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Beacon Senior News

Montrose Tribute to Aviation celebrates the wild blue yonder

Aug 31, 2017 01:35PM ● By Carole Ann McKelvey

Visitors to the Montrose Regional Airport’s Tribute to Aviation can explore aircraft and meet pilots this September.


That’s what anyone who attended last year’s Tribute to Aviation aircraft exhibition at Montrose Regional Airport will say when they see this year’s display. A vast collection of classic airplanes and notable helicopters lands at the airport on September 16-17. This signature aviation event—previously known as the Montrose Regional Airport’s Salute to Older and New Aircraft—is free to the public.

“What makes this year’s event special is the fact we will have more aircraft, educational exhibits and interactive activities,” said Montrose Regional Airport Director of Aviation Lloyd Arnold. “We will be bringing in historical and educational displays from NASA and an aircraft flight simulator from the Civil Air Patrol.”

He noted that the 2017 Tribute to Aviation will feature more than 50 aircraft of various types, from a C-17 Globemaster to fighter jets and warbirds.

“The cross-section of unique civilian and current military aircraft will be amazing,” Arnold said.

Visitors can fly in this 1943 Beechcraft 18 SNB-5.

Unlike other aviation events, Tribute to Aviation is a static aircraft display, providing visitors with the opportunity and time to tour specialized aircraft not normally seen in the area, and to interact with pilots and crew from across the country.

“Montrose Regional Airport is extremely pleased to welcome military service members, civilian pilots and aircraft from around the U.S.,” said Arnold.

Attendees will be able to explore a massive cargo transport and examine various types of helicopters, trainers, fighters and experimental aircraft. They’ll also learn a lot about the airport.

“The event showcases Montrose Regional Airport and promotes aviation and aerospace while providing family fun and aviation education to the public,” said Larry Blackwell, airport operations manager.

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The Commemorative Air Force’s Rocky Mountain Wing will exhibit a 1945 Grumman TBM Avenger.

Something for everyone

Many of the aircraft at this year’s tribute will be new to even the most avid aviation fan, Arnold said. The lineup includes Chinook, Black Hawk and Sea Dragon helicopters.

Visitors who attended the first Tribute to Aviation last year will remember the U.S. Navy’s E-6 Mercury, called TACAMO (short for “Take Charge and Move Out”). TACAMO is designed to provide vital communications links in the event of a nuclear war. The plane is equipped with very low frequency radios to communicate with submarines, can relay launch commands for nuclear missiles and is able to send and receive emergency action messages to and from U.S. strategic nuclear forces worldwide.

“This aircraft almost exclusively attends military air shows, yet the Tribute is fortunate to host TACAMO in 2017 as well,” Arnold said.

The Commemorative Air Force’s (CAF) Rocky Mountain Wing returns with the two planes its members steward—a 1946 Piper J3 Cub, the smallest World War II aircraft, and the TBM Avenger.

“These are not museum pieces, per se, like you would normally see roped off,” said Wing Commander Kent Taylor. “These are real airplanes that you can touch, hear and smell.”

The TBM Avenger, the largest single-engine World War II-era torpedo-bomber, was recently designated “historic property” by History Colorado. It’s the first airplane in Colorado to receive such a designation and only the second in the nation.

“We are proud to fly and display this aircraft, which is now an even more valuable asset to the Western Slope and surrounding areas,” said Taylor.

CAF member Charlie Huff, 75, also plans to fly from Crawford in the Kitfox plane he built himself.

The C-17 will be back this year at Tribute to Aviation. Here, families check out the huge aircraft during the 2016 event.

A 1943 Beechcraft 18 SNB-5 (a So-Noran Beauty) will also be on display. This is a rare Twin Beechcraft 18 in its original military configuration. It served on active duty with the U.S. Navy from 1943 until 1965 and is a three-year veteran of World War II.

It was upgraded from an SNB-2 to an SNB-5 in the 1950s and was used in the U.S. as a navigation trainer or transport carrier. Visitors will have the opportunity to fly in this unique aircraft during the show for a fee.

Attendees will also have the chance to sit in the cockpit of a fighter jet. The event features the fully restored cockpit of an A-7 Corsair II. Visitors may dress as a real fighter pilot, complete with flight gear and helmet, and enjoy a hands-on, guided tour of the cockpit. If it looks a little familiar, it’s because an A-7 Corsair is also displayed at the entrance to Montrose Regional Airport.

Planes, track lanes and automobiles

This year, the Tribute to Aviation will host the brand-new Precision Exotics driving challenge. Visitors can test their driving skills onsite in Ferrari F430 and Lamborghini Gallardo super cars on the precision autocross, a specially designed track.

Drivers will experience every aspect of an exotic car’s blistering speed, braking ability and handling prowess. After paying a registration fee, drivers will meet driving instructors, get a comprehensive overview of the exotic car they chose and enjoy three laps around the track.

The Tribute to Aviation costs about $65,000 to facilitate, but there’s no entrance fee. It’s made possible thanks to support from the Montrose County Commissioners and event sponsors including Atlantic Aviation, Reams Construction and other local businesses.

See aircraft up close at this year’s Tribute to Aviation.

In the days leading up to the event, the airport continues to book new exhibits and aircraft. Arnold encourages those interested to stay in the loop by visiting the airport’s Facebook page or the event website,

“In the meantime, start planning your weekend at Montrose Regional Airport for two exceptional days enjoying aviation and aerospace,” Arnold said.

The Tribute to Aviation will be open Saturday and Sunday from 9 a.m.-4 p.m. There will be free parking in designated areas of the airport, and a free shuttle will run between the parking areas and the commercial passenger terminal, where the aircraft will be displayed.