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Great Planes a soaring success

By DIANE GASPER-O'BRIEN

dobrien@dailynews.net

Kyla Schmidt didn't have trouble keeping up with her dad as she ran alongside him Saturday morning at Hays Regional Airport.

There was plenty of adrenaline in those 5-year-old legs that had just gotten off a helicopter as part of the Great Planes on the Great Plains fly-in.

When Eric Schmidt finally came to a stop, Kayla had just one thing to say to her dad that summed up the experience in a single word.

"Awesome!" she exclaimed, a big grin on her face.

Thanks to an extended stay, more children and their parents -- of all ages -- will get the chance to take a helicopter ride today if they missed it Saturday.

Last year, DWTA Helicopters participated in the Hays fly-in for the first time and was overwhelmed with requests.

"We left about a hundred people who didn't get to ride last year," said Wolf Zon, chief pilot and director of operations for the Wichita-based operation. "By noon, we were filled up (for time slots), so we decided to do it two days this year."

For $35 per person, one can take a three- to five-minute ride in the Robinson Raven II four-passenger helicopter today. Starting time is 10 a.m., and "we'll go until we're done flying," Zon said.

Helicopter rides were just one of many attractions at the third annual event.

Folks showed up early for a pancake feed, and lunch was served as well. Displays showed people how to make paper airplanes, another how to get involved with model planes and yet another showed off several planes from Rans Designs Inc. from Hays, one of America's leading builders of light aircraft.

By mid-morning, nearly 20 of the expected 80 aircraft already had landed on the tarmac.

A 15-passenger Black Hawk helicopter from the Kansas National Guard in Salina was on display, as were numerous planes, including several from the 1950s and '60s. The oldest plane on hand by noon was a 1947 North American Navion Air Force trainer.

There was a helicopter from the Dodge City Community College Flight Training Center and a plane from the Kansas State University aviation program in Salina, as well as from the U.S. Civil Air Patrol.

East of the air show was a motorcycle and car show. But the main attraction on this day appeared to be machines that left the ground.

In one area, people sat in bleachers to watch remote-controlled planes, and with sunny skies and temperatures in the low 70s, people took their time milling around the grounds on the near-perfect summer day.

Patrick and Ashley Green from Hays said they decided to bring their two young sons out to the show because "our kids are pretty interested in airplanes," Ashley Green said.

After filling up at the pancake breakfast, 8-year-old Dylan and 5-year-old Gavin had some stored up energy for another planned family favorite after they left the airport.

"We're going to head to the petting zoo at Orscheln's," the boys' mother said.