Clear skies, light winds, and 70-degree temperatures welcomed pilots as they flew in to Tampa, Florida, Thursday morning for the kick off to AOPA Expo 2005. By noon a total of about 550 aircraft had flown in for the event.
AOPA members arrived early - tires started kissing the runways at Peter O. Knight and Vandenberg airports just after the temporary towers opened at 7:30 a.m. - so as to not waste any precious time. They were ready to check out the more than 90 aircraft on display, 540-plus exhibit booths, and more than 70 hours of educational seminars.
"I want to look at Cessna and Lancair (now Columbia), and kick the tires of some of the aircraft," said AOPA Expo first-timer Russell Steiner of Fort Lauderdale who arrived in a Diamond Star. "And maybe get a better set of headphones." Steiner, whose house missed the brunt of Hurricane Wilma, said he was excited to come to Expo partly because he still does not have any electricity at his home.
Pilots are receiving the red-carpet treatment from the time they touch down in Tampa. Leading Edge Aviation Services at Vandenberg, Raytheon Aircraft Services and Tampa International Jet Center at Tampa International, and Atlas Aviation at Peter O. Knight are treating AOPA members like royalty: Aircraft are marshaled to a special parking spot, and pilots are met with a shuttle, cold beverages, and friendly faces.
The FBOs are also offering special services. Atlas Aviation, for example, is providing maintenance. One pilot who flew in from California called Atlas Aviation ahead of time to see if he could get an oil change when he arrived. "Before he had checked in, got his luggage and a rental car, his oil change was done," said Atlas Aviation Manager Deric Dymerski.
And other AOPA members are pitching in to make pilots feel welcome. Many members are volunteering with the Hillsborough County Airport Authority to marshal and reposition aircraft and help direct drive-in traffic.
"I thought it would be fun to take a day off work and come play with airplanes," said Antony Dalton of Tampa, who was marshaling aircraft at Peter O. Knight. "I knew they needed help."
Plus, volunteers get a behind-the-scenes look at what goes in to bringing hundreds of aircraft into a GA airport during fly-in events. "We got to touch, and push, and pull on 20 different aircraft and help out," said Tampa resident and AOPA member David Wallace. But after working with the aircraft, Wallace, like most volunteers, is off to enjoy Expo's festivities. "I'm here for fun."
Don't miss out on the fun - or the royal treatment. Fly in to AOPA Expo to enjoy three days filled with everything GA.
November 3, 2005