It could have been a washout. Instead, the skies were transformed into the kind pilots dream of this week in Fort Lauderdale. Across the country, pilots watched as Hurricane Michelle beat an angry path through the Caribbean toward southern Florida. "Any further northeast, and we would've been dead," said Bob Harrison, line service manager for Fort Lauderdale Jet Center at the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport (FLL). "But all afternoon, we've had a good steady flow" of airplanes arriving for AOPA Expo 2001. Harrison estimated that there were roughly 200 airplanes on the Jet Center ramp in for the event by Wednesday evening, with many more expected over the next few days.
Pilots flying in expressed overall satisfaction with the smooth handling they received from air traffic control. But the usual gremlins kept popping up: One member from Nashville came in on Tuesday in his Skylane, but to his chagrin, "The darn GPS went out!" His wife quickly added, "He's forgotten how to do the other stuff!" And the recent notams mania impacted flight planning. Another member, who flew all the way from Arlington, Washington, lamented on the "27 pages of nuclear TFRs" he printed out for the trip—graphical representations of the TFRs he downloaded from the Jeppesen Web site through AOPA Online. "That's the first time I've had to reserve a slot," claimed another member from Kansas. He added with wide eyes, "You get those for O'Hare and DFW!"
Over at Fort Lauderdale Executive Airport (FXE), the ramp was hopping as well, handling the overflow from the main hub at FLL. Banyan Air Service had 130 confirmed reservations for aircraft over the long weekend, with about 85 on the ground by Wednesday at noon. "We still have space," said Terri Jackson, with Banyan's front office. "The airport authority has worked with us to give us more ramp space." Other operators on the field reported anywhere from 19 to 80 aircraft with reservations for AOPA Expo.