Those who could make it to Saturday's twelfth annual AOPA Fly-in and Open House know it was a big success. Just how big a success was not clear until Monday morning when the final numbers started rolling in: 895 aircraft flew in for the one-day event. That eclipses the previous record of 760 set in 2000.
The temporary FAA control tower set up for the Fly-in was the second busiest tower in the nation that day, handling slightly fewer operations than Atlanta's Hartsfield International Airport and just edging out Chicago's O'Hare International.
An estimated 8,000 people came out for what turned out to be a beautiful, sunny, warm June weekend.
"The turnout has just been fantastic," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "An event like this shows that general aviation remains a vibrant and exciting part of the aviation community."
Once again, many of those attending came for the 17 hours of seminars AOPA offered this year. In fact, one of the seminars, "Single-Pilot IFR," was so popular that an extra session was added. Fully half of all the seminars were directly related to air safety. Other topics included advice from aviation lawyers, modifying and updating your aircraft, and just plain old hangar talk with humorist Rod Machado.
The AOPA ramp was crowded with nearly four dozen aircraft ranging from a Cessna Caravan and Pilatus PC-12 to the other end of the scale: an Ovation Symphony and a Diamond Eclipse.
Also on hand was a Waco ZPF-7, similar to the aircraft being renovated for the AOPA Centennial of Flight sweepstakes. It drew a great deal of attention and admiration.
This year's center of attraction, though, was the "Spirit of Liberty," a Socata Trinidad GT with a one-of-a-kind paint scheme depicting the American and French flags draped across the fuselage.
As pilots prepared to depart at the end of the day, Leesburg Automated Flight Service Station provided on-site preflight briefings, as they've done every year.
AOPA's next big gathering is AOPA Expo in Palm Springs, California, October 24-26.