February 29, 2008
AOPA member Carl Rice, a 25,000-hour working pilot based on the western shore of the Chesapeake Bay in Virginia's "Tidewater" country, is the winner of AOPA's 1999 "Aero SUV" Sweepstakes.
"I know hundreds of thousands of AOPA members hoped they'd be the winner, but it was a pleasure to deliver this rugged, big airplane to a hard-working pilot and his wonderful young family," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. Rice, 41, joined AOPA in 1981 as a new pilot.
The winner received AOPA's 1999 grand prize plane in a surprise event February 6 at quaint Hummel Airfield in the Middle Peninsula community of Topping on Virginia's Rappahannock River. He works as a fish spotter pilot for the fishery in his hometown of Reedville, a fishing village some 25 miles north on Virginia's Northern Neck.
The winner owns and flies a 1980 Cessna 172RG Cutlass in which he directs the Omega Protein, Inc. fleet to schools of menhaden up to 25 miles offshore. The industrial species is processed for its oils used in paints, cosmetics, feeds, and, increasingly, food products.
AOPA's grand prize Cessna 206 would be right at home on the 2,500-foot private grass strip that bases Omega's fish spotters just one block from Rice's waterfront home. With a powerful 300-hp IO-550 engine, Horton STOL kit, and three extra feet of wing, the big six-seat, 3,800-pound single can take off and land in just a few hundred feet.
Rice, joined by wife Lori, daughter Heather, and son Cory, was also presented with $1,000 worth of camping gear for his new air-adventure vehicle. The Aero SUV also has a stowable interior bed platform and a custom-made tent attaching to its large double aft doors, creating a home-away-from-home right under its wing.
For this year's AOPA 2000 sweepstakes, AOPA will award the " Millennium Mooney," a 1987 Mooney 201 customized to represent both advanced avionics technology and a classic "hot rod" theme befitting aviation's classic four-place speedster.
The AOPA presentation was staged at rural Hummel Airfield, where a 2,200-foot runway showed off the Aero SUV's short-field abilities to local pilots on hand to celebrate Rice's good fortune.
Hummel is typical of out-of-the-way places an airplane can take its owner and family on their outdoor adventures. Nearby is the long bridge across the Rappahannock to charming Northern Neck towns of Irvington and Kilmarnock, and working bayfront towns farther north. A coastline of nooks and crannies makes the lower Chesapeake Bay a sailor's paradise and a cornucopia of waterfront home sites.
Hummel Airport welcomes pilots with the adjacent Pilot House Inn restaurant/motel and an upscale German restaurant. Weekends are energized by country music at The Beacon nightclub. Information on Hummel doings, including its September antique car/plane show, nearby March Waterfowl Show' and the Virginia State Oyster Festival each November, will be available this year at the Web site.
The Northern Neck/Middle Peninsula coast is a long 80-mile drive east of Interstate 95 from Fredericksburg, Virginia, but just a short and scenic 80- to 100-nm flight from the Washington, D.C., area. The difference? Aviation's ability to fly direct over the many rivers that define Tidewater Virginia's long peninsulas.
"This lesser-known East Coast getaway destination—especially accessible by plane—is symbolic of the freedom that flying can bring to the life of every pilot and flying family," said Boyer. "We're delighted the 206 found a winner in a place so representative of our 1999 'get-away-from-it-all' adventure theme," said Boyer.
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AOPA thanks our members for their continued support in protecting the freedom to fly.