A man who made aviation history using Salina as his home base will be remembered forever.
A statue, and plaza, was dedicated at the Salina Regional Airport Thursday afternoon to honor aviator and adventurer Steve Fossett. As a large crowd looked on, a ribbon was cut to dedicate Fossett Plaza at the Airport.
Steve Fossett’s record setting around-the-world, solo, nonstop flight in the Global Flyer in 2005 originated from Salina. The historic 22,936-mile, 67-hour flight started and ended at the Salina Regional Airport.
Dennis Kuhlman was the Dean of Kansas State University Salina at the time. The school provided mission control, aircraft maintenance, and other support to Fossett and the mission. He told KSAL News that Fossett was insistent that K-State students have an active role in the mission.
Salina Airport Authority Executive Director Tim Rogers said Fossett Plaza, which is located on Beechcraft Road right next to Salina’s long airport runway, was the perfect place for the memorial. “Aviation enthusiasts of all ages can come out and watch aircraft takeoff and land, using the same runway that Steve used,” Rogers said.
Sculpture artists Bruce and Brent Bitter, from B&B Metal Arts of Hoisington, designed, built and installed a 16-foot-tall monument to Fossett’s record setting flight. The sculpture is the center piece to the Salina Airport’s Fossett Plaza that offers aviation enthusiasts a view of the 12,300-foot runway used by Fossett for his historic flight. The B&B Metal Arts sculpture features a stainless-steel globe with a replica of the Global Flyer in flight over the Atlantic Ocean. The base of the sculpture documents the entire route of the first ever around-the -world, solo, nonstop flight in a manned aircraft.
Along with the centerpiece sculpture, there are benches, and panels around Fossett Plaza which detail the history of aviation in Salina, dating back the Smoky Hill Air Base.
The Global Flyer mission attracted worldwide attention, and according to Kuhlman was the single largest public relations event in the history of Kansas.
Rogers concluded “Steve wanted to inspire people.” And Kuhlman added “Fossett told me over and over this is to encourage youth to dream.” Fossett Plaza is the perfect place to do just that.