Schedule of events:
4 p.m. Gates open to the public
5 p.m. Sponsor tent opens
5:30 p.m. Sponsor dinner
5:45 p.m. Twilight air show begins
9 a.m. Gates open to the public
9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Robeson Classic Cars car show
9 a.m. to noon Forums and aviation seminars
11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Sponsor tent opens
1 to 3 p.m. Airshow
5 to 6 p.m. Volunteer dinner
6 p.m. Pig-Picking for overnight guests and pilots
LUMBERTON — Organizers of the Mid-Atlantic Fly-In and Sport Aviation Convention hope to reach new heights by holding its ninth annual airshow the last weekend in October, rather than in May as in years past.
They believe the new date will mean more spectators and better weather. The forecast, which has been good, just turned iffy, with a chance of rain Friday and Saturday, but nothing widespread. Temperatures will drop into the 50s on Friday and Saturday.
The Lumberton Regional Airport has begun filling its runways with aircrafts of every shape, size and color, including a contingent of World War II Warbirds and other military aircraft that will be on display and flying in the air show. As many as 30,000 to 35,000 people are expected.
This year’s fly-in roster will feature performances by Team RV, the world’s largest air show team, in its experimental aircrafts, Paul Stender in an Indy Boys Racing Jet School bus, Michael Kennedy in a Vultee Valiant BT-13, Greg Connell in a Pitts S-2B, and Brian Taylor in a Giles 202.
As the pilots and planes prepare for their first flights on Friday, none are more excited than Dock Locklear, the president of the convention’s board of directors.
“We’re ready to go,” Locklear said. “Everything appears to be on target.”
Locklear took his first flight at age 18 and said he was hooked. He has since logged thousands of hours of flying time. He has participated in the opening ceremonies and Student Day going back to the first airshow in 2003.
But one of his favorite events of the weekend is the Twilight Air Show, which will take place at 5:45 p.m. Friday.
“It’s just as the sun sets and the day is ending, a good time for reflecting back on the day and week,” Locklear said. “It’s more the atmosphere than the air show itself that I enjoy. It’s twilight and the humming engines and the smell of the gas, for pilots, like myself, it doesn’t get much better.”
Locklear said that the board of directors settled on October rather than May this year after polling attendees of the event and the participating groups. Conflicting events drew spectators away and the often wet and blazing temperatures of May were factors in the decision to change.
“We picked the opportune time for it this year,” Locklear said.
General admission is $5. Children 7 years and younger get in for free. Camping is $10 per day. Profits are donated to local charities.
The convention held its opening ceremonies this morning and will host local high school students interested in aviation this afternoon. Then the gates will open to the public on Friday at 4 p.m. with the Twilight Airshow.
On Saturday, the gates open at 9 a.m. with the Robeson Classic Cars car show lining the runways until 1 p.m. From 9 a.m. until noon, the airport will host several forums and aviation seminars for interested pilots. Then the cars will make way for the main event — the planes will take to the skies from 1 to 3 p.m. At 6 p.m., there will be a pig-picking for pilots and overnight guests.
Additional aviation seminars will take place on Sunday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. From 2 to 5:30 p.m. the pilots of the Young Eagles will try their hand at the controls.
The Fly-In began in 2003 as part of a statewide celebration of the 100th anniversary of the Wright brothers’ flight at Kitty Hawk. It was so successful it was turned into an annual event. Some of the proceeds are distributed to charity.
— Staff writer Ali Rockett can be reached at (910) 272-6127 or email@example.com