We were disappointed recently to deliver the news that the Mid-Atlantic Fly-In & Sport Aviation Convention has been at least temporarily grounded, and the possibility exists that its wings have been forever clipped.
The debut event was in 2003 as part of a statewide celebration that marked the 100th anniversary of the Wright Brothers’ maiden flight at Kitty Hawk — and it was deemed so successful the decision was made to continue it annually, each May. The first show was predominantly an airshow, while subsequent events trended more toward being a convention during which pilots showed off their vintage crafts.
Last year the decision was made to move the show from May to October, where the calendar was less crowded locally, and there was also less competition from similar aviation events across the country. But the October event was eventually canceled because of weather, high winds that kept the pilots grounded. The plan had been for the ninth edition of the event to be held this year, but organizers say that the economy has made it too much of a gamble.
The two-day event has cost about $150,000 to stage, requiring that about 30,000 $5 tickets be sold, and there was no guarantee that would happen.
Dock Locklear, the president of the convention’s board of directors, said that the event has been self-sufficient, making a little money one year, breaking even another year, but never depended on public assistance.
“We didn’t solicit anything from the public as far as assistance, or from any of the county commissioners or the City Council. It’s just a bad economy … we don’t think we’d have the kind of turnout that we think would be necessary to justify holding the event,” he told The Robesonian recently.
It remains unclear if there will ever be that ninth Mid-Atlantic Fly-In & Sport Aviation Convention, but if it doesn’t happen, it will be the county’s loss. The event showcased Robeson County and the Lumberton Regional Airport, attracting people from near and far who helped to gas up the local economy.
Tourism is increasingly this county’s most dependable industry, but Robeson County is rarely a destination, and is more typically a quick stop for travelers headed elsewhere. The Mid-Atlantic Fly-In & Sport Aviation Convention gave people, especially aviation enthusiasts, a reason to hang out for a while, and also educated and entertained the local folks.
We hope as the economy continues its climb upward, that the Mid-Atlantic Fly-In & Sport Aviation Convention can again once take flight.