April 20, 2009
By Dave Hirschman
The 2009 AOPA Sweepstakes Let’s Go Flying SR22 got an early start on its southerly spring migration this year.
The airplane left several days early to attend a benefit airshow in Jacksonville, Fla., for veteran aerobatic performer and Aeroshell team leader Alan Henley. Henley was severely injured late last year in a home accident that left him paralyzed, and friends put together a big airshow on short notice at Craig International Airport, a sprawling former Naval air station.
Dozens of fellow aerobatic performers donated their services for the event, and all the proceeds will go to help pay Henley’s medical bills. Greg Koontz, head of the Alabama Boys, flew a comedy Cub routine and an aerobatic performance in an American Champion Decathlon. He signed posters and asked recipients to contribute whatever they could to Henley’s foundation.
“People have been extremely generous,” said Koontz. “They aren’t just putting ones and fives in the can. There are lots of 10s and 20s, too. And 100 percent of it is going to Alan and his family. He’s one of the nicest, most generous people you’d ever want to meet, and I’m sure he’d do as much or more for anyone else if they were in a similar situation.”
The Aeroshell team was the featured performer; the team and other fliers dedicated their performances to their injured friend.
Dave Hirschman relaxes upon arrival at Sun 'n Fun.
The Let’s Go Flying SR22 got lots of attention on the flight line, and thousands of visitors got an up-close look at the airplane that serves as the centerpiece of the ongoing AOPA effort to build the pilot population.
From Jacksonville, the Let’s Go Flying SR22 picked up a tailwind on the hour-long flight to Sun ’n Fun in Lakeland. Entering the VFR arrival pattern over Lake Parker was a cinch as the traffic level on Sunday morning was relatively light.
Unlike last year, when rain had inundated the camping area and turned much of it into a mud bog, the sun was shining, the winds were light, and the ground was dry. It’s perfect airshow and camping weather—and the forecast for the rest of the week looks extremely promising.
Sun ’n Fun volunteers marshaled the airplane to AOPA’s Big Yellow Tent where it will be introduced to thousands of fliers who all will have a chance to win it when the sweepstakes concludes in January 2010.
The Let’s Go Flying SR22, donated by philanthropist J. Lloyd Huck, is the most technologically advanced and capable airplane AOPA has ever given away. Come to Sun ’n Fun and see it in person!
AOPA Pilot Senior Editor Dave Hirschman joined AOPA in 2008. He has an airline transport pilot certificate and instrument and multiengine flight instructor certificates. Dave flies vintage, historical, and Experimental airplanes and specializes in tailwheel and aerobatic instruction.
A touch of history, affordable flying, unique sightseeing, a good meal, and a community of pilots: Isn’t that what general aviation is all about?
Getting the job done on the local and national levels requires long-term planning, a hands-on approach, and keeping the effort moving, said Sean Collins, AOPA’s Eastern regional manager.
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