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Air show promotes local services and recreation

The folks at Ashland Municipal Airport are hoping for fair skies this weekend. It's the annual Airport Day celebration, and plane and helicopter rides, a skydiving demonstration and a lot more are on the agenda.

"A flight instructor told me once that it's better to be on the ground wishing you were in the air than in the air wishing you were on the ground," says Ashland pilot Lincoln Zeve.

The annual event is set for 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, May 21, at the airport, 403 Dead Indian Memorial Road, just off Highway 66 before the entrance to Oak Knoll Golf Course. Admission and parking are free.

Plane rides are planned by Skinner Aviation and helicopter rides by Brim Aviation, along with aircraft displays, helicopter-rescue demonstrations, remote-control aircraft and drones from Rogue Eagles RC Club, skydivers from Beagle Sky Ranch Airport and food trucks, to name a few attractions.

There also will be emergency service vehicles, a flight simulator and a smoke-jumper museum display, along with aviation exhibits from ScienceWorks Hands-on Museum and a bounce house for kids. Plane rides cost $35 for adults, $30 for kids. Helicopter rides will cost $40.

Zeve flies a Bonanza A36 single-engine, six-seat aircraft. It's the third plane he's owned. Zeve also plays sax in rock group East Main Band.

"About 30 years ago, I was living in a small town in upstate New York," he says. "I decided I needed an easy way to get out of Dodge, and there was an airport similar to Ashland's there."

Zeve learned to fly in a Cessna 172 Skyhawk. When it became too expensive to rent planes to get the flight hours he needed for his instrument training, he bought a high-performance Beechcraft Sierra. His brother also became a private pilot, once making a flight in a single-engine aircraft from California to England.

"When my wife, kids and I were looking for a place to live, the fact that Ashland has a community airport was a big factor," Zeve says. "I've logged close to 1,500 hours as a private pilot. Not as much as some. I stay sharp by flying regularly, and my family and I take a couple of trips a year."

Commercial pilot Bob Skinner also flies recreationally. He and his family fly across the country on trips.

"We flew to Scottsdale, Ariz., recently," he says. "It took only four hours. You can come and go as you want in a private plane. You don't have to think about security checking your bags, and you don't have to wait in lines.

"Kids get excited about flying as much as adults," Skinner says. "It's fun for them to come out to the airport. There will be aircraft flying in and out, and a four-seater aircraft from Skinner Aviation will offer flights around the Rogue Valley."

Skinner has been a fixed-base operator for 23 years at Ashland's airport. His aviation company provides services for all aircraft there. Those services include fuel sales, aircraft maintenance, flight instruction, aircraft rental, charters and contracting with the Oregon Department of Forestry and U.S. Forest Service during the summer.

"We fly aerial reconnaissance for forest fires, along with Brim," Skinner says.

"Skinner Aviation provides services for the city of Ashland when its people are coming in and out of the airport," he says. "We also provide services for the public, such as charter trips to see Crater Lake or parts of the region where no commercial carriers go."

The Ashland airport provides an alternate landing strip when it's too foggy in Medford, so freight carriers such as UPS and FedEx use it, along with ambulances and visitors to the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service Forensics Laboratory in Ashland, Skinner says.

"The airport was a viable asset when forest fires burned just south of Ashland," he says. "And tourists come in and out of the airport during the summer for the Oregon Shakespeare Festival and other events the region offers."

The annual air show started 23 years ago, took a hiatus for four or five years, then picked back up about four years ago.

"We want the community to come out and see what's happening here," Skinner says.