AOPA Aviation Summit spotlights aviation powerhouses

summit logoThey came from statehouses and Capitol Hill, from government offices and industry boardrooms, and from hangars throughout the United States. Pilots and aviation enthusiasts from across the nation convened at AOPA Aviation Summit in Tampa, Fla., to celebrate general aviation and get involved in the future of flying.

At the Tampa Convention Center Nov. 5 through 7, 7,294 people attended informational forums, checked out the latest in general aviation technology, and heard industry leaders’ plans for the future; thousands more watched the festivities and participated online. In addition, members of the Tampa community and pilots from all over streamed into Peter O. Knight Airport for the activities at Airportfest, pushing total attendance at Summit close to 8,000.

“We recognize the economy has been hard on our industry this year. Although the in-person attendance figures were slightly lower than the last time we were in Tampa, the people who came were there to learn, to participate, and to shop,” AOPA Executive Vice President of Communications Karen Gebhart said. “The overall atmosphere of the show was very upbeat, which we take as a good sign of improvements to come as the economy continues to recover.

“We also had an extended attendance for the first time through our AOPA Live coverage with more than 16,000 additional people viewing coverage of the show live online all week long. Many people continue to watch the AOPA Live videos to experience what happened at Summit.”

AOPA President Craig Fuller led wide-ranging discussions about the future of the industry, security issues, protecting our freedom to fly, and more in Summit Sessions and on Center Stage in the exhibit hall. In “One Voice,” the opening session, Fuller led association CEOs from EAA, NATA, NBAA, GAMA, WAI, and AEA in a frank discussion of where GA is headed. He also spoke one-on-one with industry leaders about how technological advancements, policy, and pilots’ involvement in aviation issues will shape the future of GA.

Summit also hosted its share of inspiration. Jessica Cox, the first sport pilot without arms, talked about the challenges she faced in flight training and encouraged attendees to “think outside the shoe,” as she did when she learned to tie her shoes in grade school. Thanks to Summit Platinum sponsor DTC DUAT, SR-71 pilot Brian Shul spoke about his triumph over what doctors deemed career-ending injuries and how he went on to join the elite group of pilots who have flown the spy plane.

RemosOn the lighter side of Summit, AOPA unveiled its 2010 sweepstakes aircraft: a brand-new Remos GX light sport aircraft (LSA). Summit attendees were the first to get a look at the Remos. Attendees could also take a look at the 2009 AOPA Sweepstakes Let’s Go Flying SR22 at Airportfest at Peter O. Knight Airport. More than 1,000 aircraft flew into Peter O. Knight, Tampa Executive, and Tampa International airports during Summit. The airport grounds were packed for Community Day on Saturday, with hundreds of people from the area watching the steady stream of aircraft taking off, perusing 104 aircraft on display, and participating in activities designed for the whole family.

Airportfest was an ideal introduction to aviation for young and old alike. Children made and wound their own rubber-band-powered model aircraft to fly in a hangar, and interested attendees took off on discovery flights in full-size aircraft. From light sport to business jets, the latest aircraft in development and in production were on display--along with a few older models: The gleaming Lockheed 12A Electra used in the filming of the movie Amelia turned heads on the tarmac, and even became the backdrop for a wedding.

AOPA took the opportunity at Summit to unveil its new Medical Services Program, part of a redoubled focus on health issues. The program will have two levels and provide pilots with more resources to help retain their medical certificates.

If you couldn’t be there in person for the festivities, daily Summit Sessions and events on Center Stage were broadcast online through AOPA Live. Watch archived videos and read the Summit news coverage to catch up on the exciting events and informative interviews you missed. See you next year in Long Beach, Calif., Nov. 11 through 13!

November 10, 2009