For those of you who attended AirVenture last month, you likely experienced a week of head turning aerial demonstrations, phenomenal speakers, and extraordinary weather. As the AOPA Flying Club representative, I was present for the entire aviation filled week. For some vendors AirVenture is a trade show…a week of work. This is not true for us here at AOPA. The Thursday before Oshkosh was an afternoon of prepping, packing, and flight planning for me and my Cessna 182 passengers. Although this adventure was far from our first wing rock over FISK, the smell of Avgas and musky camping gear always brings back memories.
Friday morning we packed our Skylane, filed our flight plan, and blasted off out of KFDK, Frederick Maryland. With AOPA Headquarters vanishing into the clouds behind us, our 766 NM journey was underway. Our destination for day one was Indianapolis to meet up with our sister ship, after picking up a passenger in Louisville. By 6,000 MSL, we cleared the overcast layer and maintained a smooth uneventful flight in VMC. We even beat the thunderstorms to our destination by thirty minutes.
Saturday morning's flight was the most exciting. Our final leg to AirVenture was planned as a VFR ‘flight of two’. We decided to fly the Chicago coastline in lieu of crossing Lake Michigan. The lead aircraft contacted ATC for flight following while the sister ship turned off its transponder and monitored ATC while maintaining radio silence. You haven’t seen Chicago until you’ve flown the coastline at 2,000 feet.
With the aircraft tied down, camp was set up on the North 40. This is where the real fun begins. We watched Harriers hover, jet power Wacos climb vertically through 8,000 feet, and an aerial demonstration from Airbus’s new A350 that would terrify the average LaGuardia terminal occupant. Besides the jaw dropping aerial demonstrations, AOPA met with thousands of our members every day. Over the period of eight days that we spent at AirVenture, we met with over a dozen individuals that wanted to start a flying club. Stories were heard and plans were made to get the ball rolling. Not surprisingly, the large majority of future clubs came from home airports that didn’t have rental aircraft available. One future club didn’t intend to operate at an airport at all, he was holding the ticket to a 2016 Icon A5.
Wednesday was a day for flying club activities at AirVenture. Flying club members joined us in the morning, to check out the AOPA Rusty Pilot Program and sign up to host one locally at their home airport. The program reintroduced over 130 lapsed pilots back into the world of aviation, all walked away with a flight review ground endorsement in their dusty logbooks. In the early afternoon, we presented AOPA’s Maximum Fun, Minimum Cost flying club presentation where we discussed starting and joining a flying club. This presentation covers regulations, airport compliance, financing, insurance, and developing a game plan for success. The day ended with a Flying Club Social, where participants met Mark Baker, and had the opportunity to win one of several Brightline Bags. Brightline announced that they would be offering any flying club a 10 percent discount for a limited time, using their promotional code AOPAfchh2015 before Aug 31st.
Throughout the week, we bumped into dozens of flying clubs from all corners of America. The AOPA Live team found one club that trekked from San Francisco, California to join us at AirVenture. Check out their video here: Flying Clubs at AirVenture.
All in all the 2015 AirVenture was one of my all-time favorites. Cool evenings and warm dry days made for great camping, and we didn’t see a single thunderstorm the entire week. This is the experience all flying clubs, pilots, and enthusiast should enjoy. It’s not just about the crowds and the hustle; it’s the smaller, finer things that make AirVenture amazing. Some might like their roosters or their alarm clocks first thing in the morning, but there's nothing quite like awakening to formation T-6 flybys and clockwork 7am yodeling.
I hope to see you next year.