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AOPA Expo 2007 visits Hartford, Connecticut Like one of its most famous residents — Katharine Hepburn — Connecticut has a cool sophistication. You can almost feel it when you cross the state line.

AOPA Expo 2007 in Hartford, Connecticut:
Ten great reasons to go

Three mornings of provocative general sessions featuring industry leaders discussing the issues that affect general aviation now.

More than 60 hours of informative seminars led by the top people in their fields such as Sporty's Academy Senior Instructor David Zitt, Cessna Pilots Association Executive Director John Frank, and Dan Johnson, chairman of the Light Aircraft Manufacturers Association.

You can get inside the cockpits of the hottest new aircraft in the industry — there will be an amazing array of more than 60 aircraft on display at Hartford-Brainard Airport.

Dining and dancing amid 125 different aircraft from the earliest days of aviation to the present at the New England Air Museum.

Thousands of new products and gadgets displayed by more than 500 exhibitors in the brand-new Connecticut Convention Center.

Opportunities to mingle with fellow pilots and AOPA luminaries such as aviation humorist Rod Machado, columnist Barry Schiff, aviation weather expert Tom Horne, AOPA Pilot Editor in Chief Tom Haines, and AOPA President Phil Boyer at receptions, parties, and a grand banquet.

More than 30 hours of safety, destination, and technology seminars presented by the AOPA Air Safety Foundation.

The chance to honor officials and industry leaders who have helped defend and preserve general aviation during the year at a special ceremony.

Review the past successes of AOPA advocacy efforts in 2007 and hear your association's plans for the coming year.

Vivid blue New England skies, gorgeous displays of nature's color riot in the changing leaves, and crisp, comfortable temperatures — a perfect fall weekend.

AOPA Expo 2007 visits Hartford, Connecticut

Like one of its most famous residents — Katharine Hepburn — Connecticut has a cool sophistication. You can almost feel it when you cross the state line. New York is brash; Connecticut is mannered. Massachusetts is bold; Connecticut is savvy. Rhode Island is cocky; Connecticut is confident. All of Hepburn's legendary traits rolled into one state. The actress's birthplace of Hartford offers the quintessential site of Connecticut cool.

Hartford has given her nod to AOPA for its annual convention, and the city's new 540,000-square-foot convention center, serenely situated on the smooth and easy Connecticut River, is the perfect setting for a general aviation celebration. AOPA Expo 2007 convenes in Hartford on October 4, 5, and 6. This time of year, New England shows off a riot of natural color as the leaves change — it's a gorgeous sight not to be missed.

Hartford is the state capital and is located in the heart of Connecticut. Most famous for being home to many of the nation's largest insurance companies, the small city boasts handsome tall buildings, remarkable government edifices, and a gorgeous city park. The city is small — just 17 square miles — and compact — three miles wide and about six miles long. Hartford became a workweek city when residents moved out to the suburbs in the 1980s and '90s, but it is experiencing a rebirth as a destination. Today Hartford is called "New England's Rising Star," and the convention center, new hotels, a riverfront plaza, and the number of three- and four-star restaurants are the reasons why.

Two airports serve Hartford — Hartford-Brainard is southeast of the city and Bradley International is in Windsor Locks, 13 miles to the north. Hartford is a two-hour drive from New York City and Boston. For Expo, a display of more than 60 aircraft will be at Hartford-Brainard.

Hartford was a model city during America's industrial age. It was once the richest small city in the United States. Samuel Clemens — Mark Twain — brought his family here when he had achieved fame and celebrity after the publication and national love of his book, Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. In Hartford, Twain wrote other famous books such as A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court and The Prince and the Pauper. Next-door to the Clemens family lived Harriet Beecher Stowe, author of Uncle Tom's Cabin, the book that is considered by some to have fueled the Civil War. Both homes are open for tours; the Mark Twain house has a remarkable visitors center and the Harriet Beecher Stowe Center offers a wonderful glimpse of life as it was in the late nineteenth century.

In the heart of downtown is America's oldest public park, Bushnell Park, which was the first municipal park in the nation to be conceived, built, and paid for by citizens through a popular vote. Lush and green and covered by more than 1,000 trees, the park is bordered on one side by the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Arch, which commemorates Hartford citizens who served in the Civil War, and overlooked by the magnificent state Capitol building. One of the few remaining Stein and Goldstein carousels spins visitors in the park.

The 75,000-square-foot New England Air Museum at Bradley International Airport displays more than 125 aircraft including the oldest surviving aircraft in the United States, the 1870 Silas Brooks Balloon Basket. Also on display is the giant Sikorsky VS-44 Flying Boat, the only large American commercial flying boat still in existence; the massive and dramatic "Jack's Hack," a hangar-filling Boeing B-29 bomber; a Grumman F6F Hellcat; a MiG-15 jet fighter; and a 1912 Bunce-Curtiss Pusher airplane. In addition to the aircraft, there is an extensive collection of aircraft parts, engines, uniforms, and personal memorabilia. A large exhibit is dedicated to Pratt & Whitney, which once manufactured its engines in Hartford. A large exhibit also is dedicated to Igor Sikorsky; the helicopter was invented in Connecticut.

The New England Air Museum is a very hands-on museum. Visitors are invited to get up close to the aircraft, climb inside, and experience aviation. The AOPA members' party will be held at the museum from 7:30 to 10 p.m. on Friday, October 5, and will feature cocktails, dinner, and dancing among the airplanes.

Downtown Hartford is easy to navigate, especially so because of its star attraction — the Star Shuttle. These buses — manned by knowledgeable and amusing drivers — take visitors just about anywhere in the city: The drivers offer an overview of the dining options and then bring the visitors to the doorstep of the restaurant they select...for free. Star Shuttle drivers also have a printed list of dining options. Most of Hartford is walkable, but the Star Shuttle is a fun option.

Among the notable eateries are the Arch Street Tavern, located in a former carriage factory built in 1895, one block from the convention center; Max Downtown, owned by a West Hartford native; Trumbull Kitchen, named for one of the three state governors named Jonathan Trumbull, one of whom was called the "Flying Governor" because of his love for aviation; Mayor Mike's, owned by Hartford's popular three-term former mayor; and the City Steam Brewery Café, which offers the Brew Ha Ha Comedy Club.

This is the first time that AOPA Expo has been held in New England. We've chosen New England because so many of our members live there and we've chosen early October because it's simply going to be a gorgeous autumn in the Northeast. AOPA Expo 2007 in Hartford offers more than 60 hours of informative seminars, provocative general sessions, an impressive aircraft display, receptions, luncheons, and parties. Make your plans early and soon — this is leaf-peeper season in New England.

E-mail the author at [email protected].

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