Thousands of people on Main Avenue saw it and heard it as it buzzed across the night sky at a high rate of speed Friday during Durango’s Snowdown Light Parade.
But nearly a week after the winged object passed overhead, there is much speculation about what it was and where it came from. Did it have a pilot or was it operated by remote control? Was it legal? Was it safe?
Most spectators of the Stone Age-themed parade are calling the object an “airplane.” But not Del Gregg, of Gregg Flying Service at the Animas Air Park. For him, “It was a UFO. It was a Stone Age UFO.”
The plane passed directly over the parade twice, traveling the same direction as the parade – south to north. On its second flyby, the plane traveled the length of the parade and then banked northeast as it approached Mercy Medical Center, said Keith Harlan, a spectator.
“The second time that it swooped by, I got a full-on view,” Harlan said. “My guess is it was too small to be piloted by a man. It was too fast and too large to be a remote control. So my guess is it was some sort of camera-operated flying device that could have been remotely operated from anywhere.”
He described the plane as being 15 feet long with a 15-foot wing span. It traveled about 90 mph and was about 100 feet above the tallest building, Harlan said. “It didn’t sound like a small engine,” he said. “It sounded more like a turbo prop-driven plane.
“Everyone was wondering what the plane was,” he said.
The Durango-La Plata County Airport tracks commercial flights, but doesn’t have any tracking device for general-aviation airplanes, said Don Brockus, spokesman at the airport.
“We don’t have any information available about that plane,” he said.
Brockus, who was at the parade, said he was surprised at the plane’s altitude.
“It piqued my curiosity,” he said. “I guess I would say I was somewhat surprised – surprised in just the fact it was there, that it was plainly buzzing Main street and how quick it was.”
Terry Fiedler, event coordinator for the Snowdown Light Parade, said the plane was a surprise to him as well. He did not know where it came from or if it was piloted.
“I saw it go over,” he said. “I’m guessing it was just somebody coming into town and buzzed the parade because they knew it was going on.”
A man at Durango Air Service, who refused to be identified, said he recognized the plane as possibly belonging to Key Lime Air, which transports freight from Denver to Durango. But Glen Rich, chief pilot for Key Lime Air in Denver, said his pilots weren’t responsible. “I don’t know what the deal was,” he said.
Airplanes within a half-mile of populated areas are required to be at least 1,000 feet above the highest obstacle, said Mike Fergus, spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration for the Northwest region in Renton, Wash.
He could not immediately say Tuesday afternoon if any complaints had been filed with the FAA.
“Buzzing a parade is very questionable depending on the altitude,” he said.
02/04/2004 Shane Benjamin, durangoherald.com