States challenge pilots to fly, win prizes

June 2, 2011

If longer days and warmer weather weren’t incentive enough to get pilots in the air this summer, some states are offering prizes to pilots who fly to airports in the state.

Participating pilots who fly for at least three hours and visit at least three airports in Georgia this July will be entered to win a multiengine rating and other prizes in the Georgia Air Challenge. Those who visit the most of 35 participating airports in the Kentucky Airport Challenge: Passport to Kentucky in June through July will be eligible for an iPad with aviation apps and other prizes.

Atlanta Aero Club President Steve Champness said the Georgia challenge offers a motivating factor for pilots who have been inactive lately to get back into the air. A sales executive for Trade a Plane, Champness said he noticed that postings for airplane sales weren’t soaring, even though statistics show operations are down: “People aren’t selling their airplanes, but they’re not flying them either,” he said.

So how to get pilots to dust off their logbooks and roll their airplanes out of the hangar? The Atlanta Aero Club, in partnership with the Georgia Airports Association, the Center for Innovation Aerospace, and Georgia Department of Economic Development, Tourism, is offering prizes for meeting a relatively simple requirement—during a month with typically good flying weather and five weekends.

Winners will be announced Aug. 15, but Champness expects participants to continue flying after that, even if they’ve been inactive. Those three hours will be enough, for many, to “get them active and excited again,” Champness said. And the preparations for getting current to fly three hours are the same as for 30 hours, he added.

“I think most people will fly more than three hours anyways because that’s just a primer,” he said.

Getting pilots out to enjoy Georgia’s aviation infrastructure also benefits businesses near an airport, such as rental car companies, restaurants, and grocery stores, Champness said. The challenge is open to pilots from all over, he said, and he hopes other states will promote flying with similar programs.

Many have. Kentucky’s challenge, sponsored by Missionaire International and Tompkinsville Aviation, kicked off June 1 and will conclude with a fly-in picnic on July 30 at Tompkinsville-Monroe County Airport. Pilots must register and pick up a passport from a participating airport; then they can have their visit to each airport validated with an official stamp or sticker.

Georgia and Kentucky join other states such as Virginia, whose ongoing Aviation Ambassador's Program encourages pilots to visit public-use airports across the commonwealth. Maryland has a similar passport program.

“This is simply a reason to fly, to get people going again, to give them something to shoot for,” Champness said.