St. Pat's to bring free aerial visitors, events

St. Patrick’s Day festivities will return to Dublin on March 17 bringing guests pouring in from the north, east, south, west and, in some cases, above.

Brad Stanford, Dublin’s resident leprechaun, has been in communications with pilots about coming in that day. Part of the attraction for pilots is that Dublin will be the first airport in Texas to offer Swift unleaded aviation fuel after making arrangements with the company that were recently approved by Dublin City Council.

Among the airport guests will be a unique group: gyrocopter pilots. Those who remember Leonardo Da Vinci’s flight prototype or old news footage of experimental aircraft will have seen similar vehicles, but they have continued to evolve over-time and have a small but dedicated fan base.

One of the vocal supporters is Dublin High School graduate Tommy Duncan, who will soon be retiring. Duncan could think of no better retirement than to join a party of gyros in flying to Dublin. Stanford, willing to help out, organized a practice day on St. Patrick’s with the pilots excited to join in the March 17 fun.

A couple of pilots recently flew to Dublin to inspect the area and immediately responded to the “quaint” atmosphere of the town and its airport. They also like all the pasture land.

“We’re surrounded by emergency landing strips,” Stanford said, echoing a comment from the pilots about the cow pastures.

Craig McPherson, head of the gyroplane group, is used to the rural areas and has had to land in pastures before. The trick, he said, is to watch out for chicken coops and other small buildings you can’t see from the air.

Gyroplanes are actually one of the safest and most comfortable ways to fly, Stanford said, calling the dual-rotor vehicles “giant pinwheels” capable of 80 to 90 miles per hour.

They are also able to land precisely, basically lowering straight down from the air. The 30 to 40 gyro pilots will be able to show off their precision during spot landings and an egg drop competition as they hover and attempt to hit targets with eggs from the air.

This is part of a schedule that starts with the annual parade as the gyros will be joining with a fly-over during the downtown procession. Stanford reported they will be using a standard fly-over pattern, allowing many to join after a brief orientation that morning.

Following the parade, transportation will be provided, making regular stops between downtown and the airport so St. Pat’s guests can check out all of the free fun. Crowds will be able to take in the spot landings followed by a “gyro 101 seminar” and the egg drops. Fifteen-minute rides will be offered for those wanting a birds-eye view of the Irish Capital of Texas.

Stanford has also listed Dublin on a “fun places to fly” group and has been generating interest there, so he expects there will also be some other types of aircrafts present, with some coming to see the gyros and others eager to try the new fuel.

Stanford has been helping the airport since moving his office there last year and having the facility open for the first time in 15 years. He said that Dublin businesses need to be ready for visitors and he needs to be ready with a list of local places to visit, shop and eat. Since he is doing the airport outreach solo, he asks businesses to call him at 445-4404 to make sure he has the information to give visiting pilots.

He also added there will be plenty of volunteer opportunities for St. Patrick’s Day. Those wanting to help with airport can call the number above, but he also encourages people to call 445-3422 if they would like to help the Chamber of Commerce with the downtown events.

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