Thousands of pilots and aviation enthusiasts spent three glorious days in sunny Tampa, Florida, and are now headed to their homes around the United States laden with new toys and happy memories.
More than 8,500 people attended the show with some 1,200 airplanes flying in for the event. During their three days in Tampa, Expo-goers attended more than 70 hours of seminars, got up close to more than 100 aircraft on display, and purchased everything from headsets to actual airplanes.
Highlights included an appearance by Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta, who announced at Thursday's general session that he had directed the FAA to extend the comment period and hold AOPA-requested public meetings on the plan to make the Washington, D.C., Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ) permanent. With more than 18,000 comments filed so far, pilots are making sure the FAA knows they think the ADIZ is ineffective and should not be made permanent.
Pilots who wanted a look at the future of general aviation got just that during Friday's general session when they heard representatives of the light sport aircraft, technically advanced aircraft, and very light jet segments speak about their vision for GA's future. Vern Raburn, CEO of Eclipse Aviation; Alan Klapmeier, co-founder of Cirrus Design; and Dan Johnson of LSA Marketing all spoke about the exciting new value propositions created by aircraft that take advantage of all that new technology and changes in regulations have to offer pilots.
And on Saturday morning, Expo attendees got to look behind the scenes at the inner workings of their association as AOPA's senior management team took the stage to talk about their efforts on behalf of GA. Topics discussed included security, user fees, correcting misperceptions of general aviation, pilot training and proficiency programs, and the cost of insurance.
AOPA President Phil Boyer also used the opportunity to promote two longtime staffers - naming Andy Cebula to the post of executive vice president of government affairs and Karen Gebhart to the role of executive vice president of non-dues revenue.
Expo was also the perfect opportunity for AOPA to present a number of prestigious awards. During Thursday's opening luncheon, the association honored Richard Murphy Werry, Devon Hubbard Sorlie, Chris Dunn, Marissa Tejada, Jarrod Miller, David Marshall, and William Lang with Max Karant Journalism Awards for their fair, accurate, and insightful reporting on general aviation. And for the first time, AOPA presented a Special Citation for Excellence "for promoting general aviation through the art of film making" to Brian Terwilliger for his documentary film One Six Right.
AOPA also took the opportunity to honor Euel Kinsey, an AOPA Airport Support Network volunteer who received the 2005 Laurence P. Sharples Perpetual Award during Saturday's closing banquet for facing down the mayor of Detroit to gain political and financial support for Coleman A. Young/Detroit City Airport. The Sharples award is given annually in recognition of the greatest selfless commitment to general aviation by a private individual.
Rep. James Oberstar (D-Minn.) also was recognized at the banquet for his long friendship with AOPA and his efforts to champion general aviation during his 15 terms in office, including his work on product liability reform and airport funding. Oberstar received the J.B. "Doc" Hartranft Award for dedication to general aviation, the association's highest honor for a government official.
But Expo isn't all serious business, and this year's event was no exception. There was plenty to laugh about at Thursday's opening luncheon, where the audience was regaled by aviation humorist Rod Machado, who shared his unique brand of fun with the group. On Friday evening, Expo-goers enjoyed food, drinks, and music at a pirate-themed party on the bay. And on Saturday, Expo wrapped up with a closing banquet that featured dancing to big band favorites.
Although Expo's over for this year, it's never too soon to look ahead. Next year Expo moves to the West Coast and the desert oasis of Palm Springs from November 9 through 11.
November 5, 2005