Natfly 2014

Doug Ross's very smart A22LSA with red highlights and leather seat cushions was one of 9 Foxbats attending the show.

Doug Ross’s very smart A22LSA with red highlights and leather seat cushions was one of 9 Foxbats attending the show.

It’s Sunday evening and I just returned from the annual Recreational Aviation Australia (RA-Aus) Easter jamboree ‘Natfly‘ at Temora Aerodrome in southern New South Wales, home of the Temora Aviation Museum.

Unfortunately, it would probably be better named ‘Notfly’ – only about 130 aircraft flew in (and out) over the three days (Thursday-Saturday) and that included all the exhibitors, who probably accounted for around 25-30% of the numbers – the Foxbat display alone had four aircraft. These figures are way down on the heyday a few years ago when upwards of 600 aircraft visited the fly-in/show.

It’s a pity really – if you didn’t attend, you missed some very slick aerobatic displays, including one by our own Red Bull ace, Matt Hall, as well as a pair of totally manic Pitts Specials led by Paul Bennet. Temora Aviation Museum also put their Spitfire into the air – the sound of that 12-cylinder Merlin engine always gives me goose bumps (and I’m not even old enough to have seen them in action!).

Lowe Flight Powered Parachute

Lowe Flight Powered Parachute

Although there were no truly new models of aircraft on display, most manufacturers had updates and revised models. A couple of powered parachutes caught my eye – in particular, one you can just pack up and hitch directly to your vehicle tow-hook and take it home, by LoweFlight.

If you were in the market, it was an opportunity to sit in your shortlisted aircraft and go for test flights back-to-back, which I think is the best way to help finalise a decision. It’s a chance too, to meet the distributors and assess them for yourself. And last but not least, there was an excellent coffee stall. The high quality of their brew was confirmed when they ran out of large size cups and lids on Sunday morning, in spite of the poor numbers turning out.

So, what’s the problem? Did you go – why/why not? Are the low numbers because it’s over Easter? – if so, why didn’t that stop people on previous Easters? Is it the Australian economy? Have people fallen out of love with small light aircraft? Is it the location? Is it something else? Any ideas anyone?

Unless RA-Aus fixes things – and only some of the possible reasons are down to RA-Aus – I think there will be even fewer people there next year and the event will probably die. It’s then a long road to get the sizzle & sparkle back again. What do you think?