LUMBERTON — Windy conditions, chilly weather and the threat of rain got the opening day of the ninth annual Mid-Atlantic Fly-In and Sport Aviation Convention off to a turbulent start Friday, but officials say they have no intention of cancelling the air show set for this afternoon.
“We won’t cancel it,” said Dock Locklear, president of the convention’s board of directors, after Friday night’s Twilight Air Show.
The Twilight Air Show went on as planned, despite a weather-related delay, and gave spectators a taste of the routines they will see in today’s main event.
“The Twilight Air Show was just a mini version of what we’ll see tomorrow,” Locklear said.
First up Friday was 12-man Team RV, the world’s largest airshow team. The team’s intricate formations, with just feet between the planes, thrilled the crowd. The pilots have accumulated almost 50,000 hours of total flight time between them.
Team RV members fly in an experimental aircraft designed by Richard VanGrunsven, but most planes are built by the pilots who fly them. The team is comprised of Bob Gibbons, Bob Goodman, Charlie Plunkett, Danny Kight, Greg Reese, James Clark, Jerry Morris, Len Leggette, Mike Stewart, Ron Schreck, Tom Dubrouillet and Tad Sargent.
Aerobatic pilot Bryan Taylor took to the air next. Taylor had his bright green Giles 202 flipping, dipping and cork-screwing through the air with such ease it looked like anyone could do it.
Finally Paul and Therese Stender, who drive the world’s fastest school bus, fired up the vehicle’s jet engine and tore across the runaway at about 350 mph, leaving behind a trail of flame and smoke.
Seven-year-old Ben Hunt, who hopes to be a Navy pilot one day, said he wouldn’t take that bus to school. But he thought it looked fun.
Hunt’s father, Charles, of Lumberton, said he wanted to bring his son to see the air show and wanted to see the helicopters on display among hundreds of other aircraft. The helicopters remind him of his time in Vietnam, and he wanted to share it with his son.
Fly-in organizers hope to see a record crowd of between 30,000 and 35,000 today. But they fear that the weather might keep people away.
“It had an effect tonight,” Locklear said.
The weather also prevented several aircraft, including the contingent of World War II warbirds, from reaching the airport.
The event’s board of directors decided to hold this year’s show in October, rather than May, after polling attendees and participating groups. Conflicting events that drew spectators away and the often wet and hot weather of May were factors in the decision to change the air show dates.
“We can’t change the weather, unfortunately,” Locklear said. “But it looks like this stuff is supposed to be out of here at 10 a.m.”
If Locklear’s forecast is accurate it leaves plenty of flying time for the pilots, who are scheduled to take off at 1 p.m. today. The daylong event also includes a car show from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., forums and aviation seminars from 9 a.m. to noon, and a pig-picking for overnight guests at 6 p.m.
The gates open at 9 a.m. General admission is $5. Children 7 years and younger get in for free. Camping is $10 per day.
Schedule of events:
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
8 to 10 a.m. Fly-in breakfast
10 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wings and FAA seminars
2 to 5:30 p.m. Young Eagles flights