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Weather Hampers Virginia Regional Festival of Flight

Virginia Regional Festival of Flight
Peter Braswell photo

May 27, 2010 — A series of moving, unsettled weather, including rain and thunderstorms up and down the East Coast last weekend diminished attendance for the 2010 Virginia Regional Festival of Flight. Nearly 200 aircraft from as far away as Massachusetts, Michigan, and North Carolina flew into the Suffolk Regional Airport, which is a decrease over last year, but organizers were upbeat nonetheless considering the weather they had to deal with.

Suffolk managed actually had good flying conditions the two days prior to opening day as well as Friday and Saturday but heavy rain, thunder, and lightning mid-afternoon Sunday quickly shut down the event.

 “The weather challenges stretched from South Carolina to Tennessee to Ohio and up into Pennsylvania and north,” said Dee Whittington, PR chairman. Scott Huff and Lindy Kirkland, Aircraft Parking co-chairmen, reported that the numbers were down from last year due to weather in the surrounding areas, notably in North Carolina that prevented many regulars from flying in.

The first Rally Adventure race event offered a new way for pilots to fly their homebuilt or LSA planes on a 60 nm triangular course against the clock. Organizer Charles Collier reported that pilots were pleased with the course. “This was a good year to work out the bugs in the system, but still things went rather well,” he said. “All should expect an earlier announcement of the 2011 Rally Adventure on the fly-in website, as well as more pilot handouts on Saturday of the fly-in.”

The fly-in experienced the largest number of forums and workshops ever. Expert presenters from throughout the country had workshops on alternative engines, engine overhaul, propeller maintenance and overhaul, weather judgment, corrosion in aging aircraft, and the latest in EFIS technology. Even with the Sunday weather challenges, several forums continued with large, attentive audiences.

The RV and tent camping area held 130 campers, another growing area of the fly-in.

This year also featured new, attractive banners signs and a large, front gate welcome banner mounted on two ham radio towers. Paved roads created greater access to vendors, forums, workshops, the pancake breakfast, RV camping, and the youth tents. Attendees hopped on the two tractor-drawn shuttles to visit The Fighter Factory on the other side of the airport. The large hangar offered a peek at a major restoration facility which continues to bring back to flying status WWII and an increasing number of WWI era airplanes.

For the first time at the Festival of Flight, the NASA exhibit offered kids the chance to use three flight simulators with expert teachers. In another location, a full motion P-51 simulator provided a realistic flight experience.

Radio controlled aircraft (RC) modelers, located next to the Youth Area, flew their electric model aircraft all day. In addition, the kids had a session each day with an experienced RC builder and flier learning about this sport.

Aircraft vendors were dominated by light-sport aircraft, but the fly-in also welcomed WACO Classic Aircraft from Michigan. And from Chesapeake, an adjoining city, a Bakeng Duce under construction showed excellent wood workmanship by students at the Aviation Institute of Maintenance.

After the Saturday night dinner attended by more than 200 volunteers, musician Ravi, sponsored by Sennheiser, performed several songs. The acclaimed singer-songwriter, who has spoken at AirVenture, Sun 'n Fun, and several aviation training centers, said the future of flying in this country depends on a more professional approach by flight schools, more creative marketing by manufacturers and distributors, and an engaged pilot population who promote the utility and fun of flying to the general population.

On a rise overlooking the main display area, nearly 100 Boy Scouts with 38 adults set up a tent city, an increase over last year. Also present was a large contingent of the Virginia Defense Force, a back up for the Virginia National Guard.

For more information about the Virginia Regional Festival of Flight, visit www.VirginiaFlyIn.org. See the list of aircraft award winners here.

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