May 14, 2013
By Benét J. Wilson
The South Carolina Aviation Association (SCAA) has unveiled the SCAA Ambassadors Passport Program, created to encourage the state’s nearly 7,000 pilots to fly to all of the airports in South Carolina and visit aviation seminars and the Southeast Aviation Expo. The program launched on May 15.
The program, also sponsored by the South Carolina Aeronautics Commission, offers three levels of recognition for participants: bronze, silver, and gold. Gold is for those who visit all 59 of South Carolina’s public-use airports, attend one aviation/safety seminar in the state, and attend the Southeast Aviation Expo or the SCAA Annual Meeting. Those achieving gold status will win a leather flight jacket.
Silver is for those who visit 40 state airports, and attend either one aviation/safety seminar, the Southeast Aviation Expo, or the SCAA Annual Meeting. The gift is an aviation radio scanner.
Bronze is for those who visit 25 state airports and attend one aviation/safety seminar, the Southeast Aviation Expo, or the SCAA Annual Meeting. The gift is an SCAA Ambassador’s Cap and a free one-year membership in SCAA.
SCAA heard about similar efforts done in Virginia and North Carolina and decided to do it with their own twist, said Don Purcell, the association’s secretary-treasurer. “So I contacted them both and they told me how they got started and provided me with their information,” he said. “We took it, massaged it, and our association came up with the ambassador program.”
AOPA did its own version of the program, the Keep ’em Flying Challenge, in 2012. It was based on the Georgia Air Challenge, hosted by the Atlanta Aero Club. That project had 308 participants who flew an estimated 1,500 hours from July 1, 2011, through Aug. 12, 2011.
Each participating airport has agreed to maintain the stamp, said Purcell. “If it’s at an FBO, the stamp will be kept at the desk,” he said. “At unattended airports, there are mailboxes attached where the stamp will be. All of the information will be on the SCAA website.”
The program will help increase awareness of South Carolina’s aviation system and contribute to the economic development activities of each locality by getting pilots to fly to airports and attend events they may not normally visit. Driving to airports is allowed under the program for those encountering rainy days or where airport access may be difficult on the airplane or pilot skills.
Purcell said the program, which does not have an end date, will cost SCAA around $10,000 in the first year. “We anticipate doing it forever. Virginia has done theirs for 10 years and North Carolina for four years,” he said. “We wanted to give pilots in South Carolina another benefit. It’s a win-win for everyone. Pilots fly more, FBOs sell more fuel, and people get to see new areas of the state.”
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