"When my dad teaches me some more, I can fly to school someday," said William Komenda, age 7. William sat on a curb at the Palm Springs Convention Center on Friday, the second day of AOPA Expo 2006.
He was taking a break and sharing M&M's candies with his sister Caroline, age 4.
Chris Ferrell, AOPA 1225846, made the trip to AOPA Expo from Sacramento. "When I was finally standing in front of registration I felt a big ahhhh — I was finally here and surrounded by my people," exclaimed Ferrell.
Perhaps it was the great weather — 80 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit and sunny — or the convenience of being able to check out any one, or all, of the more than 100 airplanes that taxied through the city streets before parking within a stone's throw of the convention center doors.
It could have been that AOPA members wanted to rub shoulders with friends, listen to aviation luminaries such as Rod Machado or Barry Schiff, or applaud AOPA's no-nonsense stance against market and political forces that continue to threaten flying freedom.
Whatever the mix, AOPA Expo 2006 was a record setter with 12,973 attendees and more than 100 exhibit airplanes. Everyone seemed to have a good time as evidenced by enthusiastic comments heard throughout each day:
Steve Swigard, AOPA 3932139, from Tahoe City, California, echoed those comments. "Cessna's new NGP [next-generation piston] is exciting. Pictures don't show how big it is," said Swigard. "My flying buddy, Ken Foster, and I always make every AOPA Expo on the West Coast. It's the best place to see the advances in technology and keep up with industry changes."
Vendors such as Dewey Conroy of Pacific Coast Avionics also loved the Palm Springs venue. "AOPA Expo at Palm Springs is always a great show for us. If anyone's asking, I want AOPA Expo to return here every time," said Conroy.
Don French, AOPA 1043289, of Glendale, Arizona, and his girlfriend, Gail Leroux, AOPA 1644151, came to AOPA Expo to learn about upgrades for their first airplane. "We just bought a Beech Baron E55," said French, who flies for Southwest Airlines. Palm Springs was their first Expo. "I had very high expectations and AOPA Expo exceeded them in every way," said French. "In fact, it ended before I was ready."
AOPA Expo 2006 was a family event for Christa Marasco, AOPA 5697134, of San Diego. Marasco is "about a month away" from her private pilot checkride. She began flying to stay connected with her grandfather Ted Nadybal, AOPA 1467635. Nadybal is a 35-year member of AOPA who until recently flew his Mooney M20C out of Corona, California. Not too long ago Nadybal lost his ability to speak clearly, which ended his piloting career. Today the connection between grandfather and granddaughter has grown stronger as they are able to share flying stories and talk back and forth through e-mail.
Next year, AOPA Expo attendees will be converging in Hartford, Connecticut. The fall colors in the Northeast are breathtakingly beautiful in early October, and Hartford has a new convention center that's just right for AOPA Expo. Mark your calendar now to join up with all the other folks in aviation's friendliest family, in Hartford on October 4, 5, and 6, 2007.
P.S. That's just 10 months away.
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