Fly-in highlights airport benefits
Jan 07, 2010 | 2213 views | 0 0 comments | 13 13 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Mirror Photo / Mary Laschinger Kirby<br>
FLYING A T-6 once owned by the French Algerian Air Force and later Ben Cunningham of the North American Rockwell flying team until 1998, Carl Best turns as he clears the intersection of US 271 and Texas 155 at Robroy Industries, upper right. Best came to the Fly-in Saturday from Aero Country Airport between McKinney and Denton. The airport not only attracts pilots, but also businesses to the area.
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Enjoying clear, blue skies and a relatively warm January day 50 pilots and their passengers flew in to Fox Stephens Field Saturday to enjoy a day together.

Escaping the security restrictions of flying in the Metroplex, pilots could drop in at Gilmer, enjoy a hot dog and conversation and pop back into the air.

While 35 planes where on the ground during the lunch hour, others came and went throughout the day.

Among the feature attractions was Scott Glover’s Travel Air.

Glover wore a period-style sweater and cap as he flew Young Eagles around Gilmer.

Another unusual airplane was a Yakovlev YAK-52, a primary trainer for the Soviet Air Force. The particular plane which came to the fly-in entered service in 1980. Chris and Kathryn Keating came from McKinney in the 2-seater.

Visiting planes ranged from a kit-built single seater to turbo-prop multi-engine airplanes. An estimated 250 to 300 attended.

The runway at Fox Stephens Field was barely long enough to accommodate the first Lear Jet which brought Robroy executives to visit Gilmer as they were looking for a new plant site in the 1960s. Improvements since then not only created longer runways for various airplanes, but also have created hangars for locally owned airplanes.

“The largest aviation related benefit to Gilmer is Hixson Lumber Sales (formerly Texas Forest Products) on South Montgomery. The Hixson brothers have added a new sawmill unit, opening up markets for pine-tree farmers that had completely dried up since 2000, and employed 60 plant workers since taking over the lumber mill in December, 2008,” Steve Dean told The Gilmer Mirror Monday.

“They are in Gilmer because our airport will support the company aircraft, allowing them to conduct their business here in Gilmer as well as in 11 other small towns from Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, Illinois and Missouri. They fly a company jet that is based in Oklahoma City, Okla., and a propeller-driven aircraft based in Magnolia, Ark.”

Gilmer was in competition with several other towns for their business, but Fox Stephens Field was the ace which turned the trick for the local economy.

According to Dean, oil and gas companies make up the largest segment of airport traffic, visiting regularly in turboprop twin-engine aircraft. Other businesses which fly in representatives in private aircraft include Brookshires, Wal-Mart and ETMC.

In addition, JL Aero is a top-rated general aviation maintenance facility with four full-time employees which attracts aircraft owners from outside the local area to Gilmer for maintenance on a regularly scheduled basis.

Fox Stephens Field, whether for fun or business, has become a proven asset for the local community.
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