The Mid-Atlantic's famously fickle weather cooperated once again, providing CAVU (ceiling and visibility unlimited) and temperatures in the 70s for the tenth annual Fly-In to AOPA headquarters.
Some 760 aircraft flew in from as far away as Quebec, Georgia, Arizona, and even California, and an estimated 6,500 attendees turned out for what has become the biggest one-day fly-in event on the East Coast.
Highlighted was the first public display of the Extra 400, the 235-knot cabin-class pressurized single designed by Walter Extra, famed German designer of Extra aerobatic aircraft. The new Extra 400 was just featured in the June issue of AOPA Pilot magazine.
Federal Air Surgeon Jon Jordan, M.D. addressed AOPA's medical certification seminar. In his first appearance at the event, Dr. Jordan called the current medical certificate backlog "unacceptable." He pledged that the FAA's ultimate goal is to provide "same-day" certification service.
Dr. Jordan also commented that the FAA is the most flexible certifying agency in the world, noting that only in the United States can insulin-dependent diabetic pilots obtain a third class medical certificate and fly solo.
Many attendees came for the more than 25 hours of free seminars. All were standing room only. The Air Safety Foundation had to add a second session of its popular "GPS for VFR Operations" seminar.
"General aviation pilots are dedicated to improving their skills and knowledge," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "On such a beautiful day, the willingness of so many pilots to spend part of their day in a classroom really speaks to that dedication."
Seminars ranged from "Operations at Towered Airports" to "Protecting Your Medical Certification."
AOPA expanded its static display area this year to accommodate some 47 exhibitor aircraft. On hand were two Cirrus SR20s, a Micco SP20, the new Commander 115, a SkyArrow 650, the Seawind kit seaplane, and new models from American Champion, Cessna, Mooney, Raytheon, and Piper. Schwiezer Aircraft displayed two helicopters.
The classics were represented as well, including a brilliant yellow Beech Staggerwing, two Arizona-based Piper Apache restorations, and a 1948 Aeronca L-16 side-by-side with one of CAP's new Cessna search planes.
The center of attention, however, was the AOPA sweepstakes 2000 plane—the Millennium Mooney. Fresh out of the paint shop, the refurbished 201's striking metallic paint drew the admiration of hundreds. (New or renewing AOPA members this year are eligible to win the Millennium Mooney, to be awarded in January 2001.)
Registered Fly-In attendees won some great prizes right at the event. James Matthews of Roanoke Rapids, North Carolina, won the top prize—a Garmin GPS III Pilot handheld GPS. Burlington, Ontario, resident Richard Abbott won a framed Mike Fizer photograph of a classic Beech 18.
For June 3, Frederick was the busiest airport in the region, surpassing even nearby Washington/Baltimore-area hubs. A temporary FAA control tower handled some 1,400 operations in a 10-hour period. Controllers from around the region did an admirable job coordinating the swarm of arrivals and departures.
The FAA's Leesburg Automated Flight Service Station provided on-site departure briefings, utilizing weather data and graphics accessed through the AOPA Online Web site.
The next opportunity to fly in to a major AOPA gathering comes this October 20-22 at the AOPA Expo 2000 annual convention in Long Beach, California.
The 360,000-member Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association is the world's largest civil aviation organization. More than one half of the nation's pilots are AOPA members.
June 6, 2000