June 7, 2004 - More than 4,700 people turned out for the 14th annual AOPA Fly-In and Open House on Saturday, June 5, despite weather that remained IFR(instrument flight rules) virtually all day.
"The enthusiasm and the passion of general aviation pilots was never more apparent than today," said AOPA President Phil Boyer. "They just refused to let the weather stop them from coming to Fly-In."
An estimated 4,500 people arrived by car throughout the day, while nearly 120 aircraft flew in Friday and Saturday. More than two thirds of the visiting aircraft arrived on Saturday in instrument conditions.
Once here, visitors crowded the big-top tent behind AOPA headquarters, sampling the wares at more than 100 vendor exhibits, and filled to capacity 11 hours' worth of seminars. Many of the vendors said business was as brisk as it might have been on a good weather day.
AOPA President Phil Boyer talked to a packed session about many of the issues facing AOPA and its members such as reducing the Baltimore-Washington Air Defense Identification Zone, Sport Pilot and the prospect of a driver's license medical, and AOPA's position on the FAA's flight service station outsourcing study. He also showed members new, greatly improved online instrument approach procedure charts that will be available with the new charting cycle and revealed that a completely revamped Flight Training Web site(flighttraining.aopa.org) would be available beginning next Friday.
The AOPA Air Safety Foundation hosted two sessions each of its popular "Single Pilot IFR" and "Maneuvering Flight" seminars. Other seminars included a session on aviation legal matters hosted by attorneys from Yodice and Associates, AOPA's independent legal counsel; how to save your life in an aviation accident; sessions on purchasing and on upgrading an aircraft; and, of course, Rod Machado's immensely popular hangar flying session, "Laugh and Learn."
By late afternoon, the rain had let up enough that visitors were able to get out and take up-close looks at more than two dozen aircraft in the static display area. The aircraft ranged from the two-seat Diamond Eclipse up to a Cessna CitationJet. The star of the show, though, was the AOPA Win-A-Twin Sweepstakes grand prize, a better-than-new 1965 Piper Twin Comanche. It sports a new custom paint scheme and brand-new panel. Now that Fly-In is over, the Win-A-Twin Twin Comanche heads off to have the interior redone. Anyone who joins or renews membership in AOPA during 2004 is automatically entered in the sweepstakes. Complete rules, eligibility requirements, and alternate methods of entry are available online.
"The whole reason for holding our Fly-In and Open House is to get to meet our members face-to-face and hear what's on their minds," said Boyer. "In fact, I had the opportunity to present a longtime member, Ike Kibbe, with his 50-year membership pin. He joined in 1947. And the best part was, he was here with his grandson, who's also a pilot and an AOPA member."
Now AOPA begins looking ahead to AOPA Expo 2004. Expo returns to the West Coast this year, October 21-23 in Long Beach, Calif. Registration begins June 9.
The more than 400,000-member Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association has been representing the interests of general aviation pilots since 1939. General aviation includes all flying except the scheduled airlines and the military. Nearly two thirds of all U.S. pilots, and three quarters of the GA pilots, are AOPA members.