Festival of Flight could be significant

Published 9:20 pm Saturday, March 28, 2015

Fans of the annual Virginia Festival of Flight learned the disappointing news recently about this year’s cancellation of the event — held annually at the Suffolk Executive Airport since 2008 and at the Dinwiddie airport for the previous 10 years or so.

For those who attended, however, the news probably did not come as a surprise. The festival had suffered from rough weather for the past three years, and attendance had been correspondingly light. But even in its best years, the Festival of Flight was never a big draw.

There were many things to enjoy at the weekend events. There is always a great variety of aircraft to see — from warplanes to helicopters, from experimental airplanes to corporate aircraft, from homemade radio-controlled airplanes to one-man paragliders. There’s overnight camping for those flying their airplanes into Suffolk. There are seminars for pilots, opportunities for buyers and sellers to get together and lots of good stuff for aviation buffs.

Email newsletter signup

And that might describe part of the problem the Virginia Aviation Council faced when planning the festivals. There was an understandable focus on people who already fly, but it was hard to attract a younger generation to get involved in aviation generally and the event specifically.

Even the addition through the years of free airplane rides for kids, the R/C airplanes and an airshow failed to attract the younger people the VAC hopes the event will inspire to get involved in aviation.

Folks from the VAC, including Suffolk’s Ray Batton, who currently serves as president of the organization, are putting their heads together this year to see what they can do to inspire more interest in the event.

The Virginia Festival of Flight may not be among the biggest events of the year in Suffolk, but — especially considering the influence of Lockheed Martin, McDonnell Douglas and other North Suffolk military contractors — it has the potential to be one of the most significant.

We wish the VAC all the best in its deliberations and look forward to the 2016 return of the Festival of Flight to the airport in Suffolk.