September 1, 2003
By Phil Boyer
AOPA President Phil Boyer now serves more than 400,000 members of AOPA.
Summer months always bring about an increase in general aviation flight activity, for obvious reasons. In addition, the number of pilots engaged in or starting flight training grows during the good weather months between April and October. Frankly, such is the case with my wife, Lois, and me — our use of our personal Cessna 172 grows as well. As the president of your association, it's hard for me to become your average pilot, but that's exactly what I try to do this time of year. Those weekend days that I'm at home, I trade the business suit needed for my AOPA assignments on Capitol Hill for a pair of shorts and a polo shirt. Some even will spot me unshaven and riding my Harley to the airport to poke around our hangar or fly with Lois for Sunday breakfast, lunch, or to experience a new destination.
In the business suit I face all the challenges and obstacles that befall general aviation, and it's hard to not to think about the actions we are taking, or will take, to attempt to solve them on behalf of AOPA members. Often, living and flying in the Washington, D.C., area with our complex air defense identification zone (ADIZ) and the big and small (which is it today?) Camp David restricted airspace, one has a sense of complete despair about GA. The same must apply to many pilots around Crawford Ranch in Texas or those in the Puget Sound area in the state of Washington with unneeded temporary flight restrictions (TFRs) that AOPA continues to try to eliminate. Flying these summer months certainly gives me a reality check that not everything is as it seems "inside the Beltway" with light airplane flying. Yes, Meigs Field appears doomed, insurance rates are high, all kinds of obstacles face those of us who have chosen to fly for pleasure and business, but for the majority of us, even me, it's still a most rewarding experience.
The evening before the Fourth of July weekend, I had the opportunity to see this enthusiasm up close and personal, when I spoke before the annual Short Wing Piper Club convention in Springfield, Missouri. Like many of the type clubs that support our aging aircraft fleet, these people also share ground-based fun and excitement each year at their convention. Most of the club's members support one of five Piper models built from 1948 to 1963, allowing Lois and I to feel that our 1977 Skyhawk was new. It had been more than 10 years since I spoke at one of the club's gatherings, but my wife and I never forgot its enthusiasm and love for flying. In spite of all the good and bad that has occurred over the last decade with GA, we found the same love of flying and camaraderie that we had in the past. It was interesting to note that those flying south were worried about the Crawford Ranch TFR, and a couple going to Michigan were plotting a course around the two Indiana restricted areas. They took it all in stride.
A few weeks later it was one of those unshaven Saturdays when I wanted a flight long enough to show my wife how to use the newly installed UPS Aviation Technologies Apollo CNX80. Well, to be truthful, I wanted someone else to fly so I could play with the new purchase and learn how to operate it myself. In one box, USPSAT has combined VHF com; VOR navigation, localizer, and glideslope; transponder; and moving map. But, most important, after years of AOPA support, the CNX80 is one of the first black boxes certified for the new WAAS GPS navigation (see " GPS Goes Low," page 71). The destination I programmed was the Flying W airport at Lumberton, New Jersey, on the eastern edge of the Philadelphia Class B airspace. I hadn't been there since the mid-1980s. It isn't the motel or restaurant on the field that makes it unique, not even the stables, but a swimming pool in the shape of an airplane. The owners, John and Dawn Cave, certainly have brought this great fly-in complex into the twenty-first century. The flight school is very active as evidenced by the scheduling chart. I was introduced to some of the members of the Mid-Island Pilots Club from Long Island, New York, who had organized a fly-in. After lunch many were going for a swim before departing for home. Another encounter with pilots who were enjoying each other's company, making use of their airplanes, and flying out for a "$150 swim," rather than a hamburger.
Completing my trilogy of experiences were the all-too-short 24 hours I spent at the "Woodstock of Aviation," EAA AirVenture at Oshkosh, Wisconsin. Even with questionable weather at the start, pilots from all over the United States gathered in greater numbers than I have seen in recent years to look at a marketplace of rapidly changing products. The exhibit halls were jammed with manufacturers showing technology that no one dreamed of 10 years ago. Weather in the cockpit; avionics of all sorts to assist us in finding the next spot for a weekend flight; new aircraft; new engine technology; but, most importantly an enthusiasm and excitement among pilots for all segments of general aviation: Light Sport airplanes to the new breed of light jets. Traditional manufacturers were side by side with the newcomers in the GA business, and more competition generally brings about lower prices for those of us who are consumers.
Admittedly, these are only three diverse examples of what's happening, and yet I see more than a hundred like them every year in my business and personal travel. Truly the reward for much of the hard work your association puts into general aviation is that, for the majority, it is alive and well.
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