Small General Aviation Airport Significant Economic Benefits

Airport headline artBy Earl Stresak

Most locals know the story of how a television segment on the CBS news show 60 Minutes helped propel Branson into the national spotlight. Few have probably considered the rest of the story. Prior to that telecast, what else contributed to bringing national entertainment and other companies to Branson?

Consider an often overlooked area general aviation jewel –M. Graham Clark Airport, the foresight of College of the Ozarks, and dedicated supporters such as Mark and Lea Trimble.

Many residents  driving down Hwy 65, past the end of the runway, don’t realize the important contributions that strip of Pt. Lookout ground has made, and continues to make to the Branson area’s economic health.

What they may notice is the variety of planes, private, corporate and military flying overhead after taking off or approaching for a landing. What they might not consider is the money that the airport brings into Taney County, either directly or indirectly.

When Branson exploded from a regional to national attraction, the airport played a key role.

Early landings

College of the Ozarks built M. Graham Clark Airport. It opened the airport in 1970 and utilized it for their aviation program, but, did not keep its use to themselves.  Of the many contributions Hardwork U has made to the area, the airport is another that keeps on giving.

“The most important thing they did when the college opened the airport was to keep it opened to the public,” Airport Manager Mark Parent said. The aviation pro has a long history with the airport, both as a manager and an aviation instructor with the college.

“The reason I say it was important is because without a general aviation airport to support a community, what you usually end up with are locally owned businesses,” Parent said, “and that’s what Branson was for a long time. The Presleys, the Baldknobbers, Silver Dollar City, Englers Block.

“After 1989, we saw significant growth in Branson from outside companies coming to town like Dixie Stampede, Ozark Mountain Bank. All these companies that came here flew in once a month to tend to their businesses. They were able to do that because the college kept this airport open to the public. It was very significant to the growth of our community” Parent said.

National influences land

Graham Clark Airport’s adequate runway and easy access to Branson facilitated influential outsiders to check out Branson’s business potential, then helped maintain their business once established.

“In 1989, I think, Roy Clark came in that year,” Parent said. “I remember that he flew in his own Cessna 206. It was a significant day. That is when growth started here when he came to town.”

One thing lead to another.

Influential Branson businessman Jim Thomas brought Mickey Gilley to town to play Roy Clark’s Theater, reports a 2004 magazine story. Gilley did the show, saw the potential of Branson.

After Gilley, a pilot, opened his own Branson theater, he told the interviewer that had he not been able to fly his plane out of Branson on weekend’s to tend to his business in Texas, he could not have kept his Branson Theater open.

Parent recalls another outside company that utilized M.Graham Clark Airport to establish itself in Branson.

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Manager Mark Parent … Long history of passion for aviation at Downtown M. graham Clark Airport

Mark Parent in AC-47

By Earl Stresak

A few moments into a conversation about M. Graham Clark Airport and Mark Parent’s knowledge and passion for the place transmits loud and clear. It’s no wonder. When it comes to work-a-day knowledge of the place, Parent has been there, done that.  He knows general aviation operations from the ground up, aircraft literally from the inside out.

He has served as the airport’s manager since 2005, but Parent’s resume goes back to the College of the Ozarks’ nationally respected aviation training programs. He was employed by the college as a flight training and aviation maintenance instructor.

“I think it is a sad thing that they ended the flight training and maintenance program because the industry is still full of people who came from the college with aviation degrees,” he said. The college ended the program almost a decade ago.

When the college ended that program, the school donated the airport to Taney County.

Parent then went on to teach aircraft maintenance at Kansas State University at Salina. The university has nine campuses across the state. Salina is where where the university’s school of aviation and technology is located.

After College of the Ozarks donated their airport to Taney County, an Airport Board of Directors was established.

At that time, Parent was contacted about taking over the airport manager position. Parent said he loved working at Kansas State University, but he and his wife also loved the Ozarks. They had kept their home on Table Rock Lake. He accepted the position. He had spent two years as an associate professor at Kansas State,

“It was an opportunity to come back home, and it’s been wonderful move,” he said. “I get to stay at this airport that has always been home to me since 1993, but also because the airport board is made up of business leaders in our community who are whole-heartedly focused on supporting the economic opportunities of having a general aviation airport.

