Search This Blog

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Director's Corner- Welcome to the blog!

Happy summer, my fellow aviators! I don’t know about you, but after this year’s winter, I am very happy warm weather is back in the Commonwealth. We’ve had some great fly ins already, like the Virginia Regional Festival of Flight in Suffolk and the Warbirds over the Beach air show in Virginia Beach. There are many more fly-ins, air shows and airport open houses to come throughout the summer and fall and you can find them on our website calendar at So let us help you promote your event, get us your news and let’s all get out there and show your support for our aviation community!

We have some very exciting news here at the department. There are so many different channels to disperse news and information instantaneous these days and, sometimes, a printed newsletter just can’t cut it as far as breaking news is concerned. That’s why we’ve started the Virginia Aviation News blog at

The blog joins our Web site,, and our newsletter, Virginia Aviation, as our newest communications tool. Even though the blog is run by the department, its main focus will be providing news on aviation throughout the Commonwealth. Department news and information will still be posted on our Web site.

I can’t encourage you enough to take advantage of these FREE advertising tools for your airports. By adding the blog as another way to send information, we have expanded our audience. You can also bookmark and follow the blog for current updates. Your news is our news, and we can’t wait to share it with the world.

Virginia Aviation Editor Kelly Pruitt will be updating the blog, so please send her your breaking news and press releases, and she will upload them to the blog as soon as she gets them. She can be reached at 804-236-3631 or

And don’t forget to keep checking the blog and our Web site for information on the upcoming Virginia Aviation Conference held August 17-20 at the Wyndham Virginia Beach Oceanfront Hotel. We have some great speakers and workshops planned this year, as well as plenty of beach activities. It should be an exciting event, and we look forward to seeing you there!

Until then, I look forward to seeing you at aviation events throughout our Commonwealth.

Safe Flying,


Thursday, June 3, 2010

Virginia pilot places senior gliding competition held in Florida

Who says you shouldn’t spend your golden years with your head in the clouds?

Every year pilots, ages 55 and over, head to Seminole Lake Gliderport in Clermont, Fla, a small community between Tampa and Orlando, for the Seniors Soaring Championships. This year’s event was held on March 6-13. Jim Garrison from Charlottesville, who has participated in the event for the last two years, came in 26th place out of 40 pilots in 2010.

The Seminole Lake competition began in 1991 and attracts 50-60 top pilots from the United States and Canada.

“Florida provides excellent soaring conditions this time of the year and it is hard to resist if your plane has languished in a hanger for the winter,” Garrison said. “Each day of the competition, a course is set that varies between 100-200 miles depending on the expected weather and strength of the thermal lift.”

The glider pilots fly the course as fast as the weather and their skill allow, and their track through the air is recorded by an on board flight computer which logs their GPS position every few seconds. Competitors generally finish the race in about three hours. Gliders can average 55 to 70 miles per hour during a cross country flight, but part of their time is spent circling in lift to regain the altitude lost while gliding toward their destination. Each pilot’s flight track is analyzed by a computer program and scores are awarded for the speed averaged over the entire course. The fastest flight each day receives 1000 points; slower flights are awarded fewer points based on a percentage of the winners overall speed. At the end of the week, the pilot with the highest score (representing the most fast flights) wins the event and the trophy.

“The trick to higher speeds is to find strong thermals, climb quickly and know how much altitude to burn off to get to the next thermal. The less time you spend climbing, the faster your overall speed will be around a course” Garrison said. “Contest flying really stretches your skills and teaches you things you may not know about soaring” added Garrison, who participates in 3-4 gliding competitions a year. Another part of the fun is the camaraderie. Garrison noted that “you’re around like-minded people for the entire week. I really enjoy the companionship of the other pilots”

Garrison has been into sailplanes since he moved in Charlottesville in 1984. He thought they’d be an equivalent hobby to sailboats since he didn’t have access to a large body of water. But he soon found out the two hobbies were very different.

