September 18, 2008

Show Blends Future, History of Aviation

By Kate McGraw For the Journal

Bob Carleton was only 4 years old when he climbed step-stool to counter to top of the fridge -- and jumped off.

His mother says it was a sign Bob was determined to fly. He designed his first airplane at age 8. Forty years later, he's coming as close as he can to soaring like an eagle. He soars aerobatically in a Super Salto. That's a glider, but one equipped with two tiny jet engines that boost him into the air, so he doesn't have to depend on a tow plane to get him to the altitudes where he soars. He just got it approved by the Federal Aviation Administration last month, and will fly it for only the second time publicly at the Santa Fe Airshow on Saturday.

A genuine rocket scientist at Sandia National Laboratories, Carleton also is known internationally as one of the most versatile sailplane performers. He's logged more than 2,000 hours in a wide variety of aircraft and holds a commercial pilot license. He's flown in "two-thirds of the states," Canada and Australia.

He said traveling the world and entertaining people at air shows is a good experience. "It's a blast," Carleton told the Journal. "It's in my blood. I can't help it."

The Santa Fe Airshow, sponsored by the nonprofit Santa Fe Aviation Association, is revived this year, thanks in part to the enthusiasm of coordinator Bob Talarczyk. "We're bringing together for the first time New Mexico's very finest in space and aviation, sort of New Mexico's own mini space and aviation expo at the Santa Fe Airshow 2008," Talarczyk said. "A blue sky adventure for our state's future." He said the show is dedicated to men and women serving in the U.S. armed forces.

Talarczyk and his fellow association members have lined up a list of seven performers, from former USAF F-16 pilot Gary Rower of Peachtree, Ga., in his Stearman to Squadron 20, a group of formation pilots from Mesa, Ariz.

Two of the performers are Gary Dawson and Ken Kalstead of Santa Fe.

Dawson, who owns Dawson Surveys, flies a Rebel, a homebuilt, 315- hp beauty that can handle stress to plus or minus 10Gs.

Why does he do it? "Why do you climb a mountain?" he asked rhetorically. "It's the precision, and the personal achievement. Plus, I like to promote community aviation. Air shows are one thing you can do to promote aviation among non-flyers."

Kalstead will be flying an SNJ, a Navy trainer from the World War II era.

As a former Navy fighter pilot, he trained on a successor to the SNJ, and his father, a World War II pilot, trained on the T6, the Air Corps version.

The SNJ is "as far from the F-18 as any plane I've flown," he said. In handling, he likened it to the Triumph TR-3, his first car. "It's an airplane that keeps you smiling," Kalstead said.

The planes being flown are either nostalgic looks at the past or show planes like Carleton's, Talarczyk said. But there is another component to the Santa Fe Airshow, one that he finds as compelling as the performances.

The association also has created exhibition spaces for a number of exhibitors, and the most exciting one -- to Talarczyk -- is the planned exhibit Spaceport America. "This is the future," he said. "This is what our children and grandchildren will be doing."

If you go

What: Santa Fe Airshow 2008 When: Saturday; gates open 9:30 a.m., performances 11 a.m.-3 p.m. Where: Santa Fe Municipal Airport How much: $10. Children 12 and under free; must be accompanied by adult. Tickets for military with valid ID are half-price. POSITIVELY NO PETS

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