Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association Protecting Your Freedom to Fly

AOPA Foundation

West Coast Journey - Day 6, January 14, 2010

The highlight for Thursday was the opportunity to speak to a group of professors and AOPA members at California State University, Dominguez Hills, located 15 minutes from Long Beach. I was invited to speak by AOPA member and faculty Jim Bersig as Dominguez celebrates the 100th anniversary of the first Air Meet. The important event took place in this area of LA in January 1910—a little less than seven years after the Wright Brothers took the first flight in Kitty Hawk—and was marked by 254,000 attendees who witnessed amazing feats of flight by early and daring aviators, both men and women.

I shared with the group a perspective of aviation history from 1903 to 1910 and then to 2010. I shared thoughts on why we fly and what GA means to the country, our history, and our future. One of the professors of history was especially appreciative of our perspective that although our history is important, AOPA’s mission is always focused on advocating for protection of this freedom for the future. We also talked about the women who were on the frontier of flight and how we must find ways to encourage more women to engage in flying, given only 6 percent of the pilots in the U.S. are women.

One of the areas I touched on in my speech was the important role GA plays in humanitarian and rescue missions. I pointed to our home page and information on how pilots can contribute or help with the critical support needed in Haiti. Pilots as a whole care deeply for what we do, and when a crisis arises, we are often some of the first to step in to help through use of our aircraft. The Haiti devastation and need for assistance is no exception. And as we have been demonstrating through our GA Serves America campaign, once again we pilots serve many roles, including providing support during a major crisis.

Part of my presentation was talking about learning to fly. I shared a clip from a video we produced for our Let’s Go Flying program. The video had the predominantly nonpilot audience enthralled with “Tom’s first flight” and the excitement of taking off and landing an aircraft as seen through his eyes. As part of this segment, most rewarding was meeting and talking with Dr. Mildred Garcia, the university’s president. After seeing this presentation and talking with us about flying, she openly committed to wanting to take her first flight and her new found interest in learning to fly. Her enthusiasm was so sincere and refreshing it made my stop to speak to this group more than worth our time. We invited President Garcia to join us at our Aviation Summit, and we will be connecting her with a local flight school to set up her intro flight as well.

Toby Bushee, our host at this event, also committed to leading a group of the University students to our Aviation Summit in Long Beach Nov. 11 through 13. The professors felt this would be a wonderful experience for the students to see aviation up close and personal by coming out to the Airportfest. We look forward to their participation and will reach out to all the local schools in a similar manner.

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January 15, 2010