It seemed only fitting that the keynote address Nov. 12 focused on the future of flight as AOPA President Craig Fuller promised that at its conclusion he would announce the winner of the Fun to Fly Remos GX, the first light sport aircraft ever given away by AOPA.
If light sport is today's future aircraft, then the three aircraft featured during the keynote are tomorrow's. And, if you ask Icon Aircraft Founder and CEO Kirk Hawkins, Terrafugia COO Anna Dietrich, and Virgin Galactic Commercial Director Stephen Attenborough, tomorrow is sooner than you can imagine.
Hawkins said his aircraft will be flying in early 2011; Dietrich said she hopes the Transition will fly at EAA AirVenture this summer; and Attenborough said he hopes the first commercial space flight will take place in 18 months. Ladies and gentlemen, the future is now.
"When you have a big idea, it’s all about the people—it's critical you get the right people involved," said Hawkins, whose Icon A5 will be "an airplane that inspires—not just aviators but the broader market." Saying that his company hasn't even begun to push the marketing efforts, Hawkins says the response to his product has been overwhelming.
"You are truly changing the face of general aviation," Fuller exclaimed.
To Dietrich, whose Transition is designed to be able to drive home from the airport, Fuller said, "What were you thinking?" The MIT graduate laughed and said that she and her team believe in the reality of a roadable aircraft. "It will be a tool, but it will also be an adventure vehicle. The power of light sport combined with automotive technology ... ."
Attenborough amazed the audience with the possibilities of commercial space travel. He talked about Richard Branson and Burt Rutan—two "kids who wanted to go into space" and the vision of the Virgin enterprise. "When the record label started an airline they said few people would fly an airline owned by a record label. Richard said, ‘Then I better build more airplanes.’"
Attenborough said Virgin is in the "final stretch" for the first commercial space flight.
Fuller announced the winner of the Remos GX—Yorke Brown of New Hampshire.
"The day you give away an airplane is a very good day," Fuller said.
Brown was presented the airplane last week in New Hampshire; his schedule prohibited him from coming to Long Beach. AOPA will fly the Remos back east to Brown after AOPA Aviation Summit. —Julie Summers Walker