Wichita Flight Festival wows crowd at Jabara Airport

08/20/2011 12:00 AM

08/22/2011 5:45 AM

Danny and Rachel White and their 7-year-old son, Ashton, took in the action at the Wichita Flight Festival from a spot at the back.

"The further back you sit, the less obstructions there are," Danny White said.

Gary Hawley and his 4-year-old son, Ethan, sat right up front.

"This is the best seat in the house," Gary Hawley said. "You get the best look at the airplanes."

The Whites of Goddard and the Hawleys of Wichita were among the thousands of Kansans who took advantage of a break in a summer filled with 100-degree days to spend Saturday afternoon at Jabara Airport.

Ten performing acts entertained the crowd under cloudy skies as some spectators took advantage of a food concourse and hands-on children's activities.

A wing-walker and jet truck were among the crowd favorites.

Among those participating in the festival were Harry Clayton and his wife, Susan Erlenwein, who brought along their 1971 sailplane.

Clayton, who got his pilot's license in high school, said a co-worker at Beech Aircraft got him interested in gliders in the 1970s. He's been flying them ever since.

Erlenwein is a student pilot who sometimes has to go pick up her husband when his sailplane doesn't make it back to Yoder.

"I've gotten him out of central Nebraska more than once," she said.

Clayton said sailplanes are typically dropped from an altitude of 2,000 feet and stay aloft for 20 to 30 minutes.

But he said they can stay up much longer when conditions are favorable.

Every year, Clayton said, his club holds a contest to see which sailplane can stay aloft the longest.

"We had one club member fly from Yoder to Dallas," Erlenwein said.

"It took him eight hours," Clayton said. "He won that year. I think that goes without saying."

Back at the front of the crowd, Ethan Hawley was standing by the fence as the Shockwave jet truck roared past for the first time, sending a wave of blistering heat across the crowd.

Gary White said Ethan enjoyed the show two years ago when he was 2 years old. He said he hopes the show will continue as Ethan grows older.

"It's really neat that this is still going on," he said.

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