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And the winning number is ...And the winning number is ...

This was an awesome experience. Thank you, AOPA, for the best vacation that my wife and I have ever had.

It all started on October 10, 2003. I was the happiest person in the world, having just passed my instrument checkride, thanks to Shane, John, Joel, and all my great friends at Greenville Aviation, when a few weeks later, I received a certified letter from AOPA. I thought it was some sort of congratulatory letter, but it was much more than that. It all came together in the next few weeks with the help of AOPA.

Saturday, January 10, 2004, was the first day of our trip. A flight from chilly Charlotte, North Carolina, to sunny Phoenix, Arizona, and then a short drive brought us to breathtaking Sedona. Sunday we drove to the Grand Canyon and spent the day there.

Finally it was Monday morning and time for me to experience flying in a Waco. After meeting with the friendly people at Red Rock Biplanes and taking some pictures in my sharp new AOPA Waco leather jacket, it was time to take off. We taxied out, lined up, tailwheel off, then mains. Mad Duck (Eric Brunner of Red Rock Biplanes) made it look so easy. We flew south to a very busy Scottsdale airport, where we took on fuel. The Waco really drew attention.

We flew back Northwest over Lake Pleasant. I remember thinking that this was what flying is all about. The open cockpit gives you a sense of freedom. It was such a privilege to fly the Waco. Flying back toward Jerome, I was told that if you fly over a certain man's home, he will send you smoke signals! I would feel safe betting that this is the only place in the country where you can do turns on a point and get smoke signals.

As we headed back to Sedona, I realized how valuable the mountain flying course I took as a member of the Civil Air Patrol of Greenville, South Carolina, was.

We entered the pattern and landed (another great one, Mad Duck). My heart sank as we taxied back and turned off the engine. Sadly it was over. This was truly unforgettable.

What a thrill it would be to call Eric for flight training as the lucky winner of the AOPA Waco UPF-7. I would definitely keep it! Thank you, Phil Boyer and the AOPA staff, for the ride of a lifetime and for all you do for general aviation.

One Happy Pilot,
Roger Sayers

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