Festival of Flight returns to Suffolk

Published 9:27 pm Wednesday, April 13, 2011

The Virginia Regional Festival of Flight is coming to Suffolk at the end of the month. The event features a number of flying machines, forums and workshops, vendors, children’s activities and more.

The Virginia Regional Festival of Flight is once again returning to the Suffolk Executive Airport, and this year’s show promises to attract hundreds of different aircraft for visitors young and old to admire, touch and even fly in themselves.

The event will be held April 30 and May 1 at the airport south of downtown. Attendees can see all kinds of flying machines, from powered parachutes to home-built planes.

In addition, the “Spirit of Freedom,” a flying museum commemorating the Berlin Airlift operations that kept the people of Soviet-controlled East Berlin alive for 15 months in 1948 and 1949, will be in attendance.

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“A lot of people find aviation pretty exciting,” said DeWitt Whittington, the public relations chairman for the Virginia Regional Festival of Flight. “The big thing about this event is just to learn a lot more about aviation, and especially private aviation.”

The fly-in’s visitors, workshops and forums are geared toward general aviation, which encompasses everything but military and commercial flight, Whittington said.

“That covers a super-wide range, from crop-dusters to fire spotters to water bombers and police airplanes,” Whittington said. “That doesn’t mean that we don’t get government-type airplanes there. I think we’re having a Coast Guard helicopter show up.”

Visitors will be able to talk to plane owners and builders, Whittington said.

“It’s an event in which you’re not behind the big chain-link fence watching some 500-mile-an-hour military aircraft do all these wonderful loops and rolls,” he said. “This is personal. It’s a lot of people with small planes people built themselves in their garages.”

The forums and workshops go on all day each day and encompass everything from maintenance and aviation weather to police department helicopter operations and Virginia’s aviation future. Some of the programs qualify for various credits through the WINGS and Virginia Aviation Ambassador programs.

Children ages 8 to 17 even will get to take their own flights on Sunday through the Experimental Aircraft Association’s Young Eagles program. The flights are free, and all that’s required is a parent’s signature on a release form. The program has taken more than 1.4 million young people up in the air since it began.

Furthermore, attendees can take airplane and helicopter rides provided by Bay Aviation and Coastal Helicopters and Biplanes.

An expanded youth area this year will include many hands-on activities and projects for young people and their parents, including paper airplanes, windsocks and flight-control computer games.

The Festival of Flight will be from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday and from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sunday. An RV and tent camping area will be open starting at noon on Friday. A pancake breakfast will be served from 8 to 11:30 a.m. each day, with a variety of other food vendors in the food court area.

Parking is free, but there is an entrance fee of $10 for people age 14 and older. For RVs, travel trailers and tents, there is a fee of $10 per night without power or $15 per night with power. For airplanes, the admission fee is $5 per pilot and each passenger 14 and older.

For more information, call 804-358-4333 beforehand, or 757-514-4410 during the Festival of Flight. You can also visit www.VirginiaFlyIn.org.