The Kanab City Airport was the scene of all types of celebration on Labor Day weekend. In Kanab, the weekend is also host to the Rutan Fly-in, sponsored by the Kane County Travel Council. This year’s activities included the annual speed competition, an anniversary, a wedding, a changing of the guard, and a fond farewell.

The Fly-in celebrated its 25th Anniversary in Kanab this year. This was their largest attendance, with 30 planes and 60 folks. Bill Erickson, owner of Aikens Lodge and local event coordinator, said the event filled the lodge to capacity. Treasure Trail Motel was happy to book the overflow.

Char Spencer, Rutan Fly-In organizer, said there were more spouses attending this year who planned to partake of the local sites and activities.

Fourteen planes came in on Thursday and one even arrived on Tuesday. Bill James flew the greatest distance, coming in from Texas. Spencer said, “Nearly 10 cars made the trek, some retired builder/pilots, some new kids on the block who are still building, and a few who were on vacation in the area and stopped in to say “hi.’”

The weather was perfect for flying, driving and hiking.

 The scheduled events kicked off with the City of Kanab providing goodies for the Saturday afternoon luncheon. Dick and Sharlotte Brewer and crew rustled up a hearty breakfast for pilots and visitors on Sunday morning.  

Due to the number of planes participating for the Silver Anniversary, Sunday’s speed competition was divided into two heats, the “fast” and “not-so-fast.” The quickest plane traveling the 96.5 statute-mile route was Dave Ronneberg in a Berkut IO-540 with a speed of 247.43 mph. Second place was last year’s winner Ric Lee, with a speed of 231.71 mph in the same model aircraft.

Special this year was a wedding on the way to the fly-in. Keith Spreuer and bride-to be Terri decided to stop and get married in Vegas on their way to the event. In anticipation, Keith painted “Just Married” on the cowling of his Canard-style aircraft. They landed in Las Vegas where a limo was waiting to take them to the Little White Chapel. Maxwell, their Yorkie who loves to fly while riding in Keith’s lap, was the official ring bearer. After the ceremony, they took the limo back to the airport, refueled and took off for Kanab. When they landed, Keith stopped at the end of the runway, got out and tied tin cans to the plane, and taxied on in to the applause and amusement of onlookers.

Congratulations to the Spreuers! Keith has attended several fly-ins, but this was Terri’s first. When asked which Kanab sights she had seen and enjoyed she replied, “Uh, we just got married!” Maybe next time Terri will have a chance to see more than the inside of their hotel room.

Next year will see two new faces at the helm of the fly-in. Allen Floyd and Laura Noel are moving into the pilot and co-pilot seats of organizing the Kanab event. The couple are both commercial pilots for Southwest Airlines. They met at Midway Airport in Chicago while trying to catch an empty seat on the same plane.

When Floyd was four years old, he fell in love with flying and knew he would someday be a pilot. This has always been his dream. Growing up, he worked at an airport in the Denver area washing and fueling planes.

As a teenager, he read all of Burt Rutan’s books. He eventually bought a Long EZ to see how to build his own. A Long-EZ is a homebuilt aircraft with a Canard layout designed by Burt Rutan’s Rutan Aircraft Factory. Floyd is now almost done building his own. 

Noel isn’t really worried about Floyd’s first flight in his home built plane. Experimental aircraft require 40 hours before they can be taken outside a 25 nautical mile area. She has “total confidence in his abilities.” She said he also bought a helmet and will probably get a parachute. Floyd said the LongEZ is a proven successful design and he has no worries.

The two are hoping to bring some young blood to the hobby. They say there are plenty of younger adults who are in the process of building their own experimentals. They welcome any ideas or comments, noting that the primary benefits of the fly-ins are the camaraderie, shared interest in aviation, and hanging out with other folks who love to fly and build planes. Floyd said, “The airplane gets you into the community, but it’s the people who keep you there.”

Char Spencer and her husband Gary have been the leading force in the Kanab Rutan Fly-in since 2005.  She added these words of appreciation for the folks of Kanab and Kane County: “On behalf of all the attendees of the Rutan type fly-in, I would like to thank all the folks in Kanab who helped our gathering be such a success. Bill and Krista Erickson of Aikens Lodge were a major force in making the fly-in possible, taking care of planning on the Kanab end. Their staff at the motel did a wonderful job getting all of us into rooms and taking care of our every need.”

“T-Time had a new T-shirt design ready for us and made custom T’s for those who wanted their own aircraft on the shirt. Great work guys!”

“Thanks to the airport staff, Jeff and Jake, for putting up with lots of aircraft and people on the field. Good work on the hot dogs, a job you never knew existed!”

“The group would like to send a very special thank you to Dick and Sharlotte Brewer for the outstanding pancake breakfast and hugs to their crew of airport bums: Hilda, Carol, Mike, Jeff and others. Carol gets a few extra smiles for the homemade cookies.”

“Another group we must thank is the rental car folks as we came and went at all hours, with and without reservations. You guys do well at cat herding!”

“Also helping with cat herding were the restaurants. You were courteous to us whether we were two or 22, and sometimes we came in as two, sat down as 12, and checked out as 22! Razzleberry pie to barbecue, French onion soup to key lime pie, a few tacos in between and an ice cream or two, we were all happy campers. Lotsa Motsa...thanks a bunch for making up such a wonderful assortment of pizza for a bunch of hungry pilots. There was not a piece left at the end of the evening.”

“We also owe a special recognition to the City of Kanab for making transportation possible (under Bill Erickson’s guidance), and providing the hot dogs and sodas at the airport.”

“And thanks to all of Kanab for making your community such a wonderful venue for our event,” concluded Spencer.

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. The pilot of that aircraft, Mike Melville, is also a regular attendee of the fly-in. You never know who or what you may find amid the red rocks of Kanab.