December 14, 2009
By Dave Hirschman
Don Abbott’s fond memories of aerial camping trips with his daughter long ago have led the Florida-based entrepreneur to launch a new venture: the American Air Campers Association.
Abbott, a 46-year-AOPA member, said few pilots realize that 900 U.S. airports and 160 seaplane bases allow camping, and 1,500 state, local, and national parks are in close proximity to general aviation airports.
“Air camping is a family activity that allows us to fly our airplanes more and connects us more deeply to this magnificent country we live in,” said Abbott, who started flying at age 16 and currently owns a Beech F-33 Bonanza. “It gets us away from TVs and cell phones--and that’s a very good thing.”
Abbott has started a Web site, which he plans to make a clearinghouse for air camping information around the country. The site currently has a survey that enables pilots to help shape what the organization will become.
Abbott has hired three full-time and two part-time employees and plans to charge $39 annually for association memberships. American Air Campers expects to sign up its first members at the 2010 Sun ’n Fun Fly-In, attend EAA AirVenture and AOPA Summit, and then start its own camp fly-in in the future. (No location has been selected.)
“There’s a tremendous amount of interest in air camping,” Abbott said. “We’re going to do everything we can possibly do to share information about this activity and make it easier for pilots and their families to enjoy.”
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.
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