A flying billboard
The Let’s Go Flying SR22 was donated to AOPA by philanthropist and veteran pilot Lloyd Huck. Huck, a B-29 pilot during World War II, asked that AOPA use the airplane to build interest in aviation’s exciting possibilities and expand the U.S. pilot population. (Watch a video of Huck donating the Cirrus to AOPA.)
Hirschman, who got to fly the Let’s Go Flying SR22 on trips reaching from California to Maine to Florida during the last 12 months, said the experience has taught him a great deal about people.
“The generosity and commitment from individuals like Lloyd Huck, and the enthusiasm of the people who have flown in the airplane and seen it at airshows, has been nothing short of astounding,” Hirschman said. “It’s been a privilege to see their eyes light up when they see general aviation’s potential, and their desire for flying to be an integral part of their lives.”
“It’s been a privilege to see their eyes light up when they see general aviation’s potential, and their desire for flying to be an integral part of their lives.”
During the year, AOPA used the Cirrus to demonstrate the utility and versatility of general aviation. Pilots were enamored by its speed (it can reach up to 180 KTAS) and fuel economy (burning just 13.5 gallons per hour lean of peak). Nonpilots took note of the aircraft’s safety features, including AmSafe airbag seatbelts and an airframe parachute. But pilots and nonpilots alike swooned over the sleek design and changing color scheme, which made it the perfect flying platform to promote GA’s message.
After taking delivery of the Cirrus, AOPA added the Let’s Go Flying logo to the aircraft to encourage aviation enthusiasts at airshows and fly-in events to take to the skies. Halfway through the year, the association added the General Aviation Serves America logo, an easy move because the vinyl graphics on the Cirrus are a snap to change. The two logos, Let’s Go Flying on one side and General Aviation Serves America on the other, piqued spectators’ interest and opened the door for AOPA to talk about the joy of flight as well as the magnitude of the industry’s influence in everyone’s daily lives, from emergency services to business and agriculture.This Cirrus took part in AOPA’s advocacy efforts, flying staff to Robertson Field in Connecticut for an open house that was staged to help save the airport. Residents of the town flocked to the Cirrus, prominently displayed during the event. The flying billboard also attended the 100th anniversary of College Park Airport in a suburb of Washington, D.C., and helped transport a wounded soldier from Florida to Washington, D.C., through the Veterans Airlift Command.
Fellow AOPA staff members wondered if Hirschman would voluntarily give up the keys, or whether Fuller would have to rip them out of his hands. But Hirschman relinquished the keys without protest.
”The truth is that I feel like I’ve won the AOPA sweepstakes, too,” Hirschman said. “It’s been a rewarding and unforgettable experience.”