Mike Rinker of Union City, Tenn., talks with family members after landing his Speed Wing NC12332 plane at Saturday's air show at Grider Field. Rinker, formerly of Warren, said the plane is one of only two built in the 1930s.
Hundreds gathered Saturday afternoon at Grider Field for an air show benefiting the Pine Bluff/Grider Field Aviation Museum project.
Airport manager Doug Hale said the previous two events raised a combined $6,000 for the museum, which will be housed in a yet-to-be-renovated World War II barracks house just a few hundred yards from the main terminal building.
Grider Army Air Field, as it was originally known, opened on March 22, 1941. Today, the field survives as southeast Arkansas’s first modern municipal airport, encompassing 850 acres.
Construction on the airfield was set in motion in late November 1940, as voters had approved a $200,000 bond issue and city officials garnered a $107,320 grant from President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s Depression-era Works Progress Administration.
Several factors led to the creation of the airfield. The Civil Aviation Authority had earlier adopted stricter regulations for airfields in order to accommodate the aircraft industry’s constantly evolving development of larger and faster aircraft — thus making Pine Bluff’s first airfield, Toney Field, obsolete.
Hale said shedding light on Grider Field’s history, as well as the history of aviation in Pine Bluff, is the goal for the museum.
“We have a ways to go,” Hale said. “We are needing around $100,000 for the project. But we will be able to get some grant funds to help. One of the reasons we want to do this is because there are no aviation-specific museums in our area.”
As airplanes buzzed overhead, carrying on with dizzying acrobatics, Sheldon Thompson of Star City and his family craned their necks to take in the sight. Thompson said he has always been an aviation buff, and the idea of a museum at Grider Field excites him.
“Planes are just so unique, and I think the people who fly them are as well,” Thompson said. “It just takes a special kind of person to be able to put on a performance like this. It’s great.”
Thompson’s son, Gary, 7, said he hopes to fly one day.
“I want to build my own plane,” he said, looking up at the aerial stunts playing out high above. “I am going to fly upside down all the time.”