Chuck Colgan says the fifth annual Festival of Freedom on Oct. 11 and 12 at the Manassas Airport will still be great, despite limitations caused by the ongoing runway construction. But others aren’t so sure.
“We knew there was going to be construction,” said Colgan, the festival coordinator. “We just changed the focus of our show.”
The Airport’s main runway is undergoing a two-month-long resurfacing. According to Airport Operations Specialist Joseph Lee the Federal Aviation Administration will not allow the scheduled aerobatic plane maneuvers because the construction crews, who must work on schedule to honor a contract, do not afford the planes enough space.
Colgan maintains the show will be even better than originally planned.
“We said, OK, we can’t have the aerobatics, we brought in more of other types of aircraft, and it’s going to be a lot more family-oriented than ever before,” Colgan said.
The pilots scheduled to perform their stunts were disappointed, said David Schultz, president of David Shultz Air Shows, the company responsible for the air displays.
“These performers are highly sought after, and they fly between 15 to 20 show a year,” Shultz said. “They had blocked that weekend off for Manassas.”
Some of those pilots will be on hand as part of a static display that will include “some of the rarest airplanes in the world” and the “planes that stopped Hitler,” according to Colgan.
There will still be a USAF F-117 Stealth Fighter demonstration, and helicopter and airplane rides available. The festival runs from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and will also include a rock climbing wall and World War II fashions and music.
The Golden Knights will perform their parachute jump as scheduled, but the plane carrying them won’t be able to take off from the Manassas Airport as originally intended.
Gene Wells, also a Festival Coordinator, said other historic festivities will simultaneously occur at the Manassas Museum, the Manassas Battlefield, Libera House and the Ben Lomon House. Re-enactors will be on hand and a trolley car will transport visitors between some of the locations.
While Colgan said the airport has given this event “great support,” others are not as pleased with the upcoming festival.
The festival, combined with the runway shutdown, will severely limit Dulles Aviation’s business, according to Vice President/General Manager Joe Gardner. The Manassas Airport-based flight school has seen a 50 percent drop in fuel purchases during the renovation, and the festival comes during peak flight lesson times.
“It’s a pretty big impact because it’s on a weekend and we run a large flight school,” Gardner said.
The Airport will close for an hour or two at a time on both days, creating an inconvenience for Gardner’s students.
“At that time we might have 15 airplanes out,” he said. “We will have to schedule around that so people can make it back before it closes or go somewhere else and wait it out.”
Diverting students to another airport is not dangerous and is normally taught to avoid hazardous weather situations, but Gardner says it will be an inconvenience. He expect a loss of about 40 hours and $125.00 per hour that weekend, and since only one runway can be used, a backup of one hour can turn into three or four.
“As soon as they open, obviously everybody can’t be at the front door,” he said.
Dulles Aviation normally brings in a large revenue in the fall, and saves up for inclement winter months. And although the company will take a double hit during the festival weekend, Gardner said significant monetary losses may be avoided.
“It just depends if we have a nice day,” Gardner said. “If it’s really overcast, where some of the students can’t go, it won’t be much of an impact for us. If it’s a gorgeous day with no wind where everyone can fly, it’s going to be a big impact.”