Virginia Festival of Flight smacked by storms

After a very dry and near record high average temperature in Virginia in March and on much of the East Coast, Mother Nature decided to make up for the dearth of rain with clouds, rain and storms arriving at Suffolk Executive Airport on Saturday afternoon, the first day of the Virginia Festival of Flight.

All photos by Sonja Moore

About 2 p.m. the announcer broadcast a warning for everyone to take cover and planes not tied down to depart or seek shelter. In a sign of the times, many people were already alerted by the weather maps on their smartphones and already knew what was coming.

This 15th Virginia Regional Festival of Flight boasted two unique aircraft, including the restored RV-1, the first of the hugely successful family of homebuilt aircraft designed by Dick VanGrunsven making its rounds around the U.S. prior to being donated to the EAA Air Museum during AirVenture 2012.

By far the largest airplane on display this year was the only replica of an AC-47D gunship famous for its close troop air support role in the Vietnam war. All the original AC-47s were left in Southeast Asia after the war. This replica created from a 1944 DC-3 is a flying tribute to John Levitow, a Medal of Honor winner. It was restored by the Warbirds of America Squadron 14, Inc. and is now based at the American Flight Museum in Topeka, Kansas.

The 2012 Festival of Flight offered 27 forum sessions and six workshop sessions, several being official Safety Seminars and some eligible for the Virginia Aviation Ambassador program. Particularly popular was the Youth Area. On Sunday, the weather opened up in the afternoon, giving volunteer pilots sunny skies to fly 36 Young Eagles.

Again this year pilots flying in could request their airplane be judged. The winners, who will receive plaques, are listed on the Festival of Flight website.

For the first time a small car and motorcycle show was incorporated in the event.

In a positive look ahead, Ray Batton, the new president of the Virginia Aviation Council, said, “As the new president, I have big plans for the Festival of Flight. Although the weather didn’t cooperate this year, we’ll soon start working on a bigger, better event for May 4-5, 2013.”

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  1. shanedr says

    After two years of the April showers moving to May they might want to move their dates from early May to mid or late May. Apparently what we’ve received the last two years is the new permanent weather pattern. Don’t you just love global warming?

    • Dee Whittington says

      It would be wonderful if moving the date a couple of weekends would solve the weather problem…but who can predict whether it will rain on any particular weekend in the Spring, especially when you move the event maybe only 2 weekends and not to an entirely different time of year with a historically different weather pattern. Plus, the Council has to think about (or at least does think about) other aviation events on other weekends in May.  This is a very tough call. Nothing will change for 2013, the pre-annonced date of May 4-5,  but I predict a new date in 2014.

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