Learn to Fly Day event goes beyond with flying car

April 29, 2010

An invitation to take someone flying May 15 was all the prompting the Fitchburg Pilots Association (FPA) needed to reach out to its community with a large-scale event that includes everything from a classic Piper Cub to a cutting-edge Terrafugia Transition roadable aircraft.

The Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA) named May 15 “ International Learn to Fly Day” to help grow the pilot population by encouraging pilots to invite a friend or colleague to the airport, take someone flying, or host an event. Charley Valera, president of the FPA in Massachusetts, took the simple concept and went far beyond expectations: He organized an event at the Fitchburg Municipal Airport complete with $40 intro flights, display aircraft, food, simulators, and more.

Valera said Learn to Fly Day was an opportunity for the local pilots association to do even more than take a friend flying; he wants to reach out beyond the immediate airport community. “It’s all about the community and how to show the community the benefits of a general aviation airport,” he said.

The aircraft on display, which range in size from light sport aircraft to a charter Learjet, include the Terrafugia Transition “flying car” prototype. The Experimental light sport roadable aircraft completed its first flight in March 2009, and Valera included its presence in his plans in the hope that it could be there, but without really expecting it. A member of the association had been keeping in touch with the Terrafugia team for the past few months, but the company doesn’t typically display its aircraft at that type of event, Valera said. Just a few days ago, the FPA got a confirmation that the aircraft would be there. Valera said members of the FPA have been very active and have made a lot of exciting things possible for the event.

“Constant contact, right place, right time, right people, so we’re thrilled,” he said. He said Terrafugia is the only car manufacturer in Massachusetts—and the only aircraft manufacturer.

The FAA will have a booth at the event, as well as the FPA, the local flight school, and AOPA Airport Support Network volunteer David Reinhart. The event also will feature ground school demonstrations; LSA displays from Remos, Flight Design, and more; a Boston Soaring Club glider display; and hamburgers and hot dogs.

Pilots don’t need a flying car to host a successful Learn to Fly Day event. AOPA’s Learn to Fly Day Web page provides tips on hosting an airport open house and  giving a successful orientation flight. If you decide to host an event May 15, put it on the EAA calendar and check the “Learn to Fly Day” box so prospective pilots can find it when they search.