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AOPA's new 'Complete Guide to Holding an Airport Open House' offers blueprint for building community support for local airportsAOPA's new 'Complete Guide to Holding an Airport Open House' offers blueprint for building community support for local airports

AOPA has just released 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.

The fact-packed 22-page booklet provides detailed step-by-step guidance to open house organizers on everything from establishing objectives to the writing of post-event thank-you notes.

The self-help guide is part of AOPA's ongoing efforts to save and promote airports and is available free online. Printed copies are available to organized airport and pilot groups by calling 800/USA-AOPA (800/872-2672).

"An open house is one of the best things that pilots and sponsors can do to involve the community in their airport," said Bill Dunn, AOPA vice president for regional affairs. "As pilots we know the value of the airport, but unless the community becomes involved, they are not going to understand what we're talking about.

"An airport open house doesn't have to be expensive or complicated, but it needs to happen!"

Planning is critical

The AOPA guidebook stresses planning, planning, and more planning as critical to the success of any airport open house and suggests that organizers start laying the groundwork at least a year in advance—even for relatively modest events.

"Don't fool yourself into thinking an airport open house can be planned over a few informal meetings starting a couple weeks before the scheduled event," the guidebook warns. "It can't."

To help with the effort, the AOPA guide offers an easy-to-follow month-by-month planning timeline for event organizers; numerous highlighted "tips" that summarize and emphasize key planning points; and an exhaustively detailed planning checklist compiled by a professional airport open house and airshow management company.

Airshow, flyby, or static display

Whether or not to hold an airshow in conjunction with an airport open house is often a major question, one the AOPA guide explores at length. While an aerobatic display inevitably means bigger crowds, the guide notes that an airshow also greatly increases the cost and complexity of an open house and requires FAA involvement.

As the guide points out, however, there is middle ground between staging a full-blown airshow and offering only static displays and penny-a-pound airplane rides. Aircraft flybys, perhaps including some high-speed passes by restored warbirds or jets from a nearby military base, can draw big crowds, too. And as long as no aerobatic maneuvers are performed, no FAA waivers are required.

More planning considerations

Other areas of airport open house planning and activities covered by the AOPA guide include:

  • Picking the best dates for your event.
  • Budgeting, permits and organization.
  • Attracting corporate sponsorship.
  • Static aircraft displays.
  • Parking for autos and fly-ins.
  • Flight operations.
  • Insurance.
  • Concessions and vendors.
  • Promotion and media coverage.

Showing the community why their airport makes a positive difference to them is what this is all about," Dunn said. "This new guidebook is a toolbox that pilots can use to help make their open house a success."

AOPA's Complete Guide to Holding an Airport Open House was produced by the AOPA Airport Support Network. ASN volunteers have been designated at some 870 of the nation's public-use airports so far. Volunteers monitor airport issues, report problems to AOPA, and foster local airport support groups and pilot activism for airport defense. Ultimately, the program will have a designee associated with each of 5,000 U.S. public-use airports nationwide.

For more information on the Airport Support Network, visit the Web site.

The 365,000-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.


Topics: AOPA, Aviation Industry, Pilots

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