President's Position: Going low and slow

Exercising my freedom to fly across America

September 1, 2012

Craig Fuller

Just a few weeks ago, I returned to our home base in Frederick, Maryland, with close to 40 additional hours on my Husky and experiences that will last a lifetime.

Like lots of things, a trip starts with a commitment. This one was a commitment to visit the home of Aviat Aircraft—where Huskys are made—in Afton, Wyoming. The initial plan was to fly from Oshkosh in one of the Huskys on display at the show. I was to be joined by our AOPA Sweepstakes Husky as it traveled west to get into position for our AOPA Aviation Summit in Palm Springs. A good plan, but it occurred to me that I’d rather be in my own airplane.

Then, a look at the calendar and some work on AOPA FlyQ demonstrated that although the trip would require more flight hours than it would in other, faster aircraft, taking my Husky from Frederick would add only half a day to each end of the trip. That did it; I let our flight operations team know that I was trading FL430 and 400 knots for 4,500 feet and 110 knots.

My trip began on a warm afternoon in Frederick and by that evening, I was positioned in Aurora, Illinois, for an early morning arrival to Oshkosh for AirVenture. For a few days a year, OSH is the nation’s busiest airport, and landing there is a thrill in something with as much visibility as the Husky. It was a sight to behold.

EAA’s AirVenture again proved that there is much to appreciate in both the people and aircraft of general aviation. In addition to all the weeklong show offered, the AOPA team continued our advocacy work with the government officials who joined the gathering for a few days. It’s a remarkable opportunity to give congressional leaders, the FAA administrator, and the chairman of the NTSB a chance to see all that GA has to offer.

We pushed west as soon as we wrapped up things in Oshkosh. The weather was as good as forecast, winds were light, and Senior Editor Dave Hirschman—in the Sweepstakes Husky—and I enjoyed overflying America at an altitude where we could appreciate all that we saw. After about six hours of flying (with a fuel stop), we were rewarded with spectacular views of Mount Rushmore. While I’d toured this national memorial when I was very young, seeing this spectacular carving finished in 1941 after more than 14 years of work exceeded all expectations.

We pushed on through the late afternoon on what became an 11-hour flight. We were handsomely rewarded with a spectacular flight into the Wind River Mountain Range. With peaks along the most direct path rising above 12,000 feet, we had planned a route taking us through a pass to the Snake River. This path took us near Jackson Hole, Wyoming, with the Grand Tetons just off the right wing. We reached 46U in Alpine, Wyoming, before dusk. We’d be based there for a couple of days, giving us time to tour Afton and the factory where both my airplane and the Tornado Husky were manufactured. The visit gave us great insight into how the aircraft is made. And, we were given a chance to see some of the new models with features now appearing on the production aircraft. All too soon, it was time for me to work my way north to Montana for a meeting in Billings. The Husky had a few days to rest before I began the two-day trip home.

It was immensely satisfying to be able to travel across the country and back. For just a little extra time, I was rewarded with the chance to see sights often missed when flying higher and faster. This was one trip I will long remember as one where I not only exercised our precious freedom to fly, but the freedom to fly low and slow as well.

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