“Sailplanes are very exquisite machines,” he said. “It’s a lifetime sport. You build up knowledge and skills. Every flight adds something to your experience.”

Gliding has become a popular activity in Virginia. In 2009, nearly 3,000 gliders took off and landed at Eagles Nest Airport in Waynesboro alone. The Virginia Glider Association was also recently established and holds 54 members.

Rain doesn’t dampen Festival of Flight’s spirit

Every year, organizers of the Virginia Regional Festival of Flight in Suffolk roll the weather dice and this year, the weather gods responded with moving, unsettled weather, rain and thunderstorms up and down the East Coast. The Suffolk airport managed rather good flying conditions during the Festival until mid-afternoon Sunday.

Nearly 200 aircraft flew in from as far as Massachusetts, Michigan, and North Carolina. The RV and tent camping area held 130 campers, another growing area of the fly-in.

“Obviously the numbers are down from last year, due to weather in the surrounding areas...I know we were missing many attendees from the great state of North Carolina this year,” said Scott Huff and Lindy Kirkland, co-chairmen for aircraft parking.

Dee Whittington, the PR Chairman added, “The weather challenges stretched from South Carolina to Tennessee to Ohio and up into Pennsylvania and north.”

A Rally Adventure event was added to this year's activities offering a new way for pilots to fly their homebuilt or LSA planes against the clock. Due to the weather and a late start announcing the event, only five planes flew the 60 NM triangular course. Charles Collier, the organizer, said “The pilots were pleased with the course. This was a good year to work out the bugs in the system, but still things went rather well. All should expect an earlier announcement of the 2011 Rally Adventure on the web site, as well as more pilot handouts on Saturday of the fly-in.”

The hundreds of attendees enjoyed the 38 forum and six workshop sessions, the largest group of forums and workshops ever. Presenters from as far as the West Coast who brought expertise in areas such as alternative engines, engine overhaul, propeller maintenance and overhaul, weather judgment, corrosion in aging aircraft, and the latest in EFIS technology. Interestingly, on Sunday afternoon even after the rain started and as thunder clapped, several forums continued with attentive audiences.

Many attendees hopped on the two tractor-drawn shuttles to visit The Fighter Factory Restoration Center on the other side of the airport. That large hangar offered a peek at a major restoration facility which continues to bring back to flying status WWII and an increasing number of WWI era airplanes.

NASA exhibited for the first time at the Festival and offered kids the chance to use three flight simulators with expert teachers. In another location, a full motion P-51 simulator, provided a realistic flight experience. As always, the stomp rockets were sought out by the kids. The RC modelers, located next to the Youth Area, were pleased to be able to fly their electric RC models all day. In addition, the kids had a session each day with RC builder and flier, Harry Cahoon, to teach them about the sport.

The aircraft vendor area was host to mostly LSA aircraft, but organizers were pleased to have WACO Classic Aircraft fly in from Michigan. And from Chesapeake, a Bakeng Duce under construction showed excellent wood workmanship by students at the Aviation Institute of Maintenance.

Many photos as well as judging and drawing results will be soon available on the fly-in web site,

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

June airport events in Virginia

With good flying weather finally here, air shows and fly-ins are popping up all over the state. Here are the latest shows for June:

June 12, 2010
7th Annual Bluegrass Family Day and Fly-In will be held at Middle Peninsula Regional Airport. A day of fun for the whole family including live bluegrass music, airplane rides, clowns, children's train rides and games, silent auction, raffle prizes, skydivers, Life Evac III Helicopter, antique aircraft, experimental aircraft, and more! Free Admission, donations accepted - in loving memory of Mary Ann Clements and Shirley Norman -- proceeds to benefit the American Cancer Society. Food will be provided by Lower King and Queen Volunteer Fire Department. Bring your lawn chairs and enjoy the day. Contact 804-785-6512, 804-785-2852 or 804-785-9725 or

June 19, 2010
Become A Pilot Family Day will be held from 10 a.m.- 3 p.m. at the NASM Steven F. Udvar-Hazy Center in Chantilly near Washington Dulles International Airport. The event features educational activities and an outdoor aviation display with dozens of visiting vintage, recreational, military, and homebuilt aircraft. Visitors can talk to pilots and find out what skills are needed to fly. Inside the center, visitors can test their piloting skills in flight simulators, meet model airplane experts,and hear a variety of guest speakers. The event is free and open to the public. Parking is $15. For more information visit **DOAV is an exhibitor at this event.

