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AOPA builds on Fly-In successAOPA builds on Fly-In success

AOPA Fly-Ins for 2017 will offer more to experience—from camping and camaraderie to workshops and clinics providing opportunities to learn new skills, fly more affordably, or make the jump from aircraft renter to owner. Thanks to a tremendous response from attendees and exhibitors, AOPA has expanded the scope of each of the four 2017 Regional Fly-Ins, adding a second day to allow attendees to experience more hands-on aviation, and more of what has drawn praise and sparked enthusiasm from the nearly 44,000 who have attended an AOPA event to date.

  • Aviation enthusiasts set an AOPA Regional Fly-In record by flying 690 aircraft and driving 1,064 automobiles to Bremerton National Airport for the AOPA event. Photo by David Tulis.
  • Good eats served up at the 2014 AOPA Fly-In at Plymouth, Massachusetts.
  • Enjoying a good laugh at the 2014 Spokane, Washington, AOPA Fly-In.
  • Getting off to a fine start at the 2014 AOPA Fly-In held at Plymouth, Massachusetts.
  • A bluegrass band plays during the Friday Barnstormers Party during the 2014 AOPA Fly-In at St. Simons Island, Georgia.
  • Empty tents await campers at AOPA's 2016 Bremerton, Washington, Fly-In. The owners of those tents were enjoying a barbecue dinner and concert at the Friday night Barnstormers Party. Photo by Mike Collins.
  • A future pilot dreams of taking off during the AOPA Fly-In at Anoka County-Blaine Airport in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Aug. 22, 2015. Photo by David Tulis.
  • Children use water-based paint and markers to decorate Safe Launch's Cessna 182 during the 2016 AOPA Fly-In at Prescott, Arizona. The exercise is part of a program to combat substance abuse. Photo by Mike Collins.
  • Attendees chat during the AOPA Regional Fly-In at in Anoka County-Blaine Airport in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Aug. 22, 2015. Photo by David Tulis.
  • AOPA deployed a big tent for some shade and a movie screening at the 2015 AOPA Fly-In at Salinas, California.
  • Members helped make medical reform a reality, signing petitions like this one posted at AOPA Fly-In events.
  • Who's ready for pancakes? The morning treat will remain on the menu for 2017 AOPA Fly-Ins, and look for some new additions, too.
  • Volunteers made safe, efficient operations possible, and this crew took time out to show some pride during the 2015 AOPA Fly-In at the association's home in Frederick, Maryland.

The 2017 AOPA Regional Fly-In schedule includes four events and kicks off April 28 and 29 in Camarillo, California, followed by Norman, Oklahoma (Sept. 8 and 9); Groton, Connecticut (Oct. 6 and 7); and Tampa, Florida (Oct. 27 and 28). Each event will feature two full days of activities, including an expanded roster of learning opportunities and workshops beginning on the Friday of each event at 9 a.m. These workshops will cover a range of topics such as mountain flying or owner-performed maintenance that will help make flying more fun, affordable, safe, and accessible.

“We’re listening to our members who have asked for more extensive content, and we’re excited to bring new things that will deepen relationships and expand your flying skills,” said AOPA Director of Outreach and Events Chris Eads. “This has been about us really listening to the members.”

Eads and the event planning team have heard a great deal and refined their efforts based on experience gained at 16 AOPA Fly-Ins held to date. AOPA launched the regional events in 2014, shifting from a single annual convention to this new approach that was designed to gather members at locations closer to home, and make it possible for more members (and guests, including future pilots) to attend. That proved to be a formula for success: Total attendance grew 15 percent between 2014 and 2015, and 33 percent between 2015 and 2016. More than 6,000 aircraft arrivals have been logged to date, safely handled by a team of AOPA staff backed up by hundreds of enthusiastic volunteers. The AOPA Fly-Ins also have proved to be a venue where friendships are forged, gatherings where the aviation community has grown stronger. 

“Our members are loving it,” Eads said.

Each event has included a delicious selection of local dishes because every party needs good food. Ice cream socials and Pilot Town Hall meetings with AOPA President Mark Baker also have been popular, and those will continue to be part of each Saturday program.

The aircraft display, exhibit hall, and AOPA Village will open at 4 p.m. on Friday, following the workshops and clinics. A program of various topics and speakers is being developed that will include some that are location specific, taking advantage of the geography of each area. While details of the workshop and clinic programs are still being worked out, count on each to “take you to new places in your aviation experience,” Eads said, adding that attendees can look forward to learning about the fine points of mountain flying, overwater flying, or other topics that will sharpen skills or make aviation easier.

The Barnstormers Party, established as a popular Friday evening event, will continue to be held from 6 to 9 p.m.

The Saturday agenda for 2017 begins with a pancake breakfast (possibly with some new menu additions that the chefs are cooking up), with the AOPA Village and seminars opening after breakfast at 9 a.m. AOPA also will offer the popular Rusty Pilots seminar that morning for those who have been out of the cockpit for two or more years and want to get back up to speed. Saturday activities will culminate at 3 p.m., but that won’t be the end of the experience: AOPA is also working to organize small fly-outs to nearby destinations to allow new friends and old to spend more time flying together to interesting regional destinations.

Details are being worked out to create an aircraft sales corral at each AOPA Fly-In to help members buy and sell aircraft. A drone experience, including caged flight demonstrations, is another feature likely to be added that will give members who are interested in unmanned aviation a close look at drones in action.

As AOPA looks to the future, growing the general aviation community remains a top priority. The AOPA Regional Fly-Ins will continue to serve that goal by bringing pilots together to experience a rich array of skill development, group flying, and hands-on activities.

AOPA 2017 Fly-In locations were announced Dec. 8.

Jim Moore

Jim Moore

Editor-Web Jim Moore joined AOPA in 2011 and is an instrument-rated private pilot, as well as a certificated remote pilot, who enjoys competition aerobatics and flying drones.
Topics: Events, AOPA Events, Travel

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