Natchez-Adams County Airport Fly-In a soaring success

Published 4:46 pm Monday, March 22, 2021

Organizers of the first Natchez-Adams County Fly-In were expecting 68 airplanes to attend the fledgling event on Saturday.

More than double that number showed up.

“We had 128 aircraft that actually flew in,” said Richard Nelson, executive director of the Natchez-Adams County Airport. “We stopped counting cars at 300. It was a major success for our first one.”

Natchez businessman Tate Hobdy, who is a pilot and tenant at the airport, said the weather was a bit chilly on Saturday morning.

“If it had been nicer, I’ll bet we would have had another 20 to 25 planes come in. We were especially pleased with the non-pilot, drive-in turnout. We had pilot registration, so we had a pretty good idea of how many people who would attend pilot-wise, but we didn’t know what to expect from spectators. I’ll bet counting pilots and spectators, we had 1,000 folks there Saturday. And that’s being conservative.”

Pilots, vendors and residents who took their children and grandchildren to the airport to see the planes all were happy with the event, and hope the airport has another.

“We are planning on trying to do it again,” Nelson said. “We are following up with our tenants and those who flew in and asking what we can do better next time.”

Nelson said many lessons were learned Saturday, like more vendors are needed to accommodate the fly in.

“They were a little overwhelmed. They ran out of food because there were so many people there. We have to have more vendors and are going to have to put them to a certain side to give them more room,” he said.

“We really did not count on this. We were surprised. It wouldn’t have been possible without our tenants (individuals and companies who occupy hangar space at the airport) who brought volunteers. Air Evac told us they would like to be part of it next time as well. Everyone saw how great it was.

“Without volunteers and the tenants and my personnel at the airport working their tails off, it wouldn’t have been possible,” Nelson said. “My iPhone told me I walked 11 miles on Saturday. That’s how busy we all were.”

Airplanes are awesome and appeal to all age groups, Hobdy said.

“We had some older people who were pilots in the ’60s and ’70s come out to see the type of planes they used to fly. And we had a ton of kids out there who got some really good exposure to aviation — not only the planes, but we had two hot air balloons and a helicopter, too,” he said.

Hobdy also suggested part of the success of the event perhaps was related to people being pent up and looking for outdoor events to go to.

“It’s Spring and it gave everyone a reason to get outside,” he said.

The event took a tremendous amount of work to put on and volunteers are to be credited for its success, Hobdy said.

“The biggest thanks goes to all of the volunteers who helped. All of the pilot community in Natchez came together and really worked hard to make this thing successful.

“I was super impressed with the pilots’ dedication to safety. When you have that number of planes coming in, it requires a lot of patience. They were patient when they needed to be patient and responsive when they needed to be responsive,” he said. “The whole thing was really spectacular.”