If you looked to the skies over Labor Day Weekend, you might have seen one of 25 planes here for the 23rd Rutan Fly-in. The fly-in is named for Burt Rutan, the aerospace engineer who designed the Voyager, the first airplane to circle the world non-stop without fueling. Rutan also designed SpaceShipOne, the first privately-funded non-governmental aircraft to fly in space.  And, of course, the basic type of experimental planes seen at the Fly-in.

Eight states were represented at the annual event organized by Fly-in co-ordinator Char Spencer, and sponsored by the Kane County Office of Tourism. The event ran Saturday and Sunday, but participants arrived as early as Tuesday, rented cars, and spent time photographing the local scenery.

Not everyone flew into Kanab this year. John Lambert, author and naval historian, is a flying alumnus who chose to drive from Arkansas. His trip takes him on to the Tail Hook Convention in Reno to sell his latest book on the history of the Independence and her crew during WWII. Organizers Spencer and husband Gary drove in from California after being unable to see a clear flight path in and out of Kanab due to the unpredictable monsoons southern Utah has been experiencing.

Early arrivals spent their time exploring, shopping and dining at Spurs Grill and Rocking V Friday evening. The balance of attendees flew in on Saturday and were treated to a hot dog luncheon at the airport, provided by airport manager Dick Brewer and his wife Sharlotte. Accommodations were made at Aikens Lodge with long-time fly-in friends Bill and Krista Erickson. The group appreciated Kane County providing a shuttle van for the weekend transportation, and drivers Clint and Ann Nielsen. T-Time had Fly-in T-shirts ready and available for sale.

Lotsa Motsa pizza was shared by friends old and new on Saturday evening. While in Kanab, other meals were enjoyed at Nedra’s Too, Escobar’s, Parry Lodge and of course, ice cream at Three Bears.

The competition began Sunday morning around 8:30 a.m. Planes took off to fly a three-leg course, going as far as Big Water and back, trying to beat the clock. One pilot said, “It is a competition with myself.”

A breakfast of bacon, eggs, pancakes, sausage and fruit was prepared by the Brewers, with the assistance of sous chefs Larry Crutchfield and Mike Neil. Approximately 70 locals, tourists, pilots and crews gathered to feast and trade stories. High praises were given by those with full stomachs. 

Plane owners were happy to show off their equipment and answer question of anyone who asked. Harriet Huseman of Salem, Oregon, and Joe Dubner of Independence, Oregon, have been coming to Kanab the last three or four years. “The facility here is great. Great FBO (fixed base operator) with good gas prices. You have an AWOS (Automated Weather Observing System) we can dial into, which is nice. All you need here is ground transportation,” commented Dubner.

Huseman, who was nicknamed “Ballast” because she rides in the back of the plane, said, “For an airport this size, it ranks right up there in the top! The breathtaking scenery is a plus.” The duo, who have been flying together for eight years, said when they travel, they look for an airport with good fuel prices and transportation to get them into town for a meal or an overnight stay.

The festivities concluded Sunday night with a dinner and awards ceremony at Calvin T’s.

So why come to Kanab? Spencer said the airport is just the right size for their event. The Ericksons, as well as the Brewers, make it easy to arrange, and the group just loves the Kanab area. Some have even come back looking for homes and property. “And don’t forget,” said Spencer, “The pie at Houston’s is wonderful.”