May 27, 2011
Clear, blue skies made for a welcoming introduction to general aviation at the bustling Frederick Municipal Airport in Maryland for a local event that was part of the second annual International Learn to Fly Day . More than 350 people from the community flocked to the airport, and volunteer pilots from the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), The Experimental Aircraft Association’s Chapter 524, Frederick Flight Center, and Cirrus Aircraft gave free flights to 140 passengers throughout the course of the day. The event also featured a pilot town hall meeting, sponsored by Cirrus Aircraft, at which AOPA President and CEO Craig L. Fuller highlighted the association’s work on Capitol Hill and efforts to grow the pilot population.
As part of International Learn to Fly Day, Fuller took several local elected officials for a flight over Maryland and into West Virginia aboard AOPA’s Cessna Grand Caravan – a flight that left a lasting impression on Maryland Delegate Kathy Afzali.
"It was amazing," Afzali said after the flight. She was familiar with general aviation and the economic value of the local airport, but the flight over her hometown and district gave her a special perspective on what GA has to offer.
Some 360 companies use the Frederick airport over the course of a year, Fuller noted in the town hall presentation; and that’s a major reason that officials came out to the event. But the airport is even more than an economic engine, as he explained to Afzali before the flight. "It also represents people who just plain love flying," he said.
The variety of general aviation aircraft on the ramp—including a hot air balloon basket, a glider, a Pitts biplane, Cirrus SR22s, AOPA’s Cessna Grand Caravan and sweepstakes Cessna 182, a floatplane, a turbine helicopter, and more—proved the point. Operations at the airport during just that one day ranged from gyroplanes to the Goodyear blimp.
That aerial view impressed Frederick County Commissioner David Gray, who accompanied Afzali for the flight in the Caravan. Airport Support Network volunteer Jon Harden pointed out local landmarks: a nearby quarry, highways, and Sugarloaf Mountain to the south.
"It was terrific, terrific," Gray said. "We had a good time and realized our view of the county and the city is not complete until you’ve seen it from the air."
The concept for International Learn to Fly Day, which originated at AOPA’s fellow aviation association, the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA), is for pilots around the world to take non-pilots up for their first flight in an airplane they could learn to fly themselves, and let them experience the joy of flight.
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