plane taxis down street on way to Palm Springs convention center
Plane taxis down the street on its way to the Palm Springs Convention Center

Aviation Expo returns

| Imagine what the out-of-town visitors are going to tell their friends when they get home: "Honestly, Marge, I was driving down the street in Palm Springs and had to stop for an airplane!"

The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association used to come to Palm Springs for their annual fly-in, the city being one of the only (if not the only) place in the country that would let them taxi right up to their meeting venue. Beginning in 2014, however, the event has been re-branded as Aviation Expo with big-time sponsorship, broader focus, and the participation of many flying-related organizations. Fortunately, they have kept as a centerpiece of the event the Parade of Planes, in which the attendees taxi their planes over the streets of Palm Springs from the airport to the Convention Center to the delight and wonder of all. Then, two days later they will all taxi back to the airport for departure.

In preparation all the signs along the street have to be taken down
All the signs along the parade route are taken down to accommodate "small" planes with a big wingspan

Having planes use the streets as a taxiway isn't a simple thing. The city goes along the parade route and takes down all the signs. While most of the planes participating in the parade are "small" planes, some have wingspans that stretch beyond the edges of the street and would otherwise clip their wings on the sign posts. In previous years there have been planes with such wide wingspans that they used wing-walkers to help them avoid unmovable things like telephone poles.

The city, of course, is happy to do these things because this is a convention that brings people with a lot of money to town. The exhibitor list for the expo included 137 of the biggest names in aviation.

And for the event planners, they have to publish the maximum wingspan that can be accommodated and draw a thin red line down the route for the planes to center on.

The clouds looked quite threatening, but it was an empty threat
The clouds looked threatening, but except for a few really, really big raindrops it was an empty threat

At parade time, they skies looked positively menacing. But this being Palm Springs, often menacing skies fizzle out with a few sprinkles, and so it was this time. For a few minutes, a few enormous raindrops fell from the sky, but residents all know that if you just wait five minutes it will usually be fine. Indeed, the skies above soon cleared and all was right with the world.

flying dune buggy
Leading the parade was an aircraft best described as a flying dune buggy

The aircraft leading the parade was a strange-looking thing, resembling more a dune-buggy than an airplane. It is called "SkyRunner, an experimental flying ATV categorized from Red Bull as 'one of the greatest adventure vehicles of all time'" (SoCalLifeMag).

For flight it uses a sort of sail (video).

For pictures of the other planes in the parade — and they are a varied lot — check out the slideshow.

Last updated on Apr 29, 2016

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