A crowd several hundred strong gathered at North Texas Regional Airport-Perrin Field Wednesday evening to kick-off the World Aerobatics Championship, which is being held in Texas for the first time in its 27-year history. The event, sponsored by the Commission Internationale de Voltige Aérienne, includes more than 60 pilots from 17 different countries who will compete in flight agility routines over the next ten days.

A crowd several hundred strong gathered at North Texas Regional Airport-Perrin Field Wednesday evening to kick-off the World Aerobatics Championship, which is being held in Texas for the first time in its 27-year history. The event, sponsored by the Commission Internationale de Voltige Aérienne, includes more than 60 pilots from 17 different countries who will compete in flight agility routines over the next ten days.


The opening ceremonies for the competition included an Olympic-style parade of competitors, not to mention plenty of Texas flavor. The marching band from Southeastern Oklahoma State University performed, along with several dance troupes from the Texoma area. Grayson County Judge Drue Bynum said the event was a great example of what the area could accomplish when municipalities work together.


"We’ve got people from across the world competing at our airport, which, in and of itself, is very special," Bynum said. "It’s another example of how the folks of Grayson County come together to put on an event, and it truly defines regionalism."


For Debby Rihn-Harvey from La Porte, Texas, the ceremony marked the beginning of her 15th world championship. But flying in the Lone Star State brings an added level of significance, she said.


"It’s always an exciting event, but this year it’s right in my backyard," she said during the opening ceremonies. "We’re at home; we’re comfortable here. We don’t have to adapt to the time zone change or the climate change. It feels like home."


It feels like home for Australian Rob Noonan, too — but not in quite the same way.


"It’s big!" he said when asked his impressions of Texas. "It does remind me a bit of Australia in a lot of ways — just a lot of open spaces."


Noonan, who pilots commercially for Qantas out of Melbourne most of the year, said 2013 is the first time he’s qualified for the world competition, and he didn’t blow smoke when asked to gauge the odds for his small contingent of Aussies.


"We’re realistic about it. You’ve got some teams — Russia, France, America — that are pretty well funded. We’re just here in a borrowed airplane with minimum practice. We came to compete and have a bit fun down in the middle of the pack somewhere."


CIVA President L.G. Arvidsson, a Swede who during the ceremony announced the official start of competition, said the organization was impressed with the location.


"It’s a fantastic facility, with a big airfield," he said after addressing the crowd. "This time of the year, the weather is fantastic."


Bynum said the championship should be good for the area.


"We have 200 people in the competition or judging, and we got people who are going to come watch those 200 people, so I think it’s going to be a boon for the local economy," he said. "This is absolutely one of the most important events that’s ever been hosted here. I’m looking forward to seeing what they can do."