In case you hadn’t heard, Recreational Aviation Australia (RA-Aus) has decided to postpone – to a yet undisclosed date and place – the 2015 Easter NATFLY event, which in recent years has taken place at Temora Airfield in New South Wales.
The October 2014 RA-Aus newsletter says: “The decision was made with a view to re-invigorating NATFLY to attract a wide and varied audience”. RA-Aus is expecting to make a further announcement in January 2015 and refer you to a link on their website for more information – but don’t bother, the link just takes you to the NATFLY 2014 site, with nothing about the RA-Aus decision to postpone/cancel next year’s event.
The announcement has been greeted with both joy and sadness in our home.
Joy because for the first time in over 20 years, we can enjoy the Easter holiday weekend like normal(?) people. Before coming to Australia 15 years ago (and attending every NATFLY since then) we used to take our hot-air balloon to a big Easter ballooning festival in southern England. Getting up at 4.00 in the morning for the dawn lift-off was not my forté but taking part in a mass departure of 50+ balloons did make up for the early start. But preparation, planning and attendance at these big events costs a lot of time and money. Because of job and other constraints, I was often separated from my partner at a holiday time when we would prefer to be together relaxing.
And sadness because I remember when NATFLY attracted 500 or more aircraft from every corner of Australia. I recall often meeting people who had flown to Narromine (the NATFLY location in those days) from Darwin, Perth, Cairns and all manner of other distant, and no doubt more exotic, locations. The club of which I was a member – the Gold Coast Sports Flying Club (GCSFC) based at Heck Field, just to the north of the Gold Coast, always flew several aircraft down – as many as eight, I recall one year. We didn’t necessarily fly together – some took close to six hours in the slower planes, and others maybe only four hours. But we all got together after arrival and walked round looking at all the planes and chatted to their happy owners.
But, alas, attendances at NATFLY (and for that matter Ausfly, a similar event) have decreased markedly in recent times.
Contrast this situation with ever increasing attendances at air shows & fly-ins overseas – Sun ‘n Fun (Florida, USA), EAA Airventure (Oshkosh, Wisconsin, USA), The Flying Show (mainly British Microlight Aircraft Association, Shropshire, UK), the Light Aircraft Association Rally (various locations, UK), Blois Airshow (Blois, France) and last but not least, Aero-Expo (Friedrichshafen, Germany). Due to visitor and exhibitor demand, they have recently doubled the frequency of this last event to make it annual instead of bi-annual.
So, what’s happened to the joy of flying recreational and sport aircraft in Australia? Why don’t people attend NATFLY any more? (See my earlier post/report about the 2014 event). Have people fallen out of love with flying? Are the aeroplanes too expensive to buy or fly? What effect have all the shenanigans at RA-Aus had over the last few years? Is the heavy hand of CASA – rightly or wrongly – blamed for recent low turn-outs? Has Easter just become the wrong time to hold a fly-in event? Or is it something else?
We need to get our mojo back and start enjoying our national fly-in events again, whether RA-Aus, Ausfly or whatever!
PS – Here’s a date for your diary: the Australian International Airshow at Avalon Airport, south west of Melbourne, 24 February to 1 March 2015 inclusive. See you there!!??**