With more than 5,000 attending AOPA’s Fly-In on June 7, most of them pilots with friends and family tagging along, the event proved to be the perfect breeding ground for potential new-pilot starts.
“The dwindling pilot population is a major concern and primary focus for AOPA,” said AOPA President Phil Boyer. “Having a community event like this is the perfect opportunity to introduce others to the wonders of aviation.”
In addition to checking out nearly 50 aircraft on display, attendees got a taste of what those aircraft could do in the air by watching the intricate lineup of nearly 500 aircraft arriving and departing the show.
AOPA also hosted three Discover Flying seminars, introducing more than 150 nonpilots to the wonders of flight. The seminar not only explained how to begin flight training but showed what it’s like to actually take to the skies. Then the association went a step further, giving a free introductory flight certificate to each seminar attendee who was 16 or older and had never taken a flying lesson.
A flight simulator set up by the AOPA Air Safety Foundation for pilots to test their hands on different scenarios, like flying the ILS into Frederick Municipal Airport’s Runway 23, was quickly overtaken by the younger generation who tested their skills with climbs, descents, and rolls.
Flight schools used the opportunity to enlist new students. Flight Camp USA, based in Cumberland, Md., received a lot of interest in its offering of one-day camps every Wednesday throughout the summer. Chesapeake Sport Pilot, based at Bay Bridge Airport in Stevensville, Md., and Frederick Flight Center, based at Frederick Municipal Airport where AOPA is headquartered, set up camp in the aircraft display to help those interested in learning to fly find out how to get started.
“The excitement and freedom of flight is contagious,” Boyer said, “and when you combine great weather, thousands of enthusiastic pilots, and hundreds of aircraft at an event with nonpilots, it doesn’t take much to turn them into aviation enthusiasts.”