Almost as soon as the FAA's temporary tower began operation at 7 a.m. on Saturday, June 1, the aircraft started arriving. They didn't stop for hours. Sunny skies, warm temperatures, and a ramp full of planes made this year's AOPA Fly-In and Open House the most successful in the event's 12-year history.
A record-setting 895 aircraft and more than 8,000 visitors came to AOPA headquarters in Frederick, Maryland, for the event. The temporary control tower at FDK was the second busiest tower in the nation on Saturday, just edging out Chicago's O'Hare International Airport.
"The turnout has just been fantastic," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "AOPA is proud to represent a community as passionate and as vibrant as the general aviation community."
Once again this year, some 20 hours of seminars offered at the Fly-In were a big draw with pilots. Fully half of the seminars dealt directly with air safety. One program, "Single-Pilot IFR," was so popular that a second session had to be added. Other seminars touched on topics ranging from aviation legal issues, to buying or renting, modifying, or upgrading an aircraft.
Nationally known flight instructor and humorist Rod Machado again packed the outdoor seminar tent for two sessions; one on "Defensive Flying," and the other a lighter-side look at flying, "Hanger Talk 2002."
On the ramp in front of AOPA headquarters, nearly four dozen aircraft were on display, ranging from a Cessna Caravan and a Pilatus PC-12 at one end of the size spectrum, to a Diamond Eclipse and an Ovation Symphony at the other. Two of the more distinctive aircraft were a Waco ZPF-7 biplane, similar to the AOPA Centennial of Flight Sweepstakes aircraft, currently undergoing renovation, and the "Spirit of Liberty," a Socata Trinidad GT sporting a one-of-a-kind paint scheme depicting the American and French flags. Socata Aircraft, Inc., donated the aircraft for auction in the AOPA Air Safety Foundation's Online Silent Auction. All proceeds above a contributor's reserve will benefit ASF's efforts to improve safety in the skies.
Those efforts at the Fly-In this year included a motion-visual simulator that allowed pilots to experience spatial disorientation. Environmental Technologies Corporation provided its General Aviation Trainer-II (GAT-II) for the demonstration and sponsored ASF's Fly-In activities. ASF is making a significant effort this year to educate pilots about the dangers of spatial disorientation and how to avoid it.
Door prizes this year included a set of four Goodyear car or light truck tires (awarded to Tom Dempsey, Ohio), a 2002 Aviation and Aerospace Almanac (Richard Lieberman, Pa.), an AOPA Zulu Time watch (Tom Reading, Pa.), an AOPA fleece pullover (Manuel Casiano, Md.), a coffee-table book of air-to-air photography by Paul Bowen (Brian Jones, N.Y.), an AOPA travel mug (Yvonne Egge, Va.), and two AOPA T-shirts (Don Conte, N.J., and Rip Fell, W.Va.).
With more than 380,000 members, AOPA is the largest civil aviation organization in the world, representing the interests of general aviation pilots and aircraft owners. Some two thirds of all U.S. pilots are members of AOPA.