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Video Report: Phuket Airpark event a flying success

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PHUKET: THE successful Phuket Air Show & Fly’n event at the Phuket Airpark on February 28 is just the first in a number of similar activities planned at Phuket’s only private airfield, with another fun event scheduled to take place in mid-May.

Pat James, head of the Phuket Aviation Club, told Up In The Air: “The airshow on March 28 was intended to be an introductory event for the local community. We are planning a minimum of three or perhaps four more such events annually, under the umbrella of the Phuket Aviation Club, joined by the Experimental Aircraft Association and the Siam Aviation Association.”

Pat explained that all three are part of a global community of “general aviation” enthusiasts: recreational fliers using a truly wide range of aircraft – everything from fixed wing planes to gyrocopters and paramotors – to explore the skies above.

He described the event earlier this month as “an unbelievable success at every level, ” with more than 70 passengers going up for rides in a variety of aircraft, and a number of people, Thais and foreigners, signing up for flying lessons.

Although smaller than the two-day US Independence Day Event in 2013, which involved multiple sponsorships and drew over a thousand people on both days, the recent event showed that the Phuket Flying Club and Phuket Airpark are now capable of hosting large events largely on their own, he said.
Among those taking part were former recreational flyers who wanted to get back into the sport, as well as newcomers who hadn’t been aware of the recreational aviation options available in Phuket.

Among the most popular activities were short gyrocopter rides offered by the ‘By The Air’ group at 1,500 baht per passenger.

The recorded attendance at the gate was about 700, with the first arrivals coming at dawn and soon filling up the large car park at the Airpark.

“There was a lot of activity all day long. As soon as a few cars departed a few more pulled in to take their places,” Pat said.

The event also served as good general operations training experience for staff at the Phuket Airpark, he added.

“So now we are really looking forward to the May 16 event. It will go under the Young Eagles Program, which is being sponsored by the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAE) based in America, as well as the Siam Aviation Association and Phuket Aviation Club,” Pat explained.

Youths interested in earning their wings will definitely want to attend, as the top 12 to 15 young people participating between the ages of 14 and 18 years old will have the chance to get a free online course and certificates valued from 15,000 to 25,000 baht.

“That’s a tremendous opportunity for young, qualified individuals who truly have an interest in aviation. It can give them a foothold,” he said.

Youngsters showing interest in the March event also represented a balanced mix of Thais and expats, Pat noted.

The minimum legal age to operate an aircraft or take part in actual pilot training in Thailand is 16, but there is a wide variety of other training options open to ambitious would-be aviators under that age. Among the options available are ground school, safety training, navigational training, learning about atmospheric conditions, as well as just observing how a veteran pilot safely operates an aircraft.

ROCKET MAN

One of the many highlights of the day was a “water jet” apparatus set up at the Airpark pond by one participant.

It was set up on a rather impromptu basis, but turned out to be a very good form of entertainment – especially on such a hot day.

The system comprises a pair of water nozzles that the user hooks up to both feet. A jet-ski parked nearby pumps high pressure water through a hose and into the nozzles, propelling the user from the lake into the air.

With a little practice, users can learn to balance themselves atop the two columns of water, perhaps feeling like a dolphin using its tail fluke to balance itself and “walk on water”.

Despite the considerable thrust involved, the water jet activity appears to be quite safe. The greatest risk observed on the day came when newcomers lost their balance and belly-flopped face down into the pond with so many spectators looking on. Hopefully those behind the fun activity will be in town for the May 16 event, so even more people can give it a try.

For more information about the Phuket Aviation Club, click here.

— Stephen Michael Fein

 

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