June 4, 2014 - A spectacular weekend of blue skies and sunshine brought out the colors of about 207 aircraft attending the 17th Virginia Regional Festival of Flight held May 31-June 1, for the seventh year at Suffolk Executive Airport (KSFQ). The Commemorative Air Force Tuskegee Airmen Rise Above exhibit headlined the event, toured extensively before and during the fly-in.
The two days before opening day, all the 6th graders in the Suffolk Public School District enjoyed a presentation of the history and significance of the Tuskegee Airmen. On the field a film of the history of the Tuskegee Airmen was shown in the mobile museum and was very well received, according to DeWitt Whittington, fly-in spokesman.
For the first time, fly-in visitors had an opportunity to learn about the tremendous potential of commercial unmanned aerial vehicles, also referred to as UAVs or drones. Fourteen displays exhibited a wide range of designs and described potential use in law enforcement, agriculture, mapping, and search and rescue. The NASA Langley Research Center even showed off its Cirrus outfitted to fly as a computer-controlled drone.
Glen Knutson’s forum tents were busy with 31 presentations ranging from aviation fuels and LSA maintenance requirements to the restoration of the Enola Gay and Bill Harrelson’s presentation about his nonstop flight from Guam to Jacksonville, Florida, in his Lancair IV. Charlie Collier, master welder, hosted a weekend-long TIG welding workshop and a record 18 forum and workshop sessions offered either WINGS or AMT credit. The Youth Area featured two tents and an outside activity area, offering kids multiple hands-on experiences.
Of course, a major draw of the Virginia Festival of Flight is always the homebuilt, antique, and classic aircraft that arrive each year. Builders and owners like to compare notes and see how their planes compare to the others in the aircraft judging competition. Congratulations to all the top award winners, including:
- Custom Homebuilt Best in Class: Don Burton; Bethesda, Maryland - Long EZ N506DB
- Homebuilt Kit First Place: Kevin Brady; Matthews, North Carolina - Glastar Sportsman N949TX
- Antique Best in Class: Jerry Petro; Ophelia, Virginia - 1945 Piper J3 N42453
- Classic First Place: Mike Roe; Ophelia, Virginia - Stinson 108-1 N8502
- Contemporary First Place: Dick Wallis; Williamsburg, Virginia - Piper Arrow N4525T
- Warbird Best in Class: Tom Inman; Hayes, Virginia - Fairchild PT-19 N54869
Airplane rides were available in a 172, an AT-6 Texan, two helicopters, and a Great Lakes biplane. Four aircraft and flight training vendors displayed light-sport aircraft and other production.
A Saturday car show and a Sunday afternoon aerobatic air show widened the appeal of the event. The Spirit of Freedom DC-4, a flying museum of the Berlin Airlift, stopped by for a last-minute surprise on Sunday.
Judy Pastusek, volunteer coordinator, reports that this year she had what appears to be a record 244 working volunteers, and feedback was extremely positive – some calling it the “best run fly-in ever.”
That sets the bar a little higher for the 2015 Virginia Festival of Flight, scheduled for May 30-31, at Suffolk Executive Airport.