AIKEN - The fourth annual Rotors Over Carolina, a celebration of rotorcraft, kicked off Friday at Aiken Municipal Airport with the one- and two-seat helicopters buzzing about the field as spectators got up-close views.
The fly-in is a gathering of rotorcraft enthusiasts from all over the nation. About 30 of the strange-looking craft were at the Aiken airport Friday afternoon, with more expected to arrive later in the day and this morning.
Ken Doucette, a resident of Houston, said he travels to two rotorcraft fly-ins each year because of the bond between the owners and pilots of the machines.
"I've been doing this for 4´ to five years," Mr. Doucette said. "I know people from all over. It's a diverse group. You go where your sport is."
Mr. Doucette said rotorcraft provide "the last bastion of general aviation."
He said he started flying in airplanes but soon latched onto rotorcraft because they are more fun.
Also at the fly-in Friday was an Apache attack helicopter of the South Carolina National Guard.
Mr. Doucette said that for all the glamour and excitement associated with the Apache, he would rather fly a rotorcraft. He explained that rotorcraft are not only more fun but also safer.
"They can't stall," Mr. Doucette said. He explained that the craft can auto-rotate to a safe, controlled landing.
Brad King, a friend of Mr. Doucette from Dallas, said many rotorcraft are so safe that if they lost power, "they can land in a tennis court."
The rotorcraft fly-in is sponsored by the Georgia-Carolina Rotorcraft Club. Aiken Municipal Airport is near the intersection of U.S. Highway 1 and Interstate 20. Admission is free.
The fly-in organizers have provided a free shuttle service from the airport operations center to the rotorcraft area, which is near the end of Runway 36.
Members of the club took spectators for rides in the rotorcraft Friday afternoon. Three or four of the small machines were airborne most of the time.
Today, pilots and owners will be available to discuss their aircraft and their avocation. A potluck meal will be shared in the evening.
The fly-in will end Sunday as the pilots and owners return to their homes.
Reach Rick Green at (803) 279-6895 or firstname.lastname@example.org.