President's Position

Join me in Tampa

September 1, 2009

With the kids headed back to school and summer flying adventures fading into warm memories, it’s time to find something new to look forward to. For me, that’s the first-ever AOPA Aviation Summit, set for November 5 through 7 in Tampa, Florida.

If you’re a longtime AOPA member, as I am, you probably know what past conventions were all about, and they were great. For AOPA Expo devotees, let me assure you that Summit will be all that you have come to expect from an AOPA convention—and much, much more.

But if you have never been to an AOPA convention, or you haven’t attended in a while, this is the year to give it a try. You know we’ll have knowledgeable speakers, educational forums, and an exceptional exhibit hall and aircraft display. But we’ve also made some fundamental changes to the event that I believe make Summit more exciting, more appealing, and more accessible. (See “Shaping Aviation’s Future.”)

Above all, the Aviation Summit will be a place where the leaders who make decisions about our future converge to meet. I mean leaders from industry, thought leaders, and political leaders. These are the people who influence what general aviation will look like tomorrow and in years to come by developing the technology, steering the policy, setting the regulatory agenda, and manufacturing the products that are critical to GA.

Not only will these leaders be on hand, they will answer your questions, address your concerns, and take part in genuine debate and discussion of the issues that matter to us most. Summit is a place where we will move forward on important issues, and we will do it with your input.

For the first time, our Aviation Summit will also be more inclusive. No doubt you’ve heard me say that we can accomplish more through collaboration than we could ever hope to achieve alone. And I’ve demonstrated my commitment to that idea by signing collaborative agreements with other aviation associations, such as the Experimental Aircraft Association, the National Air Transportation Association, and Women in Aviation International. I also often talk about the importance of speaking with one voice—in many ways that’s the philosophy that underlies the General Aviation Serves America campaign.

But if we want to come together on important ideas, we need to have representatives from all sorts of aviation groups at the table. That’s why we’re opening AOPA’s Aviation Summit to aviation enthusiasts of all types, no matter what, where, or how they participate in the flying community. To emphasize that spirit of inclusion, we are expanding and changing our aircraft display to include everything from balloons to jets. And we’re encouraging the general public to come out and enjoy the aircraft. How many of us got our start in aviation after becoming fascinated with airplanes as children? We want to give the next generation of kids that same opportunity, by inviting them to bring their parents to Peter O. Knight Airport for a close-up look at a whole range of flying machines. Who knows, maybe some of them, or their parents, will catch the flying bug.

We’re also changing our exhibit hall. All of the vendors you expect to find will be there, and so will some new ones you’ve never seen at an AOPA event before, offering you a chance to see and purchase a whole range of products of interest to pilots both in and out of the cockpit. And we’re adding a center stage where we’ll interview business leaders, leading manufacturers, and others right in the middle of the exhibit hall. It’s your chance to hear directly from the source about the latest innovations, upcoming products, and important trends in GA that will affect all of us.

We’ll also be offering more on-site services, such as help with your medical, assistance with aviation legal issues, and more. Bring your personal concerns to experts from AOPA, the FAA, and others to get real answers and solutions, right on the spot.

Our educational forums will be a little different, too. We will still address important safety and education topics, but we’ll do it in a more interactive environment, with many more opportunities for discussion between presenters and attendees. We want AOPA’s Aviation Summit to be a place where there’s a real exchange of ideas, and that requires open, meaningful conversation.

Even our social events and activities are getting a makeover. We want you to bring your family. Make a trip to the Aviation Summit a vacation that everyone can enjoy. Bring your spouse, your kids, or your grandkids. To make that more practical, we’ve lowered the prices on many social events and selected family- friendly locations, such as Tampa’s impressive aquarium. We’ve also planned numerous other activities, everything from dolphin-watching cruises to shopping trips and golf for those who don’t want to spend the entire weekend immersed in aviation. With its mild climate and numerous recreation opportunities, Tampa is the perfect destination for an autumn getaway, and we can help you plan a visit that everyone will enjoy.

AOPA Aviation Summit preparations are well under way. You can begin making yours by visiting the Web site or calling us at 800-USA-AOPA. I can’t wait to see you there!

E-mail AOPA President Craig Fuller at craig@aopa.org.