The eleventh annual AOPA Fly-In and Open House nearly became the first annual Drive-In as Saturday morning dawned with Frederick Municipal Airport well below IFR minimums. But pilots were undaunted, and the parking lots quickly filled to overflowing.
An estimated 4,500 people turned out for this year's Fly-In, and despite instrument weather conditions that restricted arrivals until just before noon, more than 300 aircraft flew in. Pilots flew from as far away as California, Florida, Wisconsin, and Ontario to attend.
And the first pilots to make a successful approach into Frederick airport Saturday morning were an instrument student pilot and instructor in a Cessna Cutlass RG from Ann Arbor, Michigan. It took four tries.
"This was a wonderful event not only for pilots, but for the community as well," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "Local politicians, a U.S. congressman, local media, and the general public came out to see the value of their local airport.
"The Fly-In was important to pilots. The Open House is important to the community and the future of the airport." (AOPA published earlier this year The Complete Guide to Holding an Airport Open House, a comprehensive "how-to" booklet for airport and pilot groups interested in showcasing their general aviation airport and demonstrating how it benefits the local community. A copy is available online.)
More than 30 aircraft made it through the weather for the static display. Included in the display were a Cirrus SR20 and SR22, an Eagle 150, the four-place Diamond DA48-180, and new aircraft from Cessna, Commander, Mooney, Pilatus, Raytheon, and Socata.
The FAA's Leesburg Automated Flight Service Station provided on-site departure briefings, utilizing weather data and graphics accessed through the AOPA Online Web site.
The next opportunity to fly in to a major AOPA gathering comes this November 8-10 at the AOPA Expo 2001 annual convention in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
The 370,000-member Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association is the world's largest civil aviation organization. More than one half of the nation's pilots are AOPA members.