December 1, 1998
ELIZABETH A. TENNYSON
AOPA members signaled their pleasure at Expo's return to California by turning out in record numbers for Expo '98 in Palm Springs. Nearly 9,800 attendees participated in informative seminars, shopped for the latest gadgets and, of course, soaked up the sunshine during the gathering October 23 through 25.
And attendance was by no means the only record set at the most successful Expo yet. Exhibitors set a record of their own with some 430 displays--so many that vendors overflowed the exhibit hall into an auxiliary facility set up in the convention center parking lot.
"Everything's here as far as going through the new products," said Neil Sutherland, an AOPA member who traveled from Phoenix with his wife Trudy to attend the convention. "You can do all your research right here. It's a real hands-on experience."
Those who wanted to maximize the hands-on experience at Expo could attend numerous interactive seminars covering everything from tactics for dealing with weather to reducing cockpit tension between the sexes. Even in this arena Expo '98 set records, with the number of seminars offered reaching a new high, up 50 percent over past years. The seminar schedules again followed the popular track system, with six tracks focusing on medical, safety, and aircraft ownership issues, among others.
Non-pilot guests weren't left out of the fun, with daily AOPA Air Safety Foundation Pinch Hitter courses designed to teach them how to safely land an airplane in an emergency, as well as classes on local cooking and culture.
Some attendees got so caught up in the seminars that they scrapped plans to take in the sights.
"I'm trying to learn all this stuff, and if you come here, that's what you do," said Peggy Rogers, a 35-hour student pilot from San Francisco who attended Expo with her husband. "My friends thought I'd want to go shopping, but it turns out I'm loving it. I'm really learning."
CFIs Tom Hannawa and Anthony Wang agreed that Expo is a great learning experience. They traveled from Palomar, California, to bring 5-hour student Mark Degering to the convention. "We thought it would be a good learning experience for him," said Hannawa. The group planned to take in some seminars and look at the latest in the headsets and avionics.
The resort town of Palm Springs lived up to its reputation as a desert playground with warm weather and dramatic mountain views--a pleasant treat for A.A. Morrone and Humphrey Amadeo who flew 2,154 nautical miles from Rhode Island to attend Expo, the farthest distance flown by any attendees in a GA aircraft.
Only on Sunday, as some show-goers prepared to leave, did weather become a factor, with thunderstorms putting in a sunset appearance. Skies were blue, however, for Thursday afternoon's parade of planes from the Palm Springs Airport to the convention center.
The parade marked the first time that all participating aircraft, including two jets and several turboprops, taxied under their own power to the static display site, located just outside the exhibit area. The sight of some 70 airplanes "driving" through the streets of Palm Springs brought gasps of wonder from the crowd gathered along the route. Among the new aircraft making their Expo debuts were the Mooney Eagle, Cessna 206, AASI JetCruzer, and the Micco SP20.
Even those who've seen the parade in the past were impressed. "I think the parade of planes is great," said longtime AOPA member Tom Appley as he watched the airplanes pass. "I look forward to Expo every year."
Expo may come around every year, but it's not every year that two all-new general aviation aircraft are awarded their FAR Part 23 type certificates, as happened at Expo '98. FAA Administrator Jane Garvey presented the certificates for Cirrus Designs' SR20 and Lancair's Columbia 300 during the opening general session on Friday morning. The certificates were the first of their kind to be issued in more than 15 years.
The packed crowd clapped approvingly, first for the type certificates and then for Garvey's announcement that the so-called ticket program, as it was originally conceived, is dead. The program, which would have allowed FAA officials to issue on-the-spot citations for a wide range of infractions, has been strongly opposed by AOPA and other aviation organizations. A modified and reportedly pilot-friendly version is waiting in the wings, however.
While the ticket program has been dying a slow death over the past year, two pilots have given new life to the pioneering spirit that launched modern aviation at the beginning of this century. At Friday's luncheon, AOPA President Phil Boyer honored Ken Hyde of Warrenton, Virginia, and Rick Young of Richmond, for their efforts to re-create the early aircraft and flights of the Wright Brothers.
