The aviation festival returns; important for state industry, airport manager says | New


Planes flew through the sky and sat on the ramp at Max Westheimer Airport as they returned from the Norman Aviation Festival on Saturday.

2021 marks the 15th year that the Norman Airport and Chamber of Commerce have allowed the community to experience airplanes up close and personal. The festival was canceled in 2020 due to COVID-19, airport manager Lance Lemkin said.

This followed Governor Kevin Stitt’s chamber speech on aviation Friday morning in Norman.

While Lemkin was happy to celebrate his 15th birthday and the return of the festival, he said the airport’s mission has remained the same every year.

“Make children, grandparents and parents learn, see, touch, feel. Just get a feel for what aviation is so that we can generate that interest and we can keep the pipeline for the next generation to get into aviation, ”he said.

Lemkin said the festival seemed to attract more attendance on Saturday than in 2018 and 2019. The festival had more than 15 planes and more than 25 booths for attendees, he said.

While Lemkin would have liked more planes at the festival – some could not fly due to the poor cloud cover after the rain on Saturday morning – he was still happy with the number of planes in attendance that day.

The festival is big in Oklahoma, where aviation is the second largest industry, Lemkin said. It is valued at $ 55 billion, he estimated, behind oil and gas.

Craig Parker, who let the children sit in the cockpit of his Cirrus SR22T plane on Saturday, said there was “a huge shortage of pilots” in the aviation industry.

“It’s a fantastic career because of the pay that’s available, the opportunities available,” he said.

Lemkin said the event also allows airport staff to showcase what the facility is doing for the community. The airport is owned by the University of Oklahoma and welcomes travelers and participants to OU games. It has an estimated impact of $ 37 million on the community, he said.

It also contributes to the mission of creating pilots, he said.

“We train over 150 students every year, and all of these pilots fly for American, Southwest, United, Delta,” he said.

Lemkin said the festival is a mix of safety, education and aviation exposure. He said airports lost connection with the community when security measures were adopted following the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001.

Events like Saturday’s now occur occasionally across the country, he said.

The children lined up to watch the planes as they sat on the ramp between the terminal and the runway. Some planes landed at the airport and parked for the crowds during the festival.

Kyler Johnson, who was there with his family, said his 1-year-old son Miles sat in a cockpit and hit “just about every other plane” there.

“It’s always fun to expose him to things he doesn’t get the chance to do and see very often, and it’s kind of a once-in-a-lifetime event,” Johnson said.

Eric Martin Jr., 7, said he enjoyed watching planes take off “and snow cones”. His favorite plane was the L-39 ZO – flown by the Soviet Union during the Cold War – which towered over the others on the ramp.

“The community sees these planes flying. They don’t have the chance to approach it and see what they look like, what it’s like to go up and sit inside, what the instrumentation looks like inside ”, Parker said.

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