As the participants gathered for this weekend's Sho-Me Chutes Fly-In at the Baugh Flight Park east of Carthage, a diverse array of flying machines took shape in the newest hanger at the 15-year-old airport.
Powered parachutes, featuring their brightly colored canopies over the framed fuselages that look like dune buggies driven by big fans, are the dominant machines, but other kinds of small aircraft will be featured, including Craig McPherson, from Blum, Texas, and his bright red gyrocopter.
A gyrocopter is a lot like a helicopter, with a big turning propellor on top that lifts the machine into the air, but in a gyro, there's no motor turning the big lifting blade — is spins in the wind.
“You've heard of helicopters, if the engine dies, they can do autorotation and land,” McPherson said. “We're flying in autorotation all the time. There's no drive going to this main blade, it's just the air motion that makes it keep going. But I can do just about 90 percent of what a helicopter can do. I can almost land vertically, I can just about hover, but I cannot take off vertically. That's the one thing I cannot do.”
Gyrocopters have been around since the 1930s but McPherson said the latest generation is much safer than past designs.
Elijah Tate, Amarillo, Tex., spent much of Thursday morning assembling his machine, a powered hang glider called a trike.
After he assembled it, he took it on a test hop. He landed and talked about his flying machine.
“It's just freedom,” Tate said. “It's sort of like going out on dirt roads with no fences, no barriers. You can go anywhere you want, as long as you don't break any rules. It's very nice.”
Tate said this was his first time coming to the Baugh Flight Park's fly-in.
Kenny West, Carthage, who flew a Carthage Press reporter over the flight park to get aerial photos of the event, said he expects 40-50 machines and their owners to come to the event this year.
There will be some flying tonight and Saturday morning, if the weather is acceptable, but the main events are set for Saturday night, starting before sunset.
Powered parachutes need nearly calm winds to safely fly, that means most flying will take place around sunrise and sunset. Otherwise they are among the safest kinds of airplanes.
“It's like a bird, it's nice,” West said. “It's hard to describe, you fly real slow and low. You can do anything you want to do, it's just real fun to fly. You're under a parachute, so if you have an engine out, you just glide down just like a skydiver under a parachute.”
Page 2 of 2 - Locals may come out during the day anytime today or Saturday to see the aircraft, but pilots will be flying in the mornings and evenings. To get to the Baugh Flight Park, take Missouri Highway 96 east of Carthage to County Road 70. (Look for signs.) Turn right and travel south to the “T” junction, and then turn left on Incline Road for about a mile.
“f you want to see flying at its cheapest form that you can afford, this is it,” McPherson said. “You'll see trikes, gyros, powered parachutes, fixed wings. This is how you can just go up and fly.”