By AOPA Communications staff
Each year the AOPA Air Safety Foundation holds more than 200 seminars in dozens of cities nationwide. It takes a team effort to bring pilots the latest in aviation safety topics, and nearly all go off without a hitch. But sometimes, Murphy’s Law gets in the way—as it did on Feb. 4—forcing the team to go the extra mile.
That evening, instructor Bill Gunn was scheduled to present “The Top 5 Mistakes Pilots Make,” one of the foundation’s most popular seminars. But there was a problem—Gunn’s flight was delayed due to bad weather near Maryville, Tenn., where the seminar was to take place.
With the seminar scheduled for 7 p.m. and Gunn not expected to arrive until 8 p.m., the foundation staff was faced with a dilemma—cancel the seminar or scramble to find another instructor on extremely short notice.
Around noon, Robin Sharitz, the foundation’s manager of safety programs and services, immediately picked up the phone and called FAA volunteer and Maryville resident Darrell Sexton. He agreed to fill in, and she provided him with the information he needed to hold the seminar.
“I was so thankful when Darrell agreed to conduct the seminar,” said Sharitz. “If he hadn’t been able to be there, we would have had to turn away a large number of people. Darrell was a godsend.”
With less than three hours to go, Sexton worked hard to put together a quality presentation using the information provided to him and his own experience as a safety counselor and corporate pilot.
“I didn’t want to have to cancel it if we didn’t have to,” said Sexton, a retired air traffic controller who currently volunteers as a member of the FAA’s FAASTeam, which works to provide educational resources to the general aviation community.
When 7 p.m. rolled around, he was ready and delivered a presentation, which drew praise from many of the attendees. About an hour into the seminar, Gunn arrived and took over.
“I enjoyed it and would help out again if given the opportunity,” said Sexton.
Despite major thunderstorms in the area, 280 people attended the seminar. An average seminar draws about 175 people.
“The seminar was a success thanks to everyone involved,” said AOPA Air Safety Foundation Executive Director Bruce Landsberg. “Great performances like this don’t just happen. They’re made possible through the hard work and dedication of outstanding people.”
February 22, 2008