Virginia Festival of Flight Debuts in New Location
Cliff Martin designed and built the green shuttles used at the Virginia Regional Festival of Flight pulled by a Deere (photo by Mike Likavec)
Jim Heidish shows off his T-shirt designs for the fly-in. (photo by Dee Whittington)
Aircraft vendors lined up at SFQ. (photo by Dee Whittington)
Roger and Juliette Cosh flew into SFQ from Rosendale, New York, in their GlaStar. (photo by Dee Whittington
Fly-In visitors take a break during the fly-in. - (photo by Donald Reid)
A fly-In attendee's reflection appears on the side of a Ryan PT-22. - (photo by Donald Reid)
June 19, 2008 — The Virginia Regional Festival of Flight held its inaugural fly-in at the Suffolk Executive Airport (SFQ) last weekend, and organizers were pleased with the event’s success and prospects for the future. Sunny weather, a gracious welcome from the City of Suffolk and the airport manager, and an excellent volunteer turnout helped introduce the Greater Hampton Roads community to personal aviation.
The new location features acres of grass; two closed runways for taxiing aircraft and tractor-pulled trams; several paved “streets”; a large showplane ramp; and a network of electrical and water hookups for vendors and RV campers.
The fly-in featured nearly 40 aircraft dealers and aviation vendors, along with 26 forums and two workshops. Of special interested for pilots in the Mid-Atlantic region, Randy Horner of the Potomac TRACON explained the intricacies of ATC operation and flying into the Washington ADIZ. Other well-attended forums included Sig Sidiqqi’s session comparing various World War II fighters and how they were used during the war, plus EAA’s Ron Wagner’s two sport pilot/light-sport aircraft updates. “It never ceases to amaze me,” Wagner said. “I had forums both days, and both days there was full attendance. I was very pleased with the turnout.”
A&P Don Bennett’s Engine Overhaul Workshop invited hands-on disassembly and assembly of an aircraft engine. “About 90% of the attendees wanted to grab a wrench and be involved,” Bennett remarked. “I was really pleased with that high level of participation.”
Wagner spoke at Saturday’s volunteer dinner, discussing the fast-approaching AirVenture, sport pilot, the Virginia event, and EAA’s new relationship with the regional events.
Fly-In Manager Judy Sparks presented Cliff Martin for his work designing and building two tractor-pulled shuttles as well as the “Blue Goose”, a versatile storage trailer with a platform on top that serves as a perch for the field controller.
Drought conditions in North Carolina and Southeast Virginia provided a rare condition for pilots flying into SFQ. A log cutter's spark reportedly started a massive forest fire several days prior in the adjacent Great Dismal Swamp (only eight miles southeast of SFQ. As volunteers arrived to set up the event, swirls of smoke lowered visibility in unpredictable and changing areas of the two states. Four large commercial helicopters used Suffolk Airport as a refueling base as they dipped water from nearby Lake Drummond and dumped it on the fire line.
Luckily, the smoke didn't settle on the airport, but it caused an unknown number of attendees to reassess their plans to fly in. Despite the smoke, high fuel prices around the country, and other negatives, consensus from vendors, volunteers, and attendees was very upbeat; all are looking forward to 2009 and an even better Virginia Regional Festival of Flight.