Summit Goes Southwestern

Fort Worth is first location in central U.S.

July 1, 2013

AOPA Aviation SummitPhotography by the author

Four years ago, AOPA’s annual convention broke several longstanding traditions, changing its name to AOPA Aviation Summit and tweaking its format to encourage engagement and interaction among those attending.

Now, AOPA Summit is breaking with another tradition—that of alternating between East Coast and West Coast locations. AOPA Aviation Summit 2013 will be held in Fort Worth, Texas, October 10 through 12. And Fort Worth, population 736,200, is an ideal size—large enough to have all the amenities, yet small enough to be informal, with a distinct vibe.

From the minute you touch down at the host airport, Fort Worth’s Meacham International Airport, you’ll enjoy Texas hospitality. For months, Airport Manager Jeff Kloska has been working with AOPA staff, the airport’s three FBOs, and other businesses on plans for Summit. Special events are nothing new for the airport, in Class D airspace. “We’re drawing a lot on our experiences when we hosted the Super Bowl,” he said. He and his operations manager also visited AOPA Summit in Palm Springs last year.

Flying in to Fort Worth couldn’t be easier, Kloska added. “We’re a good distance away from the [Dallas-Fort Worth International] Class B, so it’s not a concern. From here to the south, west, and north, it’s clear. There are no mountains.” The Fort Worth Alliance Airport Class D to the north might require a slight detour.

From the airport, one turn has you headed into town. “You just hop on Main Street and it’s 6 miles to downtown. It’s just 2 miles to the Stockyards. Folks will want to make that a destination,” Kloska said. “It’s Old West down here. Sometimes it feels like you’re in the 1800s.”

A restaurant in the Stockyards area may provide your introduction to legendary Texas cuisine, which can be traced back to the chuck wagon—invented by a Texas rancher to feed hungry cowboys driving cattle along the Chisholm Trail to the railroads that would take them the rest of the way to market. Fort Worth was the last major stop for rest and supplies before crossing the Red River into Indian territory. More than four million head of cattle were trailed through Fort Worth between 1866 and 1890, earning it the “Cowtown” nickname. When the railroad finally arrived in Fort Worth, construction of the Union Stockyards began; it was fully operational around 1889.

Today, the cobblestone streets of the Stockyards National Historic District are home to a rodeo, the Texas Cowboy Hall of Fame, and a twice-daily cattle drive. Fort Worth is the only U.S. city that still employs cowboys, although the cattle are focused on their journey and a stampede seems unlikely. There’s a wide variety of Texas-themed restaurants, shopping, and Western saloons. Don’t miss Billy Bob’s Texas, said to be the world’s largest honky-tonk.

Closer to the convention center downtown is Sundance Square, a 35-block, pedestrian-friendly entertainment and shopping district with restaurants, live theater, and shopping.

The Fort Worth Convention Center is Summit headquarters, hosting more than 100 hours of programming organized into five tracks: Pilot Skills, Maintenance, Medical/Legal, Technology, and Leading Luminaries, featuring industry experts (see “Membership News and Notes,” page 98). Bring along your Apple iPad for an interactive session on using it in the cockpit; learn how to upgrade your instrument panel, make great in-flight video, and more; hear the latest on aviation issues from AOPA staff. “I always pick up some helpful tips, and the interaction with the aviation community heightens my awareness of how valuable and rare the ability to fly is,” said David Hast of Caledonia, Michigan, who attended AOPA Summit 2012 in Palm Springs and two previous Summits.

Fort Worth fun

More than 150 businesses will be represented in the exhibit hall, giving attendees plenty of opportunities for one-on-one conversations and demonstrations of the latest gear. “The AOPA Aviation Summit takes my aircraft ownership experience to a higher level by allowing me to interact directly with vendors,” said previous Summit attendee Stephen Loyer of Gilbert, Arizona.

Summit’s social events will allow pilots ample opportunity to interact. Friday evening, Chow Down in Cowtown, in the historic Stockyards district, begins with food from Riscky’s Barbeque—a local favorite since 1927—and live music, concluding with the Stockyards Championship Rodeo in the Cowtown Coliseum. Saturday night you’ll hear Big Band music at a hangar dance among some 20 aircraft at the Vintage Flying Museum. ’40s-style apparel or vintage military attire are encouraged but not required. “Meeting other pilots helps build the sense of community,” noted Mark Schilling of Rancho Palos Verdes, California, who has attended two Summits and hopes to be in Fort Worth.

Airportfest, a quick shuttle ride from the convention center, will highlight aircraft—old and new and renewed—your Sweepstakes Debonair will be there with its new panel and interior (see “One Pumped-Up Panel,” page 66). Visitors can take helicopter tours of the area. Airportfest will host Saturday morning’s Pilots, Planes, and Pancakes breakfast, which will be followed by Saturday’s keynote presentation.

Increase your knowledge, meet your peers, and enjoy Texas hospitality at AOPA Aviation Summit this October. We’ll see you in Fort Worth.

Email mike.collins@aopa.org.

JAY scenario

Download the Fort Worth arrival to your AOPA Jay from Redbird.

Did you know...

After holding up a Winnemucca, Nevada, bank in 1900, outlaws Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid posed in downtown Fort Worth for one of the most famous outlaw photographs in Western history.

The notorious Bonnie and Clyde hid out from the law in Fort Worth’s Stockyards Hotel in 1933.

The Stockyards Museum is the home to the 1908 Palace Theater Light Bulb which has burned continually since September 21, 1908. Don’t you wish your landing-light bulbs would last that long?