AOPA Expo 2000 in Long Beach, California, October 20-22, once again set new records, this time breaking the 10,000 mark with 10,816 registrants, some 10 percent more than attended last year's Expo in Atlantic City, New Jersey.
Despite a day and a half of IFR weather at the beginning of Expo, more than 1,200 aircraft flew into Long Beach Airport and other area airports. Both GA aircraft and airliners had a difficult time getting into the Los Angeles area because of a software glitch in the Los Angeles Air Route Traffic Control Center computer. Because of the weather, some pilots opted to land short of their destination and continue on to Expo by car.
A record 502 exhibitors, 85 static display aircraft, and more than 90 hours of educational seminars covering some 82 topics were available to Expo-goers.
"The tremendous growth of Expo really shows the bright future facing general aviation," said Phil Boyer, AOPA president. "At Expo '91 in New Orleans, we had some 3,000 attendees for the entire show. We had more than that for just one day at Expo 2000."
Besides a celebration of AOPA and general aviation, Expo was also a time to honor the AOPA Air Safety Foundation on its fiftieth anniversary.
Cirrus Design Corporation President Alan Klapmeier echoed that optimism as he introduced the new SR22 at Expo. "General aviation is a huge growth industry," he said. "We're going to sell thousands of aircraft." Cirrus has just submitted paperwork to the FAA for certification approval of the more powerful follow-up to the SR20.
Many manufacturers noted brisk sales at Expo, including Liberty Aerospace, which sold 10 of its new XL-2 training planes.
Yet another new aircraft is in the works. At Expo, FAA Administrator Jane Garvey presented representatives of the Seminole Tribe of Florida (owners of Micco Aircraft Company) with the type certificate for the Micco SP26.
As Boyer introduced Garvey to the Expo audience at the Saturday-morning general session, he jokingly turned the tables on her. "I'm going to have to ask you to thank us today for an increase in your allowance," Boyer said, referring to AOPA's help in the passage of AIR-21 legislation that unlocked the aviation trust fund and provided the FAA with some $3 billion more a year for airports and air traffic control modernization. "And please spend it wisely," he added.
Garvey congratulated ASF for its 50 years dedicated to improving GA safety. She noted that 2000 was the safest year yet for general aviation and thanked both AOPA and ASF for helping to curb runway incursions.
She extended kudos to AOPA's Airport Support Network and praised AOPA for its help in streamlining the AD process and reducing the medical certification backlog.
The administrator promised to improve the FAA's procedures. She quoted the late Max Karant (founder of AOPA Pilot magazine) who said, "The system must be designed to serve all users, not just a select few." Garvey said, "That's correct, and that's fair."
The association unveiled exciting new programs for members during AOPA Expo 2000. Top of the list was an increase to 5 percent in the AOPA FBO Rebate Program. Members who use their AOPA Visa or MasterCard for eligible purchases at any qualified FBO can request a 5 percent credit rebate.
AOPA also announced that members will soon be able to download free government-published NOS instrument approach charts from AOPA Online, as well as download airport data from AOPA's Airport Directory to a personal computer or a personal digital assistant (PDA).
Expo was also time to honor those who have worked to strengthen general aviation.
Gary D. Parsons of Hawthorne, California, was the winner of the Sharples Award, AOPA's highest award for the most important defense of general aviation by a person not employed full-time in GA or government.
One of the first AOPA Airport Support Network (ASN) volunteers, Parsons has been leading a local pilot effort to defeat every recent attempt to close the key Hawthorne Municipal Airport (Jack Northrop Field) just east of Los Angeles International. The large, single runway airport is a key reliever airport, a general aviation alternative to LAX, and provides air access to the nearby cluster of major aerospace industries.
Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott of Mississippi received AOPA's Hartranft Award recognizing him as the government official who made the greatest contribution this year to the cause of general aviation.
"The most significant issue in Washington this year was passage of landmark AIR-21 legislation reauthorizing FAA programs and reviewing treatment of airspace users' contributions to the aviation trust fund," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "When the AIR-21 process stalled in late 1999, Senator Lott shouldered the challenge, pulled the conferees together, and addressed concerns regarding the legislation in the Senate. AIR-21 succeeded in committee, and in the Senate, because of Trent Lott's leadership."
In other awards, Rinker Buck of The Hartford Courant won the Max Karant Journalism Award in the print category for his coverage of the John F. Kennedy Jr. tragedy. The award is given for fair, accurate, and insightful coverage of general aviation.
TV newsman Steve Grant, anchorman at KYTV in Springfield, Missouri, won Karant honors for his coverage of an airport improvement controversy in a nearby Missouri town. Scott Thompson of KOTV in Tulsa, Oklahoma, took home Karant honors for covering the last production facility for Funk airplanes. And the Karant radio winner was Susan Wiencek, news director of WNND-FM in Chicago, for her story about Chicago's Lifeline Pilots organization.
AOPA Expo 2001 will be November 8-10 in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
November 17, 2000