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Airport managers hope aerial show draws interest to area aviation industry

By Jessica Rodrigo
July 17, 2014 at 2:17 a.m.

Bob Salter, of Kerrville, gets out of his One Design airplane after doing an aerobatics practice run at the Jackson County Airport on Thursday. Salter will fly in the intermediate class in the International Aerobatic Club Contest  on Friday and Saturday.

If you go

• WHAT: International Aerobatic Club Contest

• WHEN: Gate opens at 8 a.m.; competition starts at 10 a.m. until dusk Friday and Saturday, tentative rain day Sunday

• WHERE: Jackson County Airport, County Road 4142, just off U.S. Highway 59, north of Edna

• COST: Free

For information: Call Jackson County Airport at 361-652-4163.

EDNA - If Mother Nature plays nicely, the International Aerobatic Club Contest will go on.

Strong winds and inclement weather in other areas of Texas postponed the practice day scheduled for the estimated 20 to 30 pilots traveling to Jackson County Airport on Thursday.

One pilot, Bob Salter, of Kerrville, was able to make it to the practice day, which he said might give him a slight advantage over the other pilots. Emphasis on the slight.

"Sometimes, the weather can limit a pilot's time in the air," he said.

He has competed with his One Design aerobatic aircraft for three years. He watched his first competition at the Edna airport in 1989.

From that point on, he dreamed of flying a high performance aircraft.

"It's the closest an average person can get to flying a fighter jet," Salter, 61, said.

He flew his plane from Kerrville before the bad weather hit San Antonio to practice his routine. As an intermediate competitor, he said his routine starts at 3,000 feet and can go as low as 1,200 feet while executing certain maneuvers.

Hammerheads, quarter snaps, down lines and tail slides are just a few of the tricks the pilots will do above the sorghum fields and tarmac within the imaginary bounds of the aerobatics box.

The boundless, unmarked box is 1 square kilometer where the pilots perform in front of judges and an audience.

Bringing the contest back to Jackson County is something Rick McClure, 54, and his wife, Kim, hope will spark the community's interest in aviation.

"There's so much you can do with a pilot's license," Kim McClure, 52, said.

With the area's agriculture, there is a need for pilots who can crop dust.

"There's a front in the system," said Rick McClure. "Unfortunately, the aviation industry cannot predict the weather."

It's been about 10 years since the contest was hosted in Edna, he said, and the airport's perfect conditions for aerobatics made it the club's home base in the past.

He hopes the event will be the first step in what will lead to the return of the competition. When the contest started in the 1980s, McClure said about 40 to 50 planes used to compete.

"Hopefully, we can get it back to that level," he said. "That's what the airport was known for at one point."

When Salter takes to the sky Friday and Saturday during the contest, he said he's just looking forward to being in the air.

He said it's no easy task flying an aerobatic routine. Sometimes, his body and plane are subjected up to a G-force of 6 to minus-3 Gs during certain tricks.

"A lot happens up there. Sometimes, you can't remember what you did after you land," he said. "It's a very intense experience."

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