Expo yet. Exhibitors set a record of their own with some 430 displays - so many that vendors overflowed the exhibit hall into an auxiliary facility set up in the convention center parking lot.
Nonpilot guests weren't left out of the fun, with daily AOPA Air Safety Foundation Pinch-Hitter courses designed to teach them how to safely land an airplane in an emergency, as well as classes on local cooking and culture.
CFIs Tom Hannawa and Anthony Wang agreed that Expo is a great learning experience. They traveled from Palomar, California, to bring five-hour student Mark Degering to the convention. "We thought it would be a good learning experience for him," said Hannawa. The group planned to take in some seminars and look at the latest in the headsets and avionics.
The resort town of Palm Springs lived up to its reputation as a desert playground with warm weather and dramatic mountain views - a pleasant treat for A.A. Morrone and Humphrey Amadeo, who flew 2,154 nautical miles from Rhode Island to attend Expo, the farthest distance flown by any attendees in a GA aircraft.
Only on Sunday, as some show-goers prepared to leave, did weather become a factor, with thunderstorms putting in a sunset appearance. Skies were blue, however, for Thursday afternoon's parade of planes from the Palm Springs Regional Airport to the convention center.
The parade marked the first time that all participating aircraft, including two jets and several turboprops, taxied under their own power to the static display site, located just outside the exhibit area. The sight of some 70 airplanes "driving" through the streets of Palm Springs brought gasps of wonder from the crowd gathered along the route. Among the new aircraft making their Expo debuts were the Mooney Eagle, Cessna 206, AASI Jetcruzer, and the Micco SP20.
Hyde and Young drew luncheon attendees into their project, The Wright Experience, with film of their 1997 glider flights off North Carolina's coastal dunes, near the spot where the Wright Brothers made their first successful flights. The pilots hope to re-create a 1903 Flyer in time for powered flight's centennial in 2003. To help them in their quest, AOPA presented The Wright Experience with a $1,000 contribution and challenged other aviation supporters to follow suit.
Also at the luncheon, Boyer presented the Max Karant Journalism Awards for Excellence in Aviation Coverage to journalists whose fair, accurate, and insightful reporting brought general aviation to a wider audience during the past year.
Charlie Spence, Washington correspondent for GA's only biweekly newspaper, the Tacoma, Washington-based Flyer, received a lifetime achievement award for his years of news coverage and advocacy on behalf of general aviation. In addition to his current column, "Capital Comments," Spence has worked for Flying magazine; the Utility Airplane Council, now the General Aviation Manufacturers Association; and AOPA, where he set up the Communications Division and rose to the level of senior vice president.
Other Karant Award winners included reporter Tim Gaffney and photographer Ty Greenlees from Ohio's Dayton Daily News for a 19-part series covering their own two-week barnstorming journey across the nation in Gaffney's two-seat Grumman AA–1B.
In the television news category, Sharon Wright, of WMAQ-TV in Chicago, won for her report on a Lifeline flight that carried a two-year-old boy and his mother from Illinois to Florida so that the child could receive desperately needed medical treatment.
Douglas McNeeley, host of "Hangar Flying Today" on Maryland's WINX radio and manager of Montgomery County (Maryland) Airpark, won in the radio category for an episode discussing the future of FBOs and airports. The episode also included an interview with a local television station helicopter crew.
In the program-length television category, Michelle Merker and Dan Donley, of KDOC-TV in Irvine, California, won for their program "Orange County Aviation - A Flight Through History." The 24-minute program chronicled the region's proud history in aviation and the public policy questions that currently threaten general aviation in the rapidly growing region.
Development is one of the greatest threats to many of the nation's airports, but NASA Administrator Dan Goldin told Expo attendees that he looked forward to a day when dramatically reduced noise levels and pollution emissions from GA aircraft would allow for 24-hour-a-day operations at all public-use airports without complaints or curfews.
In outlining an ambitious list of general aviation-related goals for his organization, Goldin reminded Saturday's general session participants that aeronautics is NASA's middle name. Envisioning a day when pilot training is part of the public high school curriculum and vacationing families will rent four-place jets to do their sightseeing, Goldin encouraged attendees to dream about the future of general aviation and turn those dreams into goals for change.
