AOPA President Phil Boyer and Lois Boyer, accompanied by Senior Vice President of Membership Karen Detert and Marsha Mason-Theis of membership marketing, AOPA Pilot Managing Editor Mike Collins, and Pilot editor Pete Bedell (who managed the remake of the Ultimate Arrow), presented the keys Saturday, February 7, at nearby Norwood Memorial Airport in Norwood, Massachusetts.
In a first, Perrone was not told in advance that he was the winner. AOPA Communications arranged to “videotape a segment for an upcoming AOPA video on Project Pilot” to get Perrone to the airport and on-camera.
With cameras rolling and Perrone busy telling the story of his young flying career, Phil Boyer pulled up behind him in the Ultimate Arrow while video cameras captured the winner’s surprised expression. Other AOPA staff pulled up in a car labeled “AOPA Surprize Squad” to complete the “take-off” on American Family Publishers’ live TV sweepstakes awards.
Perrone just completed his 1,000th hour as a pilot and is building hours for an airline flying career. He recently took a break from flight instructing at Hanscom Field, Bedford, Mass., to finish his ratings. He earned his multiengine rating just last week and will continue on to MEI, CFII, and more hour-building.
He has been an AOPA member since 1992.
After completing an on-camera walk-around with Phil Boyer and a briefing on his unique new aircraft from Pete Bedell, the winner called his mom and dad, who rushed to the airport. Mom arrived in tears for her son, whose economic struggle to build ratings and hours is familiar to many pilots and flight instructors. “I think you can worry less now about those college loans,” she reassured him.
It took two weeks to induce Perrone to set a date to come to the airport, since he is working several jobs to make ends meet over the slow winter flying season. During Boston’s most recent snow storm, he was totally unreachable for two days; he was out driving a snow plow!
Ironically, he told AOPA Communications Senior Vice President Drew Steketee, “Well, if you were going to give me the Ultimate Arrow, I’d sure make time to get out there!”
Of course, we couldn’t reveal the truth and spoil the on-camera surprise, so we could only agree to wait for the fortuitous combination of the winner’s availability, an opening on Phil’s schedule, and bright and sunny mid-winter weather in New England to make Saturday, February 7, a special day for one young AOPA member and his family.
The other challenge was keeping word of the Ultimate Arrow’s presence at Norwood a secret. Although after a nighttime arrival it was hustled to a dark, remote parking spot and later into the Eastern Air Center hangar, it was spotted by a TV station traffic reporter and by two line personnel, who—after jumping up and down in excitement—were convinced to calm down and not tell anyone.
The actual presentation would be at the other end of the field at Wiggins Airways, where they were expecting merely a Saturday-morning videotaping project. It wasn’t until the Arrow was pulled from the EAC hangar 15 minutes prior to the noontime presentation that word begin to spread and a small but delighted crowd gathered at Wiggins, hoping they might be witnessing the presentation of AOPA’s sweepstakes grand prize. They were right, but the winner never caught on.
February 7, 1998