June 19, 2010
Summer Wing Fling at Blackstone Army Airfield. Military aircraft, LSA's, and a wide array of general aviation planes. For more information contact Tim Donnellan at 804-640-0238 or Please check the website for updates-

June 19, 2010
Roanoke Valley Veterans Center Fly-In will be held at the Halifax-Northampton Regional Airport (IXA). For more information contact Ralph Johnson, airport manager, at 252-583-3492 or

Have an airshow/event you want to promote? Please contact Betty Wilson at 804-225-3783 or so she can add it to the DOAV calendar at

Orion Air Group to Build $4.0 Million Hanger/Office Space Complex

The Peninsula Airport Commission (PAC) and Orion Air Group, LLC jointly announced today the development of a $4.0 million hanger and office space complex at Air Commerce Park located at the Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport. The new complex will serve as the corporate headquarters for Orion Air Group, while providing the necessary space for expansion of the Company's "state of the art" Air Operations Center. The project will include retention of 57 jobs for the Hampton Roads region while netting 51 new jobs with an average annual salary of $81,569 within the next 12 months.

Orion Air Group is a privately owned aviation services firm. The company provides a full range of value added services for government and commercial clients on a worldwide basis. The Company’s business lines include aircraft charter and management, sales and leasing, aviation insurance and financial services, and maintenance and modifications.

"The Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport offers a business and operating environment that is extremely conducive to the continued growth of our company" said Scott Terry, Orion Air Group's President. "The airport's proximity to our government customer base and the availability of well trained aerospace professionals who are transitioning from the numerous military aviation commands in the area are attractive features that convinced us to make a long term investment in the community."

Herbert H. Bateman, Jr., Chairman, Peninsula Airport Commission said: “We are extremely pleased to have Orion Air Group relocating to the Newport News/Williamsburg International Airport and building a “new state of the art” facility. Orion will have a positive economic impact on our local community and provide high paying jobs to our citizens.”

Orion Air Group owns and operates more than $150 million worth of corporate aircraft and is the world’s largest operator of the Bombardier Global Express business jet. The company operates from eight locations in the US and abroad while employing more than 100 aviation professionals.

Newport News Mayor Joe S. Frank said: “This exciting announcement continues our successful momentum in our business attraction and retention efforts. We are thrilled with Orion’s growth and welcome their consolidation to Newport News. This effort has been an excellent example of teamwork among the Peninsula Airport Commission, the Virginia Economic Development Partnership, the Hampton Roads Economic Development Alliance, and the City.”

Business and Thunderbirds boomed at Sun n’ Fun 2010

Representatives from the Virginia Department of Aviation once again journeyed to Lakeland, Fla. to exhibit at the 36th annual Sun n’ Fun Fly-In April 13-18. And from the view of the trailer, it looked like the show was successful.

About 165,000 people attended the show as well as 522 vendors, who reported healthy sales, reflecting the changes in the nation’s economy over the last year.

More aircraft, as well as different kinds of aircraft flew into the show including many factory aircraft as well as light-sport and ultralights.

An estimated Sun ’n Fun International Fly-In and Expo President John Burton remarked on closing day, “Overall we’ve had a great fly-in.”

The United States Air Force Thunderbirds F-16 demonstration team returned this year with a few afternoon shows. As one of the show’s highlights, the team was featured frequently on local newscasts, giving a few lucky reporters the ride of their lives. When asked what he would do differently on his next ride in a F-16, one Tampa Bay reporter replied, “I’d bring a third plastic bag.” Good times!

Next year’s show will take place March 29-April 3. For more information, visit