Air Fair showcases military rescue craft

Posted: Tuesday, June 09, 2009

The 9th Annual Kenai Peninsula Air Fair was a great day for the community with nearly 60 pilots/friends participating in the traditional poker run and hundreds of other visitors turning out for the EAA breakfast at the Soldotna airport and the military rescue aircraft display and BBQ at the Kenai airport in the afternoon. Participating pilots flew to at least five of the seven designated airports earning a complete poker hand and then returned in the afternoon to the Kenai Airport. According to Mary Bondurant, Kenai Airport manager the winning hand was a full house collected by Dr. Greg Motonaga who won his choice of a variety of prizes including tickets from ERA and Grant Air, "We also had 7 float planes and 2 amphibious aircraft participate this year with pilots entering from all over Alaska, including Anchorage, Big Lake, and Palmer. I want to extend our sincere appreciation to the Coast Guard Air Station Kodiak, they came out in full force giving the public a rare opportunity to get an up close tour of these amazing aircraft that are used to save lives and protect our boarders, they also did two H-130 fly over's to commence our military appreciation event, and of course the U.S. Air force Band of the Pacific Arctic Saxophone quartet were just fabulous," said Bondurant.

USCG Lt. Joe Matthews stationed at Kodiak flew the H-60 Dolphin rescue helicopter and was able to relate to visitors what it's really like to be out on a rescue mission, "Maybe on paper the aircraft commander is responsible for the operation, but really it's a crew of four people and it takes all four doing their job in extreme conditions to have a successful mission. In Alaska the weather changes so often you may think it's going to hold then twenty minutes into the flight something comes up you hadn't foreseen and it can get ugly, but our training kicks in and we have procedures we follow with standardization being key to our success. Usually it's not until later that night when you're going to bed that you wonder Wow, what did we just do?" Lt. Matthews told the Dispatch. Matthews added that while there are a lot of Coast Guard regulations that it's very important for those on the water to carry them out as they are designed for their safety and benefit, "Life jackets and anything bright, reflectors, lights, are essential, when we are flying over the water with white caps, clouds and rough seas we have to be able to see you to rescue you, but once we do see you we can get you out of the water safely," said Matthews.

There were additional things to do and learn about inside the operations hanger at the Kenai Airport with informational booths that included the Challenger Learning Center of Alaska, EAA, Alaska Flight Services, Civil Air Patrol and others. The Air Fair was sponsored jointly by the Cities of Soldotna and Kenai and the Alaska Airmen's Association with both Kenai City Mayor Pat Porter and Soldotna Mayor Peter Micciche reading a joint proclamation designating May 30th as Military Appreciation Day, "in the City of Kenai and City of Soldotna and encourage all our residents to show their support by reflecting on the service and sacrifice of the valiant men and women of America's fighting forces. God Bless America!"

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