A Big Salmon, Some Good Common Sense, Plus $50, Kept Hollister’s Dwayne Summers Alive and Kicking

Sam "Dwayne" Summers
Cartoon © John Simpers

By Earl Stresak

It’s no fish story. Here’s how a feisty king salmon, common sense awareness, and $50 added-up to Hollister resident Dwayne “Sam”  Summers probably saving his own life. Dwayne, 72 at the time last November, was fishing in Northern Michigan on the Pere Marquette River when he hooked a king salmon, and felt that old fisherman’s thrill of catching a big one. The elation would be short-lived. It quickly turned into an unusually taxing chore. 

     Dwayne stepped into the water and got ready to land what looked like about a 20-pounder. “The fish put up a good fight,” Dwayne said who hooked it on a fly rod. “I played with him right up to the shore, then lost him.”

     Climbing out of the water and up the bank, Dwayne felt a sensation he never experienced while fishing. “I came out of the water exhausted,” he said. “That bothered me.”

     Dwayne had been a fisherman all his life.  It was a sport he loved, an activity that usually exhilarated him, not wore him out. Outdoors and fishing had also been a part of his livelihood. He had managed nine salesmen over a multi-state territory who sold marine supplies. Dwayne himself handled Cabela’s, Walmart and Kmart.  Resting on the shore of the Marquette River, he took a long breather and pondered his energy drain. It troubled him. Something wasn’t right. His physique was tall and slender. Dwayne was not obese.

    “I was usually energetic,” he said. “I worked out, kept active. All I knew that day, is that I was so darned tired.” The lack of energy plagued his thoughts for weeks until one day visiting his brother in the Kansas City, Dwayne saw a television spot by a St. Lukes Health facility advertising their outpatient computed tomography (CT) heart scan procedure.Still fretting about his lack of energy,  Dwayne decided to get the scan. While still in Kansas City, he called to schedule an appointment for the heart scan. “It cost just $50 bucks,” he said.

At an outpatient facility in KC, Dwayne underwent the computed tomography heart scan, also called a coronary calcium scan.
“I was there two hours,” Dwayne said of his time there that included checking-in and getting post scan results. The scan itself takes only a few minutes. The CT produces multi-view xray photos of the heart and its life-sustaining, blood transporting, tributaries.
Someone undergoing the procedure rests on their back with head and feet outside the scanner. Electrodes are placed on the chest to record the heart’s electrical activity. The machine rotates a beam around the person. The images produced can be viewed on a monitor and printed on film. It can produce 3D images. Placed together, the images show the big picture of any coronary calcification. Dwayne’s high-tech heart snapshots weren’t pretty pictures. Continue reading

Mark Trimble’s sturdy seaplane wonder was no breeze to build…



By Earl Stresak

Hear that distinct engine sound coming from a summer evening sky, look overhead, just above Lake Taneycomo, gawk at its bright yellow tail, Daffy Duck staring back down at you and wonder… “What do you call that thing?”

     Hundreds of people strolling Branson Landing have, and if they can’t mentally peg its aviation tribe, everyone loves watching the gossamer looking frame, seat-of-the pants appearing pilot and passenger, particularly when it swoops down, makes a water landing. Boaters wave, kids look wide eyed, people smile.

     What is it? Mark Trimble’s homebuilt wonder,  a Breezy, that’s what. Well, that description is slightly off course because it’s actually Mark’s —  read the tail next to Daffy — Sea Breezy, it says, Trimble being the type of guy not often settling for the status quo.

     This year, the Breezy and its inventor, Carl Unger were celebrated at the renowned Oshkosh Air Show, with Mark’s Sea Breezy joining a gaggle of Breezy aircraft from around the country to participate.

     “The Oshkosh Air Show is the biggest in the world and it’s sponsored by the Experimental Aircraft Association which is the Home Built Movement,” Mark said sitting on a lawn chair next to his Sea Breezy at M. Graham Clark Airport.  “This is the 50th year since Carl Unger designed the Breezy. When he did, he started selling plans to it, and there has been a lot of these built. It’s one of the most popular homebuilt airplanes.”

