Flight festival brings sky-high numbers

Published 10:24 pm Saturday, May 30, 2009

Walking through the Suffolk Executive Airport Saturday morning, there was a cross-section of every kind of flight enthusiast.

Down one road, a middle-aged man walked his father down a row of airplanes in order to see the kind of plane his dad had flown decades before.

Down another, a three-year-old and his mom went looking for planes with “really big wings.”

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This weekend is the Festival of Flight presented by the Virginia Aviation Council.

By 11 a.m. Saturday morning, more than 200 airplanes had been flown in to show off and compete in a judging competition. Additionally, hundreds of visitors had already flocked to the airport.

“We’re hoping to break some records,” said Judy Pastusek, volunteer coordinator for the event. “It’s a beautiful flying day.”

But there was more to do than just see cool planes.

The festival is a combination plane show and educational seminar. There are 35 workshops and six forums planned throughout the two-day event, each of them geared to educate both current and potential pilots on a variety of topics.

“It should be an attraction for a lot of people,” Pastusek said. “We have a lot of talent here.”

Public Relations Coordinator DeWitt Whittington said the sheer amount of workshops would be enticing enough for pilots.

“That’s a big part of this,” Whittington said. “People come to learn.”

He added that earlier this year a large-scale festival was held in North Carolina, and even with its size it only had five forums available for pilots.

“They had five; we have 35,” Whittington said. “With six workshops that are appealing to any pilot.”

The forums covered topics ranging from the value of professional aircraft appraisal and the use of ethanol in gasoline to test flying homebuilt aircrafts and learning more about the history of aviation in Virginia.

“These are just great opportunities,” Pastusek said. “In addition to having fun, it’s an opportunity for pilots to get some great education.”

All in the all, the event takes more than 200 volunteers to put on each year, from parking the cars to speaking at the forum.

“We have a lot of very generous people who come out and help us,” Pastusek said.

The festival will continue today from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission to the fly-in by car is $10 per person. Children 13 and under will be admitted free, and parking is free.