Congressman: ‘I Am Impressed’
U.S. Rep. Ralph Hall visits and finds things ‘I did not dream were even in Texas’

Kerry Craig | News-Telegram Assistant Editor

U.S. Rep. Ralph Hall came to Hopkins County Monday and toured Aerostar International to learn more about the giant, helium-filled balloons manufactured for NASA. Mike Smith, senior aerospace engineer for Aerostar Intl., explains the process for construction of the huge balloons to Hall during the visit. (Photo at right) Hall also toured Legend Aircraft Company and gets a close-up look at the instrument panel in the Legend Cub, a light sport aircraft being manufactured at Sulphur Springs Airport.
Photo Courtesy of Bryan Hurley

August 30, 2005 - Balloons and airplanes were the focus for Congressman Ralph Hall during two stops in Sulphur Springs Monday afternoon.

U.S. Rep. Hall, who is a member of the Space and Aeronautics subcommittee of the House Committee on Science, paid a visit to Aerostar International, primary contractor for the U.S. space agency for construction of ultra-long duration balloons used for research and technology platforms.

“I saw things there that I did not dream were even in Texas, much less in my district, much less in Hopkins county,” the congressman said. “This is a great thing to see — I am impressed.”

The giant helium-filled balloons manufactured at Aerostar International, formerly Raven Industries, have a volume of up to 1.5 million cubic yards and are used by the space agency to lift heavy payloads — astronomical telescopes and other heavy equipment for astrophysical experiments and research into cosmic radiation — to an altitude of about 25 miles.


Hall also toured Legend Aircraft Company and gets a close-up look at the instrument panel in the Legend Cub, a light sport aircraft being manufactured at Sulphur Springs Airport.
Photo Courtesy of Bryan Hurley

NASA found the balloons to be a more stable and economical platform for space research than rockets. The use of balloons also allows the recovery of the scientific instruments.

Following the visit to Aerostar International, the congressman paid a visit to Sulphur Spring’s newest industry, Legend Aircraft Company, for a first-hand look at the light sport airplane which is being manufactured at Sulphur Springs Airport.

“I am very impressed out here with the American Legend Cub that I viewed,” Hall said. “It had touches of the first Cub I ever flew in, and that has been a long, long time ago. It’s a beautiful airplane.”

Hall, who flew Corsair and Hellcat fighter planes for the Navy during World War II, said the Legend Cub brought back memories of early days of flying when the legendary Piper Cub was the primary training airplane.

Hall was also complimentary of Sulphur Springs Airport and the city’s foresight in airport work and planning.

“We’ve got a nice airport here,” he said. “You have got one you can really grow to, and I think you better get ready, because the growth is coming north and east.”

The congressman said he wanted to ensure easy access to the interstate highway to allow for the coming growth and development.

“I-30 is going to be one of the dominant roads in the United States when we finish with all of these corridors that everybody is working on,” he said. “I am trying to see that all of our cities of 15,000 to 20,000 have a four-lane access to the interstate.”

Hall said that the economy is beginning to turn around for the area, and along with highway access, airplanes and airports will also play a major role in the future of Northeast Texas.

“The airplane is a great part of it, and it is good that you have this airport here to be a selling factor for anybody that wants to move to Hopkins County,” he said.

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