Carlisle’s third Airport Day, held Saturday, showed the benefit of lessons learned in the first two celebrations, with a balance of airplanes and prospective fliers. The waiting line for the free airplane rides seldom grew very long. Better, hundreds of people who might have not known that Carlisle even has an airport now know about the only municipal airport in Lonoke County.
Carlisle Airport Day is sponsored by the Carlisle Chamber of Commerce and the Carlisle Airport Commission, and supported by the Carlisle Lions Club.
"You should have been out for the first [Airport Day]," Carlisle mayor Ray Glover said with a laugh. "People waited in line until 5 o’clock for a ride," he said. "We’ve got it down pretty good now, and things moved pretty smooth,"
Larry Pasley, the airport manager and chairman of the Carlisle Airport Commission, said, "It’s a three-pronged effort," of the Carlisle Chamber of Commerce, Airport Commission and Lions Club.
"It’s for goodwill; there are a lot of people who have never flown before. This gives them a chance to see what it’s like," Pasley said.
Beth Plafcan, Carlisle Chamber of Commerce member and Airport Day organizer, said more than 450 people visited the airport with about 360 getting free airplane rides.
Other attractions for the day included the County Assessor’s mobile office, blood pressure checks by Baptist Health, and a Carlisle truck on display with fire safety information from the Carlisle Fire Department .
Glover said the idea of Carlisle Airport Day was born in a conversation with a city council member. "We were talking about the fine airport we have, but lots of people did not know Carlisle even had an airport. Lots of people in Carlisle had never even been out there," he said.
That grew into the idea of giving children free airplane rides, Glover said.
After the second Airport Day, it was decided to make Airport Day a bi-annual event.
"It’s been a big success," Glover said of Airport Day "We get to show off our airport, and some kids get what could be the only airplane ride they ever get," he said.
Of course, there is also the benefit of bringing the airport to the attention of potential businesses, Glover said. "We have two 4,000-foot runways with matching taxiways. When you connect it with the 2,000 acre industrial park on the other side of the Interstate, it can work for a business real well," Glover said.
Pasley said Carlisle Municipal Airport is a legacy of World War II.
Stuttgart had the main airbase; Carlisle had a relief airstrip for the airbase, Pasley said. "I understand it was mainly for gliders."
When the war ended, ownership of the airstrip reverted to Carlisle, which has since maintained the airfield for general aviation and smaller corporate aircraft, Pasley said.
"Pretty much anything that can land on 4,500 feet can come in here," Pasley said. "Except for a C-130," he added. A C-130 like those at Little Rock Air Force Base can weigh in at more than 75 tons with loads of up to 42,000 pounds.
Attention for the airport is also good public relations, Pasley said. "Lots of people don’t even know Carlisle has an airport, and it could help let a business know it is here," he said.
Local pilots who volunteered for the event were Larry Pasley, Jim Hamric, Frank Elder, Todd Ferguson, Jack Evans, Dean Allen, John Almond, Bill Richter, Jeff Dulaney, Phillip Foot and Jeff Plafcan. The Carlisle Lions Club provided free hot dog lunches while the Carlisle Chamber of Commerce provided a bounce house for the kids.
Plafcan said other sponsors included BancorpSouth, Carlisle Banking Center, John Staley, Sen. John Dismang and Joe Kersey, CPA.