AOPA Expo 2002 will literally taxi into Palm Springs, California, with its popular Parade of Planes. The nose-to-tail procession on October 23 will kick off AOPA's annual convention and trade show October 24-26. Some 80 aircraft are expected to taxi through the streets from Palm Springs International Airport to the convention center, where they'll be put on static display just outside the exhibition hall for visitors to admire at their leisure.
"AOPA Expo symbolizes the vital role general aviation plays in the life of the nation," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "The airlines serve only three percent of the airports. General aviation links the rest of the nation, providing business and personal transportation, generating more than $102 billion in economic activity and supporting 1.3 million jobs."
More than 10,000 pilots, their friends, and family members are expected at the Palm Springs Convention Center during the three days of AOPA Expo 2002, expected to be the association's largest annual convention and exhibition ever.
AOPA Expo officially opens at 9 a.m. Thursday, October 24, with the first general session. Marion Blakey, the new head of the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), will address the AOPA membership on issues of concern to pilots.
Friday morning's general session will include a presentation titled "GA Report—409 Days After 9/11," in which a panel of senior aviation industry leaders will look at where general aviation is now after the attacks and what the future may hold. The "Team AOPA" report to members will highlight the Saturday morning session.
Once each day's general session is concluded, visitors will have their pick of more than six dozen aviation seminars. A third of the sessions are new since the last time AOPA Expo was held on the West Coast. Fully one half are aviation-safety related. Other seminars deal with renting or buying, modifying or upgrading aircraft, medical issues such as Lasik eye surgery, cardiac certification, and flying with diabetes.
The AOPA Air Safety Foundation will again host informative safety seminars, including several sessions of the perennial favorite, Pinch Hitter® Ground School. The program is geared toward frequent general aviation passengers, often spouses. It teaches the basics of flying, including the principles of how to land an aircraft if the pilot becomes incapacitated and to increase the understanding and enjoyment of GA flying.
Between seminars, visitors can wander the expanded exhibit hall and static display areas, taking in the latest and greatest, neatest and niftiest general aviation has to offer. More than 500 exhibitors are expected to show off their wares. It's a chance for pilots to try out headsets and GPS units and just about anything else they might take aloft. In addition, all of the major aircraft manufacturers, including Adam, Aviat, Beechcraft, Cessna, Cirrus, Eclipse, Lancair, Piper, and Socata, will be exhibiting their latest models.
One of the highlights of this year's Expo will be the announcement of the winning bidder for the one-of-a-kind ASF Socata Trinidad GT, the "Spirit of Liberty." Outside, the aircraft sports a unique paint scheme depicting the U.S. and French flags. Inside, it boasts some of the most sophisticated avionics available for GA. Socata, Inc., donated the aircraft for ASF's Online Silent Auction, with all proceeds above a reserve price benefiting the foundation's ongoing mission to improve aviation safety.
At the AOPA Expo Grand Finale banquet Saturday evening, October 26, the pilots association will present its highest honor for local action to Santa Barbara, California, resident Gordon Feingold. The AOPA Sharples Award recognizes Feingold for his efforts as an Airport Support Network (ASN) volunteer at Santa Barbara Municipal Airport, where he successfully rallied local pilots to demonstrate the value of the airport to the community and the media and won the first major GA improvements to the field in 30 years.
Senator Richard J. Durbin (D-Ill.) and Representative William Lipinski (D-Ill.) will receive the association's Hartranft Award for their efforts to ensure that an agreement saving Chicago's historic Merrill C. Meigs Field will be honored.
Wrapping up AOPA Expo 2002 Saturday evening will be a performance by piano-playing political satirist Mark Russell, perhaps best known for his appearances on PBS.
The 387,000-member Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association, headquartered near Washington, D.C., is the world's largest civil aviation organization. More than two thirds of the nation's pilots are AOPA members, as are some 48,000 California pilots.