LUMBERTON — Organizers were forced to cancel Saturday’s Mid-Atlantic Fly-In and Sport Aviation Convention activities because of weather.
The decision flew in the face of hopes that a record number of spectators could be drawn to the ninth installment of the annual celebration of manned flight.
“It’s a shame really because it’s always a good little show,” said Troy Woodland, of Just Aircraft in Walhalla, S.C.
Woodland said he missed last year’s Fly-in, but had been to most of the previous events in Lumberton when they were held in May.
“It could have been a nice weekend, but just unlucky weather,” Woodland said.
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 became an annual event.
The Fly-In’s board of directors decided to hold this year’s show in October, rather than May. The board polled attendees and participating groups and found that October was a better fit because conflicting events in May and the often wet and hot spring weather kept spectators away.
“It’s the first year, and it’ll take a while for people to adjust to the change,” Woodland said. “The only way its going to be successful is if we all come out and promote it.”
More than 30,000 people were expected on Saturday for the daylong event scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. The day was to begin with a classic car show and end with a pig-picking for overnight guests and Air Show performers, which was scheduled for 1 to 3 p.m.
Dock Locklear, president of the convention’s board of directors, said the board would re-evaluate the dates after this year’s event.
This was the first cancellation in the Fly-In’s eight-year history, said Linda Barker, an organizer.
“We’ve been fortunate,” Barker said.
Despite a rough start on Friday night with a smaller-than-expected crowd, organizers had insisted the show would go on as planned. By 1 p.m., all the performers and most of the exhibitors had packed up. A few remained for the events scheduled for today.
“It gets set on go, and we just hope for the best,” Barker said.
Chilly, windy weather and cloudy skies didn’t keep everybody away. A couple dozen pilots and aircraft enthusiasts showed up on Saturday to have a look at the aircraft on display at Lumberton Regional Airport.
John Denson, of Whitelake, took the 30-minute drive hoping to see the show, but was not too disappointed when he arrived to find it had been canceled.
“I understand,” he said.
Denson brought along Nicole Johnson, Katie Lipofsky, and his 18-month-old grandson, Jeremy, an avid collector of toy helicopters.
“We wanted him to see the helicopters. Planes don’t do much for him. I don’t know if it is the noise, but he loves helicopters.”
Luckily, there was a fleet of military helicopters on display for Jeremy to see. He smiled and pointed to the biggest one in the group.
Mike Jones, a pilot, and 8-year-old Ethan Blank, whose father is currently serving oversees, decided to make the drive from Southern Pines for a guy’s day out. They hit another airport earlier this month.
“We were disappointed,” Jones said. “To come to an event like this is just a thrill. But it’s hard to put on a real safe air show in these conditions.”
Jones said that usually a show of this size would have 200 or more planes on display. Last year, the Fly-In had more than 400.
One plane in particular, a bright red Waco bi-plane with a radial engine, caught Jones’ eye.
“We’re lucky to have a Waco fly in here,” he said. “In the ’20s and ’30s, they were pretty much the king of the sky, like the Cadillac of planes.”
Jones said the company discontinued the plane years ago, but recently began producing it again.
“That could be a completely new airplane,” he said.
Jones and Blank made their way through the row of planes to Troy Woodland’s aircraft, a light sports aircraft of his own design.
Woodland said his company, Just Aircraft, which was participating as a vendor at the Fly-In, manufactures about one plane a week in kit form, which the buyer assembles. He said it takes about one year to assemble the plane.
“Hopefully, we’ll be back next year to a better turnout,” Jones said.
The show isn’t over yet. Today local pilots will donate their time, their planes and their fuel to show young, aspiring pilots how to fly. The Young Eagles, ages 8 to 18, will take to the skies from 2 p.m. to 5:30 p.m.
Schedule of events:
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