Two of the most popular AOPA Expos in recent history have been held in Atlantic City. It's conveniently located for a large number of Northeast pilots, and the convention center is a fantastic facility.
So why isn't AOPA going back?
"The officials running the very underused Atlantic City International Airport simply didn't want to be bothered with a bunch of general aviation aircraft, regardless of the income they would bring to the airport and the city," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "The airport handles only 38 airline operations a day, but AOPA Expo would put such a 'burden' on their facilities that they wanted to charge us an exorbitant amount to pay for normal airport operations.
"That adds insult to the injury of years of neglect of Bader Field, which will likely be closed by 2007," said Boyer, "so we'll gladly go someplace that appreciates the value of GA, and that's Hartford, Connecticut."
Officials of the South Jersey Regional Transportation Authority, which owns Atlantic City International Airport (ACY) and the Atlantic City Expressway, made it abundantly clear they didn't really want AOPA Expo.
While other airports are delighted to host the event, the authority wanted to pile on charges such as $20,000 for an aircraft recovery crane, charges for existing security patrols, and outsized charges for "coordination."
"I've visited 16 airports in the last four weeks to check out possible venues for future Expos, and every one has bent over backward to accommodate us," said Woody Cahall, AOPA vice president of aviation services. "I had difficulty getting Atlantic City officials to even return a call."
Said Boyer, "But as is often the case, solving one problem ended up creating a better opportunity. We are delighted with our selection of Hartford.
"The city has undergone an incredible renaissance in recent years, and with its two airports, including a downtown GA airport just a stone's throw from the convention center, provides what we expect will be the perfect place for thousands of pilots to gather."
February 9, 2006