Cape Girardeau Regional Airport

Sky-toberFest Skydiving Boogie

by Gary Peek
Central Regional Director of the United States Parachute Association

From the Fall-Winter 1998 issue of the Midwest Aviation Journal


Airport Manager Bruce Loy of the Cape Girardeau Regional Airport in Cape Girardeau, Missouri, certainly knows how to increase general aviation activity at an airport. Since April of 1997 when Loy took over the position of airport manager he has worked hard to find innovative ways to bring activity to the airport.

The airport has been a non-federally funded controlled airport since 1994 when federal government cutbacks threatened the operation of the control tower. The city of Cape Girardeau, however, was committed to supporting their local airport, and with the recent help of Loy in arranging for funding, continues to assume the expenses associated with the control tower.

Cape Airport is served by Trans World Express and Comair (Delta) commuter airlines, and is the home of Air Evac Aviation. Proctor and Gamble flights frequent the airport using Executive Jet and Comair charters. But even with this much activity, Mr. Loy does not rest on his reputation.

In October of 1997 Loy organized Cape Girardeau Regional Airport's "Aviation Day", which included most of the features of an air show, plus a skydiving "boogie", the name given to skydiving events that expect to attract more jumpers than the usual weekend crowd.

Loy received many compliments from skydivers after the Aviation Day. All of the 80 plus skydiving participants told him that they had never been treated so well, and that they wanted to come back next year. So in 1998 he decided to divide Aviation Day into two events. One is the now annual Air Festival, a full scale air show which was held on July 11th and 12th this year. This division allowed Loy to concentrate on providing the skydivers with an event of their own, which became this year's 1998 Sky-toberFest.

Just as in 1997, Loy arranged this year for Mike Mullins' Super King Air jump airplane to come to the event. Mullins' King Air, which is based at West Tennessee Skydiving in Memphis, travels to many skydiving events in the midwest. His Beechcraft BE-90 has had its original 550 hp PT6 turbine engines replaced with 750 hp PT6 turbine engines with high performance cowlings, and is well known for its ability to take 14 skydivers to 14,000 feet in 7 minutes under standard conditions.

Loy and the Cape Airport staff arranged for the King Air jump plane and provided the airport terminal building as a "manifest" area for the jumping activities and as an air-conditioned packing area for parachutes. The skydivers took advantage of this unusual hospitality, and while commuter airline passengers watched in amazement, the skydivers packed their parachutes right in front of them while they were waiting on flights. The skydivers patiently answered the many questions that these passengers and Cape Girardeau residents were asking about what it is like to freefall, about skydiving gear and safety, and about how they, too, could learn to skydive.

The Cape Pilots Club, a very active group of pilots who fly from Cape Airport, graciously provided their clubhouse for its restroom facilities for those camping, as well as providing the manpower for the various preparations for the event. The club also barbecued and provided the meal and the beer trailer for the Saturday night party. The Cruisers, a blues/rock band from Paducah, Kentucky played in an unused hangar Saturday night, providing a "hangar dance", skydiver style.

During the day while the jumping was taking place there even more barbecue available. Dave and LaRue McAllister have recently reopened the restaurant at the Cape Airport as Mac's Smokehouse, and plan to run a catering business from the airport as well. Dave's father is a pilot, so he knows very well the desire for pilots to have somewhere to fly to have lunch, and plans to bring this back to the Cape Airport. By the middle of October, pilots will again be able to fly into CGI for breakfast and lunch, as well as arrange for catered events in the restaurant's meeting room.

Dwight Gates, a veteran skydiver of over 24 years and an experienced skydiving instructor, operates Sky Sports of Cape Girardeau, a skydiving operation at the airport that provides Tandem jumping instruction, exhibition jumps for promotional purposes, and a Cessna 182 jump plane for experienced skydivers to jump from.

When Bruce Loy took over the position of airport manager, Gates approached him about having a skydiving operation at the airport. Loy immediately saw the opportunity to increase general aviation activity by supporting this business. He believes that skydiving students may become interested in many aspects of general aviation once they experience skydiving.

Sky Sports did over 20 Tandem jumps with student skydivers over the Sky-toberFest weekend, with many of the students having their entire skydiver videotaped by an experienced skydiver with a helmet-mounted video camera. These students were able to see their skydive on a television set up in the airport terminal just minutes after landing their parachute near their friends and relatives in the spectator area.

The Cape Girardeau local media was present for much of the Sky-toberFest weekend. KFVS TV filmed skydiving segments and did interviews for their evening broadcast on Sunday at 5PM, and Gary Rust, owner of Rust Communications which publishes the Southeast Missourian newspaper was at the event both days. Staff photographer Lou Peukert was out to take photos of the event, and even attended the Saturday night festivities. The newspaper spotlighted Sky-toberfest with a feature article on the front page of its Sunday October 4th edition, complete with pictures from skydiving photographers in freefall.

At the end of the day Sunday over 31 airplane loads of skydivers had taken to the air and 412 jumps had been made, a very good number considering that there were several weather holds due to clouds during the weekend. Everyone considered the event a great success, and as skydivers were preparing to leave for their homes, as far away as Kansas City and St. Louis, many were asking Bruce Loy about the date of next year's event, as well as suggesting ways to make next year's event better.

The Captain of a Trans World Express flight preparing to depart on Sunday probably best summed up the feelings of those who experienced the Sky-toberFest boogie and observed the skydiving. While looking up at parachutes preparing to land he said, "I've really got to try that some day."

For more information about the Cape Girardeau Regional Airport or about general aviation in the Cape Girardeau are you can contact Bruce Loy at the Cape Girardeau Airport.

Phone: (573) 334-6230
WWW: http://www.showme.net/~capeair
Email: capeair@showme.net

Cape Girardeau Regional Airport (CGI)
Tower: 119.0
Ground 121.6
Memphis Center 133.65
Unicom: 122.95



Gary Peek is a Commercial Pilot, jump pilot, Master Parachute Rigger, and skydiving Instructor/Examiner. His articles on skydiving have been published in Parachutist, the official publication of the United States Parachute Association.

If you would like more information about skydiving or skydiving operations you may contact Gary by phone at (636) 946-5272 or email: peek@pcprg.com