Visitors to Sun ’n Fun have been stopping by AOPA’s GA Serves America tent, and sharing their stories of how general aviation has played a critical role in their businesses and their lives.
Bill Bailey of Cape Coral, Fla., learned to fly in 1939, soloing that May. During World War II, he flew the Curtiss P-40 Warhawk and Republic P-47 Thunderbolt for the Army Air Corps. After the war he returned to Michigan and started a lighting fixture business. An airplane played a key role in its success, he said.
“We used it on the sales end of the business, calling on representatives. If somebody had a problem we’d fly out and take care of it.”
He used Beech Bonanzas and Piper Aztecs to build his company, which his son still operates.
“Aviation has always been a priority in my life,” said Bailey, a charter member of AOPA (member number 1084).
Denis Murphy of Plantation, Fla., has been flying since he was 15 and works as a commercial pilot. He’s also an author and a speaker, and when he tours he makes extensive use of his Piper Warrior for transportation.
“Without our airplane this would not be possible,” he said. “GA gives me the flexibility and freedom” to travel where and when he wants.
GA is very important to his community, which does not have airline service, Murphy explained. One of his neighbors had to go to Tallahassee because his mother-in-law was in the hospital. “It was a family emergency,” Murphy said, and the neighbor would have spent 18 hours on the road if he had driven. “I offered him the use of my airplane, and it was five hours. He spent a few hours in the hospital and we came back the same day.”