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Thu, May 22, 2003

SWRFI '03: Fly-In a Roaring Success!

300+ Aircraft Pack The Ramps And Flight Lines In New Braunfels, TX

By ANN Correspondent Juan Jimenez

Some twenty five miles northeast of San Antonio is a community best known for a number of water parks which draw their most important resource from the Comal River. The City of New Braunfels was founded in 1845 under German charter, and is classified as a home-rule city, governed by a seven-member council. In 1969, the city acquired what is now known as the New Braunfels Municipal Airport from the US government. The city web site states that the airport is home base to 58 aircraft. This past weekend, that number grew to over 300 aircraft, from gyrocopters to turbine-powered experimentals to highly polished warbirds, all participating in the annual EAA Southwest Regional Fly-In.

The SWRFI was originally founded by general aviation luminary and Texas Aviation  Hall of Fame Inductee Tony Bingelis, this is the first year that the fly-in has returned to its original home in Texas Hill Country.

Over 300 aircraft and 70 vendors made their way from all corners of the country to participate in the fly-in. Aircraft of just about every make and persuasion made the trip to participate in the festivities, and the spectators made it clear they appreciated it. There was no shortage of families and plenty of children walking or riding up and down the flight line in the hay ride shuttles.

Probably the best evidence of the number of aircraft at the fly-in were the very long lines of aircraft waiting to make their way down the taxiways to the departure ends of the two runways. At one point, we saw some 30 aircraft lined up on one taxiway patiently waiting their turn to depart.

It should also be noted that, to our knowledge, there were no incidents or accidents at the fly-in, no small feat considering the size of the airport and the overwhelming number of aircraft at or around the airport at any given time.

There was also no shortage of attendance at any of the more than two dozen forums covering subjects from "Airworthiness Inspection of Experimental Airplanes" to "Women in WWII (WASPs)." All the forums were well-attended and everyone seemed to come out of them after having learned something new.

A number of current military aircraft made their presence known at the show as well, including the Navy and USAF turboprop trainers produced by Raytheon Corporation. Texas is home to a number of military flight training facilities, and the training commands were more than happy to send "ambassadors" to show their aircraft at the fly-in.

Saturday evening the SWRFI held its annual Awards Banquet. The guest speaker for the banquet was General Charlie Duke, astronaut and Lunar Module pilot on the Apollo 16 NASA mission.

All in all, the fly-in was definitely a success!

FMI: http://www.swrfi.org

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