November 19, 2013
By Julie Summers Walker
They came to Texas to meet the new guy—AOPA’s 2013 Aviation Summit was held for the first time in the center of the country, but the draw wasn’t longhorns and beefsteak. It was Mark Baker. To a packed standing-room-only audience, AOPA members met their new president at the opening session Thursday morning. Although a small percentage of AOPA’s vast membership attends Summit, interest in the association’s new leader reverberated. Introduced by AOPA Board of Trustees Chairman Bill Trimble, Baker told the assembled attendees that he is “very lucky to be the new president of AOPA.” A self-professed “airport kid,” Baker’s theme throughout Summit was clear: “Our goal and vision is the same as it was 75 years ago—we won’t let general aviation disappear.” The 2013 Summit marked the last of this style assembly and Baker introduced his vision of his presidency, one that will be marked by “lots of opportunities to talk.” Regional fly-ins will be held throughout the country and Baker—who loves to fly “anything and everything”—plans to spend his weekends at the places he loves most: airports. “I pinch myself realizing I’ve got the world’s best job,” Baker said.
Conor Dancy of Aviation Adventures in Leesburg, Virginia, was named Flight Instructor of the Year (top). In his opening keynote, Mark Baker said AOPA would be “taking a hard look at FAA spending” (right). More than 300 American Bonanza Society members attended their annual convention held this year at Summit. Baker happily said “I’m a member!” Exhibitors came, they sold, they promoted GA—more than 400 industry exhibitors showcased their products in Fort Worth and many reported records sales. Attendees gathered at the Fort Worth Stockyards for an evening of food, country-western music, dancing, and an authentic rodeo at the Cowtown Coliseum Arena, home to the Stockyards Championship Rodeo.
Airport access is a top priority for Baker and he thanked AOPA Airport Support Network volunteers for their work as the association’s first line of defense. He acknowledged that many of them work regularly with AOPA to promote, protect, and preserve their airports, and said, “But guess what, I want more!”. A replica of the cropduster “Dusty” from Disney’s Planes movie was a hit with kids and grownups alike at Airportfest at Fort Worth Meacham International Airport.
Country music star Aaron Tippin felt right at home with the crowd of several hundred AOPA members as he performed his signature patriotic songs during the Commemorative Air Force’s Red, White, and Loud Tour at The Flying Saucer outdoor concert venue in downtown Fort Worth. San Carlos Flight Center, San Carlos, California, was named Flight School of the Year in AOPA’s Flight Training Excellence Awards; owner Dan Dwyer accepted the award from Mark Baker.
Mark Baker and members of his leadership team took to the stage at Airportfest at Fort Worth Meacham Intenational Airport to answer questions at a pancake breakfast. The questions from the audience covered issues including the new focus on regional events, Customs and Border Protection’s scrutiny of general aviation aircraft, the status of user fees, efforts to save GA airports, and how sequestration and the government shutdown are affecting GA. From doctors to baseball players to animated airplanes, the Friday morning general session featured all types of aviation enthusiasts, including baseball Hall of Famer Ken Griffey Jr., a GA pilot who flies a Cirrus SR22. AOPA’s AV8RS program hosted a day of aviation for local schoolchildren at Meacham Airport. More than 100 kids experienced aviation—and several Boy Scouts earned their aviation merit badges. OK, so maybe some members came just to see the longhorns.
AOPA Senior Features Editor Julie Summers Walker joined AOPA in 1998. She is a student pilot still working toward her solo.
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