Westheimer flying high with 2 major events | Business

Max Westheimer Airport Director Walt Strong said volunteers and staff will set up 3,000 cones next weekend, along with yards of bike rails, rows of portable toilets and multiple portable showers.

Multiple tents, food vendors and exhibitors will fill the airport.

“We’ve got 550 airplanes we are going to be parking all over this airport,” Strong said.

Next week, between 6,000 and 10,00 people will converge on Max Westheimer Airport for the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association fly-in and annual Aviation Festival, which are happening simultaneously.

The Aviation Festival has been a favorite event in Norman for more than a decade.

“We round up a bunch of volunteers, we bring in static airplane displays, we bring in Norman Fire, Norman Police, Norman SWAT teams, the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics,” Strong said. “We are promoting aviation, so we want people in the community to know about this place.”

Every year, the airports brings in static displays and gives local children a way to try flying. Because of safety regulations, Strong said people are much more disconnected from aviation and it is a lot harder for the general public to get close to actual airplanes.

But this year’s event will be even bigger with more planes from around the region, since Westheimer is also hosting the AOPA regional fly-in.

The association has been hosting regional fly-ins for the last three years, and the Westheimer Airport has been in discussions with AOPA about hosting one since they started the regional fly-ins.

Strong said the size of the airport, the runway configuration, area to park runways and space for the event were all factors in the decision.

“There is not a lot of general aviation airports that can host an event of that size. We just happen to be one of them,” Strong said. “We’ve been working on this since at least fall of last year.”

Planning for the event ramped up in February.

AOPA members and fly-in attendees will arrive Friday, take part in special education breakout sessions for pilots and visit an exhibition floor.

Selena Belvin, assistant in airport administrations at Westheimer, said one of the reasons the AOPA decided to host a fly in at Westheimer Airport was because there were other things to do in town.

“While pilots are taking AOPA seminars, their families can go to museums, go shopping or do other things in Norman,” Belvin said.

Strong said he expects around 6,000 people to either fly in or drive in for the AOPA event.

While having both events together might be very busy, trying to coordinate that many volunteers and undertake that much operational organization for two events would be crazy, forcing volunteers to come in for two weekends, 3,000 cones to be carefully placed twice and traffic to be congested around the airport twice in the same time period. So, the two were merged together.

“So the AOPA fly-in covers Friday and Saturday. The Aviation Festival usually starts Friday morning with a breakfast for the Norman Chamber of Commerce and then the Aviation Festival runs Saturday,” Strong said earlier this week. “The Friday piece will predominately be the fly-in. The Saturday piece will predominately be the Aviation Festival.”

The Westheimer staff have carefully considered everything that could go wrong and set up a plan for each potentiality.

Belvin said making sure there is enough shade, enough water stations, high traffic flow, having enough food, portable showers for campers, bathrooms and parking for vehicles and planes are all issues staff had to consider.

Strong said even little things like tripping hazards are major concerns with an event this large.

“There are a lot of plans in place and a lot of cool things people are going to be able to get into, and you always wonder if with that many people, you are going to have something for everybody. And I think we have enough activities and enough information for everybody,” Belvin said.

For more information, visit the Max Westheimer Airport Facebook page at facebook.com/maxwestheimerairport.

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