THE region’s residents are nursing cricks in their necks today after thousands flocked to Tamworth’s inaugural Festival of Flight.
Spending many hours with eyes to the sky, more than 6000 people drove, flew and bussed their way into Tamworth Regional Airport to watch the biggest aerial display the city has seen in many years.
Tamworth Aero Club president Adele Mazoudier said she was overwhelmed by the community support.
“I am moved and humbled and really quite overwhelmed by the support from the Tamworth community,” she said.
“So many people have been so generous with their time and resources. We couldn’t do this without the volunteers, with more than 80 involved.”
She also paid tribute to the local CASA office and the air controllers in the tower at the airport who had a busy weekend on their hands.
The air traffic controllers had a challenging time with about 20 aircraft to control across the weekend, in addition to normal traffic.
A highlight of the Festival of Flight was the air display featuring skydivers, RAAF Wing Commander Tony Blair and his Rebel 300 aerobatic aircraft, the Russian Roolettes formation flying, Walcha’s David Salter flying his World War II North American Harvard trainer and a Wirraway and the Australian Defence Force’s Basic Flying Training School BAE Systems CT-4 training aircraft.
Mr Salter, who’s been flying for 17 years, said he loved the challenge of aerobatic flying.
“It’s good for discipline and honing skills,” he said.
“I started aerobatic flying in 1966 because anyone can fly in a straight line.”
He said he wanted to be involved to support local businesses.
Mr Salter also had his 1925 Gipsy Moth on display – the oldest flying aircraft in Australia.
Ms Mazoudier said the festival was the result of a shared vision.
“We had the germ of the idea and everybody seem to warm to it,” she said.
“Everyone has been brought here by the love of aviation. This is something this community was crying out for because Tamworth has such a history with aviation. We have the third oldest aero club – it opened in 1930. Aviation is part of our story and our history.”
Ms Mazoudier said the future of aviation was also being celebrated with a highlight for her being hearing the young children’s responses to the festival.
“Now we look to the future of aviation, which was why we had the careers day,” she said.
“We wanted to make bush kids aware that they don’t have to leave home to have a career in aviation.”
Ms Mazoudier said she was confident that young people would walk away from the weekend “thrilled about aviation”.
To celebrate Tamworth’s aviation history, the Aero Club is making fliers with information on them about where the original training grounds were and where the men who died during training are buried.
“We’re getting lots of people coming to the club who knew people who trained here during World War II,” Ms Mazoudier said.
The organisers will now discuss the festival including ideas of how it could be improved, with another likely next year then every two years after that.