Over the course of the next decade, NASA will work to unlock technology that will dramatically lower aircraft and fuel costs; place real-time weather, traffic, and terrain information in every cockpit; and significantly reduce general aviation accident rates, Goldin said.
He pledged that Americans would not "have to fly in the twenty-first century with 1940s technology."
Goldin added that he would like to appear at Expo '99 in Atlantic City with a concrete list of goals for the coming decades, and he proposed giving AOPA members the opportunity to critique NASA's progress toward those goals.
Turning from the future to the past, Expo attendees capped off Saturday's events with a special visit to the Palm Springs Air Museum for an evening of dining under the wings of vintage warbirds, all of which still fly. After dinner, partygoers, some in World War II-era costumes, danced to live Big Band music and examined the museum's extensive collection of aircraft.
Sunday morning's Team AOPA general session included updates on membership, which reached a record high in 1998, and annual dues, which will remain at $39 for 1999, marking the tenth consecutive year without a dues increase.
In other good news, Boyer reported that the pilot population is growing for the first time in several years with higher numbers of student, private, and instrument-rated pilots joining the general aviation community. He also told the crowd that there's a positive new spirit among GA pilots, with 67 percent saying that they are optimistic about the future of general aviation.
AOPA member and CFI-in-training Greg Reitenour echoed that sentiment following the general session. "I'm seeing a lot of young faces here, which is healthy," he said. "They're finally building new GA aircraft. This is a great time for general aviation."
In keeping with the spirit of growth and innovation, AOPA staff members announced a string of new programs and services, including an alliance with Microsoft to package AOPA information with Flight Simulator software; an "Inflation Guard" benefit to the AOPA aircraft insurance program; AOPA's OnlineGallery, which allows members to purchase color prints of Mike Fizer photographs; and a six-hour IFR refresher ground school from the Air Safety Foundation.
Safety was the focus of many awards and activities at Expo '98, not the least of which was Sunday evening's presentation of an AOPA President's Citation to Ginny Hyatt for her years of safety advocacy in Alaskan aviation. Hyatt, a former safety and aviation manager for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Alaska, travels around the state promoting aviation safety and hosts a popular public television show on aviation. In addition to the citation, Hyatt was presented with a $5,000 check for the Alaskan Aviation Safety Foundation.
Other awards presented at the closing banquet recognized the oldest pilot in attendance, George Weeks Jr., age 81 years and eight months, and the youngest pilot at Expo, Michael Peters, age 17, as well as some of the most influential voices in general aviation today.
U.S. Representative John J. Duncan of Tennessee won the Hartranft Award for his work as chairman of the aviation subcommittee of the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee. Duncan was honored for his support of meaningful FAA reform, including his opposition to a plan to fund the agency through a la carte charges for services and his efforts to unlock the billions of dollars in the Airport and Airway Trust Fund to pay for airport improvements.
This year's Joseph R. Crotti Award for aviation advocacy in California went to the very first Airport Support Network volunteer, Jim Gates. As president of the Torrance Airport Association, Gates has battled long and hard to defend his home airport, Zamparelli Field, located in the Los Angeles suburb of Torrance, where encroaching development has endangered the runway protection zone for the airport's only ILS-equipped runway.
One year after announcing an alliance between AOPA and Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University to help students on their way to aviation careers, Boyer presented the Career Pathways Scholarship fund with a check for $8,000, bringing funding for the scholarship program to $18,000. The first scholarship is set to be awarded next fall. AOPA contributes at least 10 percent of the dues received from Embry-Riddle alumni to the scholarship program.
For those who couldn't make it to Expo '98, AOPA Online chronicled the events with daily updates, creating a "Virtual Expo" at www.aopa.org/expo/. And, for the first time, members who missed the annual gathering or who want a special souvenir can purchase the AOPA Expo '98 video featuring a look at the newest products on display at the convention in a guided tour led by Pilot editors. Members wishing to order a copy of the video can do so online at http://data.aopa2.org/expo/video2.html or by calling 888/462-3976.
AOPA staff members at that same number can help members interested in learning more about Expo '99, which will take place October 21 through 23 in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
E-mail the author at [email protected].
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