Finally, after years of iffy to truly bad weather, this past weekend saw the East Coast bathed in sunshine Friday through Sunday for the Virginia Regional Festival of Flight in Suffolk, Va.
Aircraft winged their way to Suffolk Airport (SFQ) in Southeast Virginia from Maine to Florida and westward to Ohio. The sunny weather was a major contributor to the increases in attendance by both aircraft and drive-ins, organizers said. The arrivals began with the landing of the “Spirit of Freedom” C-54 on Friday afternoon, which was positioned by the ground crew on the end of Runway 15, close to the highway where it functioned as a massive billboard. The Spirit of Freedom welcomed people to visit the Berlin Airlift Museum inside the 4-engine transport plane, the same basic model aircraft that delivered millions of pounds of food, medical supplies, coal and more to the Berliners during the 11 months of Soviet siege just after World War II.
Attendance numbers were up by 150%, and aircraft numbers up 183% for a total of more than 350. With 27 vendor aircraft on display, attendees had more planes to check out and take demo rides in this year. Being able to give demo rides throughout the day is a big plus for the Festival of Flight, according to several vendors.
For the first time, AOPA brass flew in. Craig Fuller, AOPA president, arrived piloting the AOPA Caravan with nine of his folks from their Frederick, Maryland home base. They streamed into the pancake breakfast tent to load up on pancakes and sausage and then took a quick tour of the grounds.
A Stearman (pictured above), a PT-19, and a new production WACO YMF were kept busy taking folks for rides. A Robinson R-44 also lifted attendees up for a sightseeing ride around the area.
Janie Fowler, the Youth Area Chairman, reported a brisk business at the Youth tents. Adjacent to those tents, the radio controlled model airplanes fascinated the kids by flying with almost noiseless electric motors. On Sunday, volunteer pilots flew 51 Young Eagles.
At mid-morning on Saturday the planes were landing at such a rate that Mike Glave, the Aircraft Parking Chairman, opened up a new grass area to relieve the congestion. Planes directed there were expertly parked by a group of 10 Civil Air Patrol Cadets lead by Rick Solana, an RV-6A builder who had trained his cadets well.
Workshops attracted people interested in honing their riveting and fabric building skills. The six forum tents were kept busy with presenters explaining aerial photography, how to best use Flight Service, a detailed discussion of how to best maintain your own certified airplane, a technical briefing on Lycoming engines, a presentation on aircraft painting and more. A number of the forums qualified for Wings and Virginia Aviation Ambassador credit. The Virginia Department of Aviation was on the field to stamp Aviation Ambassador booklets on site.
Gordon Campbell, the outgoing President of the Virginia Aviation Council, as well as Judy Sparks, the Fly-in Manager since the events’ inception, were pleased at how well the Festival of Flight operated this year. The initial setup was done more quickly than usual thanks to the able leadership of Dennis Holbrook so that by mid-Friday afternoon almost all areas were ready. Gordon said, “We are learning all the pluses of being at Suffolk and making better use of the large area available for our fly-in to grow. This is a fantastic location.”
The 2012 Virginia Regional Festival of Flight is currently scheduled for April 28-29. Changes and updates will be posted on the fly-in web site, www.VirginiaFlyIn.org.
Judging Winners at Festival of Flight 2011
- Super Cat N70096, Steven Carruthers, Charlotte Hall, Md
- Vari EZE N8WA, Thomas Lecka, Fyetteville, NC.
- Long EZE N506DB, Don Burton, Bethesda, Md
- VANS RV-6 N216PH, Pete Hunt, Clearwater Beach, FL (pictured below)
- RANS 7 N121FW, Jeff Wemmering, Roper, NC
- VANS RV-9A N424JK, Steve Koziol, Doyestown, PA
Aeronca Chief N36572, Kent Marshall, Suffolk, VA
- Piper PA-15 N4571H, James D. Brooks, Williamsburg, VA
- Globe Swift N3272K, Ray Bossola, Virginia Beach, VA
- Taylorcraft BC-12D N96848, Ray Bossola, Virginia Beach, VA
- Stearman PT-17 N55267, David Christian, Toano, VA
- Fairchild PT-23A N60418, US Warbird LLC, Midlothian, VA
- Nanchang CJ-6, N615R Richard Williams, Fredericksburg, VA
Challenger N1905, Larry Collie, Ringgold, VA
Powered Parachutes – Best in Class
SkyFlight Angel, Garry Holder, Clinton, Quinton, VA