Airport Plans Birthday Bash

February 25, 2003
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GRAND RAPIDS — Gerald R. Ford International Airport will host a series of events beginning the week of spring break to jointly commemorate the airport’s 40th anniversary at its Cascade Township location and the 100th year anniversary of powered flight.

The series kicks off with Passenger Appreciation Days, April 3-5. The event will feature free refreshments, giveaways, prize drawings and a paper airplane flying contest.

A “Flyby 5K Run/Walk” coupled with an airport tenant exposition at the airport’s Air Cargo and Trade Center will follow on June 21. The USA Track & Field-certified race will offer $1,800 in prize money. Both the race and walk will start and finish on an airport taxiway.

The Kent County Board of Aeronautics will donate $2 from every paid registration to Wings of Mercy-West Michigan, said Bruce Schedlbauer, the airport’s marketing and communications manager.

The Holland-based nonprofit organization provides free air transportation to distant U.S. medical facilities for patients with limited incomes, using donated private aircraft and volunteer pilots.

The expo will include highlights of the airport’s history, as well as that of powered flight, and will run again Aug. 16 when the airport hosts the “Plane Pull Challenge of Michigan” at the cargo and trade center.

The event will pit teams of 20 people in a tug-of-war with a 155,000-pound FedEx Boeing 727 jet. The goal will be to pull the plane 12 feet in the shortest possible time. Each team must raise a minimum of $1,200, and all proceeds will go to Special Olympics Michigan.

The airport will be open for business during all anniversary celebration activities, Schedlbauer said. Event registrations can be made online at www.flygrandrapids.org.

Ford International serves more than 5,000 travelers daily via 12 commercial airlines with 150 daily scheduled non-stop flights to and from 14 major market destinations. It served a record 1.95 million passengers last year.

The airport generates more than $880 million a year in economic activity throughout the 13 counties it serves in West Michigan.           

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