Hobbs News Sun

Aircraft: big, small and parachute-powered

They were all on display Saturday along with the Lea Regional Airport itself

Dorothy N. Fowler

News-Sun

At 8:15 a.m. a steady stream of cars, pickups and a vendor trailer or two traveled the Carlsbad Highway out of Hobbs, headed in the direction of the Lea County Regional Airport.

If the drivers of the cars expected to see planes fly in, land and fly out again, they were disappointed. Planes on display already were parked along both sides of the runway, most in bright sunshine that was beginning to heat the metal on the outer skin and on the controls that collected heat coming through windscreens.

Many people made their first stop the hangar where local businesses and a few government agencies set up shop to greet visitors and hand out goodies to put in the yellow and red bags distributed by New Mexico Aviation, which sponsored the Aviation Day and Fly-in.

Lyn Edwards, who works for Lea County, said the fly in is a way to let people know about the airport and about the flights that go in and out of it. 

Volunteer Bill Sonnamaker agreed. 

“This is a good way to get people out to the airport and it’s also a good way to get people into Hobbs to see what a great place it is,” he said.

Aircraft at the show leaned toward small planes, some that can carry only the pilot, some that can carry one passenger, usually beside the pilot, and some that might carry two passengers in a back seat.

As interested as people were in the small planes, it was at the big plane, the 50 passenger jet operated by United Airlines, where people lined up for a chance to go inside. 

Entry was by old fashion stairs leading from tarmac to plane door, the kind of entry and exit that can be seen in black and white movies made long before planes taxied to the terminal and locked onto a tunnel that extends from the plane to the building. Stair leading to the plane door are the kind of entry and exit that candidates running for office use to greet potential voters when they make what used to be called “whistle stops.”

Liza Elizonet, who is a representative for United in Hobbs, greeted visitors at the bottom of the stairs, handing out information about the service available from Lea Regional Airport.

“I love to fly,” she said. “And I really love this airplane because it’s smaller and you can get acquainted with the people on it.”

Mickey Bible, a Carlsbad resident, was not as interested in the big plane as he was the small planes. 

“I’ve been flying all my life,” he said. “But I lost my medical and I just got it back and I want to be flying again. I’ve flown nearly every kind of airplane out here. You just have a great sense of peace when you’re flying. It’s a hobby and it’s a passion.”

State representative Larry Scott proudly showed off the plane he built from a kit. 

“When they deliver it to you, it’s in sheets of metal. Most are just straight pieces and some are already molded. It took me nine years to build. It’s been as far as Oshkosh, Wisconsin,” he said. 

Scott did not grow up flying, but discovered its advantages after his parents moved to a retirement community in Kerrville, Texas.

“There was a runway just a few hundred feet from their home and when I compared the time it took to drive to Kerrville with the time it would take to fly to that runway, I came back to Hobbs and signed up for flying lessons and I’ve been flying ever since.”

Ritchy Richards and his three-year old son Raylan examined small planes as they walked down the west side of the runway. Raylan did not seem to be very impressed until his dad set him on the wing of a plane and stood beside him for a picture-taking session.

When Raylan was on the tarmac again, he launched into a description of how the wheels and propeller go round and round and how he will fly the plane someday, His description was accompanied by expansive hand gestures.

Congressman Steve Pearce was at the show with the plane he flew around the world to honor veterans of the Viet Nam War. Among the people who examined the plane and who actually got into it and worked the controls were eight year-old Karla Kaburia, and her siblings, Jazlyne, 5, and Jeremiah, 3. 

Their mother, Sarai, urged them to answer questions about their experience in the plane, but only Karla would talk.

“I really like the airplane,” she said. “And I want to fly one around the world someday.”

Pearce said the kids got to handle the controls, pull the yoke as they were making the plane go up and down and turn. 

“But we didn’t get to fly this time,” he said.

Perhaps the most unusual aircraft at the show was the powered parachute, owned by Curtiss Bales. It looks a little like a bicycle with a huge fan at the back. It has no wings, at least no wings visible when the machine, which is transported in a trailer, is on display with a for sale sign on it.

“What you do,” Bales said, “is lay the parachute out behind it and be sure that the lines that attach the parachute to the machine are clear and then you drive forward and the parachute lifts the machine and the pilot off the ground.”

Bales said he is selling the machine because it seats only one and his wife doesn’t like being left behind. 

“So we got motorcycles so we can both ride,” he said.

Dorothy N. Fowler can be reached at 575-391-5446 or by email.