mile away and see it all,” he said. And as for the breakfast, “You could sell a truckload of pancakes and not make back a fraction.”
Introducing kids to the wonders of flying is important to him. As part of the Young Eagles Program, McCartan and his wife have given over 500 rides to children ages 8 through 18 in the last several years — often during one of the breakfast fly-ins.
“You tell them it’s small movements, just finger touch at the controls,” McCartan said. “The first time they touch the control and make the plane move, their eyes go wide.”