A popular aviation-themed event at Freeman Municipal Airport in Seymour will not take place this year.
The annual Airport Awareness Day, typically conducted in October, has been canceled due to a lack of airplanes and pilots available to give rides and a general shortage of volunteers needed to make the event happen, said Larry Bothe, an officer with the Freeman Field Flying Association.
The association has organized and sponsored the free event for many years to encourage people to visit and learn more about the airport.
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Bothe said attendance always has been good, but it’s difficult to get enough people to work at the event. From planning and attracting people to fly in and display their aircraft, to finding pilots willing to donate their time and planes to take people on rides, there’s a lot to do, he said.
Part of the job of organizing the event included arranging for food and vendors, safety and parking, advertising and promotion, fundraising and fueling aircraft.
Bothe said he was doing all of the work himself for five years, and it just got to be too much for one person.
“I said I would still help, but I didn’t want to do it all by myself,” he said.
Bothe said active membership in the flying association is down and most are too busy with other activities or are getting to an age where they aren’t flying anymore.
“We have roughly 100 members,” he said. “But we have trouble getting people to come to meetings.”
Bothe said aviation groups and activities aren’t attracting a lot of younger people these days who could help with putting on such events.
And with the expense involved, there aren’t many people in the area who own an airplane in which to give people rides.
“A lot of the older pilots are selling their planes,” he said.
Airplane rides always have been the biggest draw of Airport Awareness Day to the public. But that’s not the only reason the airport should have a public event, Bothe said.
“It’s good for people to know that we have an airport here and to come find out what’s going on,” he said. “The airport does a lot to promote and support business and industry in Seymour.”
He said the amount of recreational flying at the airport has declined over the years.
Nearby communities, including North Vernon and Columbus, have similar events to promote their airports.
Bothe said he hopes Airport Awareness Day in Seymour isn’t gone for good.
“I think it could happen again, but the FFFA needs to revitalize itself and recruit more people to devote time to it,” he said. “It would be a good job for someone who is retired or semi-retired.”