Open house soars at Lanett Regional Airport

Published 9:30 am Wednesday, March 29, 2023

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LANETT — Some rainy weather early Saturday morning looked to be spoiling a long-awaited open house at the Lanett Regional Airport but luckily those rainclouds moved on out, giving way to a sunny sky and nearly perfect weather. An estimated 1,500 people took advantage of those clearing conditions to go the airport and have a great time.

“The weather had us really concerned early Saturday morning, but it moved on out to give us a beautiful day for our open house,” Mayor Jamie Heard said. “I am so glad it did. Our open house at the airport couldn’t have been better. We had a big turnout, and everyone had a good time.”

Two flight schools in Auburn, R.D. Aire and Blue Skies Above, had planes to fly in to the open house. Flight instructors from the two schools gave some local children the thrill of a lifetime by taking them up to a flight over the Valley. Most of the children were taking their first plane rides. They got birdseye views of West Point Lake, the Chattahoochee River and the cities of Lanett, West Point and Valley.

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They were squealing with delight when they got off the plane. They were no doubt eager to take off to that wild blue yonder in future years.

Some local guys with long histories in aviation, Mike Ballard and Johnny White, took some low-level flights around the airport in R.V. aircraft they had built themselves. Ballard’s wife, Judith, was aboard in the back seat of his plane. A Valley native, Johnny White is a retired brigadier general in the Alabama Air National Guard. He’s one-half of the first father-daughter tandem to fly the F-16 fighter jet.

RV stands for Richard VanGrunsven, who designs kits for experienced pilots to build their own planes. His standard kits are priced between $45,000 and $65,000.

A highlight of the day was skydiving by the Silver Wings parachute team from Fort Benning. Six members of the team were at the open house and three did some skydiving over the airport.

All six members of the team posed for lots of photos.

The city gave away free hot dogs and cold drinks at the open house.

“We grilled 400 of them and had them all given away in no time,” said Mayor Heard.

There were some food trucks on the site as well.

The children at the event had loads of fun on the jumpers, mechanical bull and miniature train brought in by Ballard’s Party Rentals.

Approximately 12 prop planes flew in for the open house. Some of them were parked inside the big box hangar and some just outside. A helicopter flew in, and the pilot demonstrated some takeoffs and landings.

“Things couldn’t have gone better for our open house,” said Airport Manager Richard Carter. “We knew it was going to be a great day when the weather cleared the way it did. A lot of people told me how impressed they were with everything at this airport. I know we have a great future ahead here at Lanett Regional. A lot of people told me they’d like for us to do something like this every year. We are definitely working on having more open houses in the coming years. If people are interested, that’s what we want to do.”