Helicopter news continues McCook's aviation tradition

Wednesday, December 8, 2004

Be truthful. Could you have predicted two days ago that the biggest news in the McCook area in the past two days would be about helicopters?

Well, it happened. First came the dramatic news that a helicopter kit manufacturer, Pawnee Aviation, will be locating its production plant in McCook. Then, quickly thereafter, came the news that one of the nation's largest air medical aviation companies, CJ Systems, will be placing a twin engine helicopter in McCook for emergency air transport.

The announcements represent a continuing effort by the community to be a leader in business recruitment, and they show that start-up industries view McCook as a healthy environment to develop their business concepts.

From both an aviation and industrial standpoint, it is appropriate that the helicopter companies chose the community of McCook and the Golden Plains area of Southwest Nebraska and Northwest Kansas for their endeavors. Because of the wide open spaces and the many days of sunshine, aviation has long flourished in this region.

Early in his aviation career, Charles Lindbergh spent time in Bird City, Kan., and soon thereafter the McCook Daily Gazette became the first newspaper in the United States to be delivered by airplane. McCook became the site of an Army Air Base during World War II, and later hosted the National Sailplane Championships at that site. The annual High Plains Freedom Flight draws balloonists and balloon fans from far and wide, and the local aviation community continues to thrive, whether private pilots, homebuilders, ultralights or paraplanes.

The rich aviation history continues today, with McCook one of the smallest American cities served by scheduled airline flights. Great Lakes Airlines provides daily flights to and from Denver.

With helicopters becoming an increasingly popular form of air transportation, it appears the time is right for economical, ready-to-assemble kits like the ones Ron Willocks of Pawnee Aviation has been developing for the past 10 years. We welcome Pawnee and wish the company the best as it begins production of their innovative concepts.

Words of welcome also go out to CJ Systems, which is joining MedStar to provide regional emergency air transport for the people of the Tri-State Region. This is the kind of area that urgently needs air transport teams like MedStar and CJ Systems. We are many miles from metropolitan medical centers, and a few minutes can make a difference in whether an injured or critically ill patient lives or dies.

For many years and in so many ways, aviation has been closely connected with the history of the McCook area. As we go forward, it will be intriguing to watch as helicopters provide exciting new chapters in that ongoing aviation saga.

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