President's Position

Where aviators gather

August 1, 2011

Craig FullerWhether you are an active pilot, an aspiring pilot, a retired pilot, or any other sort of flier, because you are reading this, I count you as someone who is enthusiastic about aviation.Let’s be honest; we’re part of a pretty interesting community. Seriously! And one of the best things about being part of this community is the way we celebrate our strength and share our passion at gatherings of aviators. Whether these gatherings number 100 or 100,000, they reinforce what it means to be an aviation enthusiast.

It has been my good fortune to travel to some exceptional events over the past few months. First, I took part in airport openings at a former Navy base in Brunswick, Maine, (see “ Rally GA: Open for Business”) and an entirely new facility with a 6,000-foot runway in Austin, Texas. Both events brought out aviators and community leaders who are excited about the promise of economic growth and the opportunity to bring general aviation pilots to their cities.

Then, I joined 100 of the most passionate aviators I’ve been around in a while, the members of the Recreational Aviation Foundation (RAF). These pilots meet annually at Ryan Field—a back country airstrip that sits just outside Glacier National Park in Montana. Built by two lovely people who still live on the property, this grass strip is truly a national treasure. A day goes by effortlessly as you move through breakfast, flying, lunch, and dinner, all while taking part in enjoyable and meaningful conversations with people who come together simply because they have a passion for backcountry flying (see “Epic Flight: 88 Magical Aerial Miles”).

Just a few weeks ago, I traveled to Tarkio, Missouri, where Congressman Sam Graves (R-MO) hosts an airshow right at the airport where he lives. Congressman Graves is the co-chair of the General Aviation Caucus in the House of Representatives. He not only supports our cause, he lives it by flying his own aircraft. The Wing Nuts Flying Circus at Tarkio brings more folks out of Washington, D.C., than you might expect. We proudly displayed the AOPA Caravan at the airport over the weekend and enjoyed visiting with the hundreds who stopped by to say hello.

These gatherings of aviators remind us all just how important protecting our freedom to fly is.

For hundreds of thousands of aviation enthusiasts, July is not complete without a trip to EAA’s AirVenture in Oshkosh. We are proud to support this wonderful show that clearly presents the very best general aviation has to offer. Our week in Oshkosh is always action-packed and gives us the chance to connect with thousands of our AOPA members.

I’m sure you’re not surprised to hear that there’s another aviation event I want you to visit—the AOPA Aviation Summit that starts in Hartford, Connecticut, on September 22. Hartford is a wonderful host city and the officials at the Hartford-Brainard Airport (HFD), where AOPA’s AirportFest is held, are terrific and dedicated partners. All of our visitors will have an exceptional experience. And, while there is no better way to see Summit than by being there for this three-day event (Thursday through Saturday), our AOPA Live team will do its best to cover the show, making keynote speeches and interviews with interesting aviation leaders available through our live online broadcasts.

Before the year ends, our colleagues at the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA) will also hold their annual gathering in Las Vegas from October 10 through 12. Again, many AOPA leaders and members will be in attendance to focus on the needs of those who use their aircraft for business purposes.

AOPA Aviation Summit

Join AOPA President Craig Fuller for AOPA Aviation Summit, September 22 through 24, in Hartford, Connecticut.

Today’s AOPA members represent general aviation in all its forms—from those who live to fly into isolated backcountry airstrips to those who are passionate about using aircraft to grow their businesses. These gatherings of aviators remind us all just how important protecting our freedom to fly is for a wide range of people. With no shortage of challenges facing GA, these gatherings also serve to energize us and focus our strengths. Most of all, they reaffirm the support we all draw from being part of the community of aviators. I hope you will take the time to join us as often as possible.

Email AOPA President Craig Fuller at craig@aopa.org.