Valkaria Air Fest: Made by pilots, with pilots, for you

February 25, 2010

hot air baloon showWhen you need to put your airport in the best light, show, don’t tell.

Pilots and aviation enthusiasts in and around Grant-Valkaria, Fla. did just that Feb. 20, holding the fourth annual Valkaria Air Fest. Aviation stars Patty Wagstaff and Corky Fornof provided entertainment for the estimated thousands of aviation enthusiasts and community residents in attendance; aerobatic gyrocopter pilot Roy Davis also showed off his talent.

Aviation enthusiasts weren’t alone in orchestrating this airshow; the Grant-Valkaria EAA Chapter, the Melbourne Area Pilots Association, and the local Civil Air Patrol squadron assisted in the event. The community benefitted the most from this collaboration: Citizens saw local businesses that use aviation to provide jobs; law enforcement agencies displayed their use of the airport; and the community had the chance to take a first flight in an airplane or helicopter.

This celebration of aviation comes after a long battle by the local pilot community and AOPA to keep aviation alive in this area of Florida; not long ago, the prospect of learning to fly in Grant-Valkaria was a thorny one. The town tried to restrict flight training, they lost. The town then tried to request jurisdiction over  the county-owned airport, they failed.

Others stepped in to help, and the FAA said that the airport was still under grant obligations; the Florida State Attorney General’s Office also noted that the city couldn’t deny access to any aeronautical user, close the airport, prohibit touch and goes, or prohibit aircraft runups, among other things. The nearby Melbourne Area Pilots Association and local AOPA Airport Support Network volunteers also came to the aid of Valkaria.

AOPA hosted booth at the show, manned by AOPA Manager of Airport Policy John Collins, who emphasized how pilots and aviation enthusiasts need to engage their communities.

“When you want to put your airport in the best light, put on an airshow,” Collins recommends. “Not only do you show pilots and your airport at their best, but the opportunity to work together with different airports and aviation segments becomes priceless.”