May 23, 2007 Edition

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Frankly speaking...

John Bland

Walnut Ridge Regional Airport's Swindle Field makes a good impression on visitors. I spent a few minutes in the modern terminal building the other day and learned several interesting facts that were new to me.

The airport staff uses a computer program that allows them to track the precise location of aircraft on a map. These are aircraft that have registered a flight plan from their starting point to our airport.

Using the computer program and the flight plan, a courteous member of the airport staff, Kathy Johnson, could tell me when the airplane of Mike and Denise Ellis and family of Southlake, Texas, would be landing. Mike was returning to his hometown to speak at the WRHS Class of 2007 graduation.

While I was at the airport, a former resident, Frank Benson of the Memphis area, flew in. Mr. Benson and a friend used one of two courtesy vehicles that are available for people landing at the airport. They were just out on a pretty day and took a courtesy vehicle to go get a bite to eat in the area.

A car and a 15-passenger van are available for use at no charge by fly-in visitors. This service is provided since our airport does not have car rental agencies available.

Airport manager Ken Newcom was also at the airport, which was busy refueling several customers while I was there. Ken says the sale of jet fuel is a big contributor to the local sales tax, which helps the city and the county.

When I commented to Ken about the good impression of the airport, he said that there are four pages of positive comments from pilots about our airport at Our airport symbol is "arg."

Mike Ellis, with additional information from Ken, confirmed that Walnut Ridge is a center point or intersection for eight major airways of the sky. Along U.S. Hwy. 67, near the airport, there is a white building, with a cylinder-like protrusion coming out of the center of the roof. This building is a VOR or visual omni range, signal marker for pilots and a major point of reference for pilots.


Lawrence County recently lost two special people who were often in the public eye and who always treated others kindly, and were pleasant, positive people-builders. James Sullens of Black Rock was a former educator and retired manager of the local Employment Security Division. Olivee Williams of Hoxie was a clerk for the Lawrence County Library for several years.


Backroads Band, which features Walnut Ridge's Ben Brand as lead singer and guitar player, is in demand. The band performed last weekend at Paragould's annual Loose Caboose Festival, where they opened for the Kentucky Headhunters. On June 1, at 6:05 p.m., the band is scheduled to open for The Bellamy Brothers and Billy Currington at the 26th Annual Portfest Festival at Jacksonport State Park, near Newport. In August, Backroads is scheduled to open for The Oak Ridge Boys at Batesville's White River Water Carnival.

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