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Aerobatics make a return to NTRA

Michael Hutchins
Herald Democrat
Erick McDaniel wipes down a Pitts 200 plane at the 2018 Lone Star Aerobatic Championship at North Texas Regional Airport Perrin Field. The GCRMA Board cleared the way for the contest to make its return to NTRA this May.

Aerobatic contests have been cleared for landing and a return to Texoma at North Texas Airport — Perrin Field. The Grayson County Regional Mobility Authority approved a request for the airport to host 2021 Lone Star Aerobatic Contest at NTRA.

This marks the first time that the contest has be held at the airport since 2018. The Lone Star Contest and others moved away from NTRA in recent years due to concerns about air traffic and congestion.

"We feel like this is an opportunity to promote the airport to the community and we hope this you will support our activities here at North Texas Regional," said Tom Rhodes, president of the International Aerobic Club Chapter 24.

The airport has a ling history when it comes to aerobatic competition. For decades, the former air force base served as the annual home of the U.S. National Aerobatic Championships.

However, this came to an end following the 2016 show when organizers for the national event announced plans to hold the contest elsewhere, in part due to growing traffic around NTRA.

The increase in operations was due part to US Aviation Academy, a flight school that primarily focused on training international pilots, particularly the Chinese market.

As the flight school increased its enrollment and services, traffic from its operations also steadily increased. This led to conflicts and delays in the later years of the competition due to demand for air space.

The Lone Star show left two years later due to similar concerns.

Traffic around NTRA shifted in 2020 as US Aviation moved to consolidate its operations to its facility in Denton County. The COVID-19 pandemic impacted the flow of pilot candidates, which impacted enrollment with the flight school.

With the change in operations, Rhodes previously said the airport was once again in good position to support these shows and contests.

The RMA board approved the request contingent on several factors, including that organizers add the airport to its insurance coverage for the event and that organizers coordinate with local first responders for safety and emergency protocol.

The Lone Star contest is only one way that aerobatics may return to NTRA. Rhodes said he has also made a request to reopen a train box above NTRA that would allow a space for pilots to train aerobatic tricks and skills.

During Thursdays meeting, the board gave the airport manager authority to negotiate a location with the Federal Aviation Administration.

NTRA Airport Manager Mike Livezey said the request asks for the box to be opened directly above the airport's two runways, but he would prefer to have it elsewhere due to safety and usage concerns.

The contest is currently scheduled to run from May 13-16.