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Cross City Fly-In

By Tami Stevenson

The Annual Cross City Fly-In, Cruise-In & Business Expo at Cross City Airport last Saturday drew a couple thousand plane enthusiasts, families, career students and visitors to the free event. Among the many antique and new planes on display they also featured Plane & Helicopter Rides, Military Displays, Aircraft Demos, Radio Controlled (RC) Aircraft, Pilot Games, Car Show and many Arts, Craft and Food Vendors. Career information was made available to students from businesses and organizations like SCORE, United Way, Central Florida Electric Coop, Career Source Florida Crown and Dixie County Corrections and had representatives on hand to answer questions.

Above: Children enjoyed riding through the Cross City Fly-In event on these cars pulled by a Ranger. They were able to get a good look at the many airplanes and helicopters on the grounds. -All photos on this page by Tami Stevenson

President of the volunteer Dixie County Chamber of Commerce, Carol West, said the chamber is the primary sponsor of the Cross City Fly-In. The event is designed to introduce youth to aviation and make them aware of the many careers that are available in aviation and the growing demand for skilled labor in this field.

“There are hundreds of excellent paying jobs in the career field of aviation. Pilot is only one they know about,” West explained. Jobs such as airplane mechanic, avionics, aircraft interiors and engineering, to name a few.

She said training is available through Florida Gateway College in Lake City. Students can become licensed through A&P, (Airframe and Powerplant) that gives them a 2 year license. Many will have a guaranteed job with HAECO in Lake City when they are through. Students can be paid while attending school and have a job when they get out after 24 months. “So we really want to encourage careers in aviation. The Dixie County High School has gone so far as to hire a teacher, Michelle Burke (to work toward this goal). This is her third year teaching this class where students learn about careers in aviation,” West stated.

She explained they have some things a small school their size normally does not offer, things like drones, a 3D printer, security, and making it all work together. “We want to encourage kids to realize they don’t have to go to what they think of as a traditional college. Most of our kids want to work with their hands. So we are all for people like Adam Putnam who want to put vocational education back into our curriculum,” she said.

Among the planes and helicopters offering rides, the most impressive was the large Huey Helicopter that offered rides to the public. The loud rumble and size alone was impressive, each time it took off and landed with smiling passengers in tow.

Crew Chief Sergeant Justin Elkins from the Jacksonville Army National Guard was there with a UH-72 Alpha Lakota Helicopter on display answering questions and letting kids sit in the helicopter, letting them try on the helmet and other gear crewman have to wear.

Natalie Sapsin of Chiefland, experiences what it is like to wear the headphones and sit in the Army helicopter with Crew Chief Sergeant Justin Elkins of Jacksonville.

When asked how high this would fly Elkins said, “Anything over 10,000 feet you need oxygen. The manual says the service ceiling is 18,000 feet.” He added, “We’re never going to fly that high but that’s what the book says.” He explained there is no need for parachutes for troops in this particular aircraft. Even if they lost both engines they still would have all the energy stored in the rotor system and pilots perform what is called an auto rotation. “The weight of the aircraft as you are falling makes everything spin so you’re using its own weight as it’s falling to spin the rotor blades. Then when you get closer to the ground you pull up on the collective which flares the blades and it’s using that energy to cushion when you land. So we don’t have to jump and can land even without power and we actually practice that,” said Sgt. Elkins.

The event was very popular and well received by the community as a steady line of people went through the aircraft area and enjoyed the arts & crafts and food vendors throughout the entire day at the Cross City Fly-In.

U.S. Coast Guard helicopter on display at the fly-in.

1929 Pietenpol Airplane owned by Robert Lester of McAlpin.

Cockpit of the 1929 Pietenpol Airplane owned by Robert Lester of McAlpin.

See RC Airplanes story and photos, click here