Add up the reasons to fly

May 10, 2012

keep em flying

A clear, calm day and spectacular view are often reward enough for staying proficient and flying this summer. Prizes don’t hurt either.

States across the country—and AOPA—offer incentive programs to encourage general aviation pilots to explore different airports around them. The rules and sponsors for these programs vary, but each offers one more reason to get out and fly.

AOPA recently encouraged pilots on Facebook to share if they participate in state incentive programs. “I'm a new pilot as of Aug 2011 and I enjoy flying the state-level passport programs,” wrote one pilot. “It encourages me to go out and explore new airports that I may never go to otherwise. I have the NC(22 airports so far), Virginia (18) and Maryland (1) log books. I encourage everyone to get with a fellow pilot and ‘airport hop’ switching seats as you go.” keep em flying

In Kentucky, pilots who fly to participating airports this summer can enter to win an iPad with a chart subscription and aviation apps. Virginia provides recognition for pilots and passengers who visit the commonwealth’s airports and aviation museums and meet other criteria. And pilots across the nation can enter to win up to $2,499 by participating in AOPA’s Keep ‘em Flying Challenge.

Does your state offer incentives to fly to a new public-use airport? “Ace” level participants in Maryland’s passport program recently were awarded flight jackets at the Maryland Regional Festival of Flight; “Gold” level flyers in North Dakota and Minnesota also receive a flight jacket. Top-tier participants in South Dakota’s challenge are granted a $100 gift certificate to AOPA, Sporty’s, or the Experimental Aircraft Association. Three levels of “Ambassadors” in Arkansas’ program are rewarded with rebate checks, and participants in an EAA fly-in series in Louisiana are entered into a free drawing for door prizes.

If your state hosts a passport program or challenge, why not plan for your next cross-country to do double duty? In the Kentucky challenge, for instance, registered pilots will be granted one chance to win prizes for each validated visit to a participating airport during June and July. A pilot who registers for both the Kentucky challenge and the Keep ‘em Flying Challenge could count a cross-country flight toward both challenges.

The Keep ‘em Flying Challenge, modeled after a similar challenge in Georgia hosted by the Atlanta Aero Club, is open to any pilot 19 years old or older of any certificate level, including student pilots. Pilots need only complete one Air Safety Institute online course and fly as pilot in command for at least five hours to five airports at least 50 nautical miles apart to be eligible to win cash prizes. Lighter-than-air and glider category aircraft must make five flights. Details are available on the AOPA website

Know of another incentive program aimed to get pilots in the air? Share with other pilots on AOPA’s Facebook page.