The flaps on AOPA’s Big Yellow Tent had barely been drawn back and the morning dew wiped from the wings of the 2009 Let’s Go Flying Sweepstakes Cirrus SR22 when the first group of members arrived to kick off AOPA Day at Sun ’n Fun Fly-In in Lakeland, Fla.
A steady stream of aviation enthusiasts stopped by AOPA’s tent to meet staff members and examine the Cirrus. Even though they have been following the sweepstakes airplane’s story in AOPA Pilot they wanted to know even more about the sleek airplane: What’s the useful load with fuel? (676 pounds.) What’s the range? (1,000 miles.) What year is it? (2005.) What upgrades have you done? (Not many, because this Cirrus SR22 didn’t need them; but we did add WAAS capability to the GPS.) Many were surprised to learn that the flashy “paint scheme” of stars and “Let’s Go Flying!” that adorns the Cirrus’s fuselage is not paint at all, but actually a set of decals that can be removed at the owner’s discretion.
AOPA President Craig Fuller speaks with a member.
Later in the morning, AOPA President Craig Fuller was at the Big Yellow Tent to meet and greet members and hear their concerns. The cost of flying and the dwindling pilot population, along with the expense of aircraft in general, were key issues raised.
People came to visit with AOPA staff, but they stayed to share their stories. At AOPA’s GA Serves America display, pilots got the opportunity to talk about the importance of general aviation and the need for all Americans to understand the vital role that GA plays in the U.S. economy. Those who shared their stories on camera included a corporate pilot whose job takes him all over the United States; a retired pastor who, as a missionary pilot, took food and medical supplies to remote parts of Mexico; an animal rescue advocate whose organization relies on GA pilots to transport dogs and cats to “forever homes;” and a 14-year-old student pilot who aspires to fly for the airlines.