Constructing a different duck      

      All the 24 airplanes owned by Mark and his wife Lea have an interesting backstory. The Sea Breezy is a good one for aviation buffs.

     “When Mark got it, it was on wheels,” friend and fellow pilot, Richard Cooper, said.  Wheels on Mark’s Breezy would become a secondary feature because, “Mark, being Mark,” added Richard, “his mind is never in neutral. He is always thinking about something.”

Through calculated trial and error ingenuity, Mark converted the normally land-lubbing aircraft for water service. The accomplishment raised eyebrows of Breezy owners. Initially it spawned aviation circle rumors wondering if one even existed.

      “They (The Breezy) have a very good history, very good service history for 50 years. As you can see,” Mark said pointing at his Sea Breezy, “there is a lot of drag to it. It’s not really a cross country airplane. This particular airplane spent 16 straight years hauling kids for rides at Oshkosh Air Show — all day long, 10 hours a day, taking off and landing, carrying passengers. We bought the airplane from Arnold Zimmerman in Chicago, who was the pilot for that mission,” Mark said.

     “Zimmerman had built a new one,” Mark said. “His new one had Aeronica Champ wings, this one has Cherokee wings. Aeronica Champ wings are aerodynamically cleaner and faster which you don’t need in an open airplane like this. It takes more space to land and it’s faster in the air to get the same amount of lift.”

     The wing improvement was significant, so much so, that the last time Mark talked to Zimmerman, the pilot was trying to find a new set of wings for his Breezy.

     Mark also consulted a long time friend of his in Tulsa, Red Stevenson. For many years, Stevenson was known for being the biggest used airplane dealer in the world, Mark said. “Red had some of the finest airplanes in the world, but, his trademark was his Breezy. He flew a Breezy.”

     Meeting Stevenson 25 years ago at a Fayetteville, Ark., Air Show was instrumental in Mark buying his Breezy.

     “It’s kind of funny how that happened,” Mark said.

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Alderwoman Cris Bohinc Recalls Famed Beach Boys and Early Branson Days


Drive a limo up to Springfield airport to pick up the world famous Beach Boys and bring them down to Indian Point? Cris didn’t think so.

It wasn’t the  reaction a friend expected when asking Cris to take on the task.  It was the 1980’s and Cris — who currently serves on the City of Branson Board of Aldermen —  was working selling radio advertising for KRZK.  In those days the station was located near Turkey Creek in Hollister.

What young woman in those days wouldn’t want to get close  enough to the Beach Boys to chat, schmooze and be the envy of her friends?  Well, Cris Bohinc — Cris Swanson back then before marrying the love of her life, Branson musician, “Bogie” Bohinc.

“I don’t drive a limo,” she told her friend back then.  The idea of navigating a honking long limousine around Ozarks roads seemed intimidating enough, never mind having world class, iconic celebrities on-board. Her friend persisted. “You can do it,” he said. Cris changed her mind. Okay, pick them up, drop them off. She could do that.

The Beach Boys were doing a concert at the Swiss Village Amphitheater out in Blue Eye, what is now the Black Oak.

The loaned limo belonged to the old Copper Penny Restaurant, where the Dixie Stampede now stands.

“The restaurant always had a limousine parked out in front,” she said. It was somewhat of local landmark in those days.

With Cris behind the wheel of the big vehicle, the limo headed north to Springfield Airport. There, she met the Beach Boys private plane, loaded up the famous cargo and headed to Indian Point.

“They were staying at the Bent Tree Lodge,” Cris recalls.

After dropping them off at the lodge, she thought her job was done, She said her goodbyes,  have a great concert, a wonderful stay, nice meeting you.

“Oh no. You’re our driver for all week,”  Beach Boy Mike Love insisted. Once again, Cris had a reaction few would expect. She couldn’t do that. She was a mother with  a young son. Not only did she need to be home every evening to care for him,  the thought crossed her mind that — they were — well, a band on tour. No way could she be staying up to all hours of night.

“Besides the fact that I needed to be home for my son.” she said. “I was a single mom and had a  reputation to worry about.”

Mike Love and the Beach Boys understood. Ok, then, Cris would became their driver for the week. As it turned out, Cris had nothing to worry about. The Beach Boys were considerate perfect gentlemen….

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