Clear blue skies, bayside breezes, and warm temperatures brought out the crowds to AOPA Expo 2005's aircraft display at Peter O. Knight Airport in Tampa, Florida, on Friday morning. A steady stream of Expo visitors wandered among the 103 airplanes.
Visitors to the exhibit hall who had flown the virtual AOPA Sweepstakes Commander on Thursday were ready to investigate the real aircraft on Friday. After Expo, the Commander will fly to Orlando for the National Business Aviation Association's annual meeting and convention. Then it's back to AOPA headquarters in Frederick, Maryland, where the Commander will wait for the lucky winner to be announced, sometime in early 2006.
AOPA Gold Sponsor Cessna Aircraft Company brought five models to Expo this year: a Skyhawk, a Turbo Skylane with Garmin G1000 glass cockpit, a Stationair, a Caravan, and a Citation CJ3. It's hard to resist the opportunity to climb into a Citation or Caravan; even so, all of the models were receiving a lot of interest from passersby, according to Cessna's Penny Nichols.
The New Piper Aircraft withstood yet another hurricane just in time to bring four aircraft to AOPA Expo. Hurricane Wilma's arrival caused the Vero Beach, Florida, factory to shut down for one day, but there was no damage, said Craig Clayton, manager of aircraft assembly. He noted that New Piper's situation was "much better than last year," when hurricanes Francis and Jeanne dealt a devastating blow to the entire region.
Cirrus Design brought four aircraft and was giving demonstration rides, including one to a student pilot who will take his checkride next Wednesday, said John Gauch, fleet sales manager for Cirrus Design. "We've had a lot of interest" from people who are intrigued by the safety features of Cirrus aircraft, such as the parachute system, the airbag seat belts, and a revision to the avionics that displays the engine gauges on the multifunction display as well as the primary display of the glass cockpit, he said.
Demonstration flights were in full swing by noon, and visitors would pause to watch aircraft take off and land on Runway 3/21 at Peter O. Knight Airport.
The light sport aircraft display offered visitors an opportunity to climb in or, in some cases, fly the new models that have been approved since the light sport aircraft rule was released, some of which have been discussed in the pages of AOPA Pilot and AOPA Flight Training. "There's been a lot of activity, a lot of interest," said Dale Faux of Sportsplanes.com, which distributes the Breezer, Sigma, and C-42. Sportsplanes.com has been scheduling demo rides for Sunday and Monday, he said, after Expo concludes.
American Legend Aircraft Company's Legend Cub, with its distinctive Cub yellow paint scheme, was a draw to the LSA area of the static display as well; by noon Friday, American Legend had booked an entire day's worth of demonstration flights. The buyer of the very first Legend Cub, Rich Giannotti of Long Island, New York, was on hand. A flight instructor, Giannotti had once owned a Piper Cub and was considering purchasing another to refurbish. When he saw the prototype, he said, he liked the idea of purchasing a brand-new airplane, and he pressured American Legend to take a deposit. The Sulphur Springs, Texas, factory is now building about one a week, and production is booked until August 2006, according to spokesman Kurt Sehnert.
November 4, 2005