For more than 40 years, pilots from across the country would gather at North Texas Regional Airport — Perrin Field to prove their mettle in the air each fall during the U.S. National Aerobatic Championships. When the event left the airport for other skies in 2016, organizers did not rule out a return in the near future.
Following rumors mentioned during a recent meeting of the Grayson County Regional Mobility Authority that the event would be departing Oshkosh, Wisconsin — its home for the past two years — International Aerobatic Club President Robert Armstrong said there “is a good possibility” the event could return to Texoma.
“Now that I am president, it will not be there (Oshkosh) again,” Armstrong, who was named IAC president in March, said in phone interview Thursday.
The decision to relocate the event to Oshkosh, the home of the IAC, was made in 2016 before that year's contest. The decision did not affect the 2016 championships, but meant that the 2017 contest would not take place in Grayson County.
At the time, NTRA officials attributed the decision to the recent growth and increased activity at the airport, including air traffic from the US Aviation flight school, which operates at the airport. This in turn led to increased traffic and delays for competing aircraft during the contest, officials said.
“It is a disappointment, but it may be natural growing pains related to the increased use of the airport in terms of takeoffs and landings,” Clyde Siebman, then board chairman for the Grayson County Regional Mobility Authority, said.
Armstrong said the decision to move to Oshkosh was primarily made by a former president for the IAC. When the board voted on the decision to move to Oshkosh, Armstrong said it resulted in a tie vote that was broken by the president in favor of the move.
In the years since, Armstrong said the event saw some difficulties with the new location. In addition to not being centrally located for most pilots, he said the weather and climate of Wisconsin in the fall also brought its own issues during the 2017 contest. Additionally, Armstrong said there were some concerns with the airport and the city itself.
While organizers said many of these issues would be fixed, Armstrong said it appears they have not been addressed as the 2018 contest approaches.
“The only way it will return (to Oshkosh) is if I am not leading this organization,” Armstrong said.
Armstrong noted that NTRA may not have been perfect, but many of these issues were not as significant.
Following the decision to relocate again, Armstrong said he and organizers are currently shopping for a new location for the event. Armstrong added that he has yet to sit down and talk to NTRA officials about the possible return, but initial interactions seemed positive with local interest. With that in mind, Armstrong said he is hopeful that an agreement similar to past agreements could be reached.
Armstrong noted that the decision on a new location for the championships has not been made and a formal announcement would not occur before this year's contest.