Aviation festival returns to Iowa City


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Iowa City’s sky will be filled with more than just clouds this coming weekend.

Fly Iowa, a free annual event open to the public, will make its way back to Iowa City. The event, which was established by the Iowa Department of Transportation and is being put on by the Iowa Aviation Promotion Group, demonstrates the benefits of aviation to both local and statewide communities.

The event is being held at the Iowa City Municipal Airport on Saturday and June 29.

Michael Tharp, operations specialist for the airport, estimates that a total of $25,000 has been assembled to put on the event, and he expects to have used most of it by the festival’s end.

The festival has traveled to many cities across the state, including Mason City, Independence, and Des Moines.

The very first Fly Iowa was held in Iowa City in 1991.  It returned for the 10-year anniversary in 2001 but hasn’t been back since.

“We’re trying to showcase the airport and what it means for the area and Iowa as a whole,” Tharp said.

With a number of uses at the airport, Fly Iowa will demonstrate how the community benefits from the use of the property, including a University of Iowa research laboratory that will showcase an experimental plane it has worked on during the event.

At the event’s center are the air shows. Some consist of flybys by unique and interesting aircraft, while others are full-on acrobatic displays.  The Vanguard Squadron is one of the standout participants, a veteran team of pilots who fly aircraft powered entirely by ethanol, said Chuck McDonald, secretary, treasurer, and director of the Iowa Aviation Promotion Group.

There are plenty of other brand-new production aircraft, military aircraft, planes built by local residents, and experimental aircraft that will be on display as well.  Many of the pilots will push their machines to the limit wise in order to excite the crowd.

“To bring the non-flying public and expose them to the romance and excitement of aviation is great,” said Paul Berge, the air-show announcer.

There’s plenty to do besides that, from food vendors to fun family activities.

The Iowa Children’s Museum is using a dedicated hangar for a smorgasbord of kid-friendly activities and a shaded area for rest.  Planned activities include wind tubes, stomp rockets, face painting, and a paper airplane competition. 

Berge stressed that this is an event for all, no matter how much experience they have with aviation. During the air shows, he’ll explain what the pilots are doing and why.  There’ll be plenty of enthusiasts ready to share their field by answering any questions or just having a low-key conversation.

Though the group doesn’t keep a precise tally of visitors, the members of local police present do give officials a rough estimate. 

“Our largest event was probably about 12,000 people, but we typically see about 5,000 people at each event,” McDonald said.

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