The elaborate schemes that AOPA concocts to give away our sweepstakes aircraft bring to mind The Sting. In the classic 1973 film, con artists Paul Newman and Robert Redford pull off a “long con” to bilk Robert Shaw out of a sizeable amount of money. But Newman and Redford have nothing on AOPA. Senior Editor Dave Hirschman gets the credit for coming up with the gambit that lured an unsuspecting Yorke Brown to a New Hampshire airport on November 3.
Brown, a scientific and engineering consultant who lives in Etna, received an e-mail invitation from Redbird Flight Simulations President Jerry Gregoire to come out to Lebanon Municipal Airport and participate in a research study on the impact of motion simulation on ab initio flight training. Gregoire offered to show off Redbird’s newest innovation in flight simulation.
Redbird has a groundbreaking flight-simulator accessory called Parrot—an artificial-intelligence-driven radio communications training system that integrates with its simulator products. It gave our bait just the right dash of realism. Brown, a certificated flight instructor who has created flight simulation software, couldn’t resist the chance to see it for himself.
Thanks to Jerry Gregoire and Redbird Flight Simulations for pulling off this complex ruse, as well as Mid Island Air Service and John Rathmell for lending us a stand-in airplane. Their participation was key to making this announcement such a success.
Gregoire was waiting for Brown at the Signal Aviation Services FBO. He sat our winner down in front of an elaborate setup and began demonstrating the sim’s capabilities. Parrot’s virtual ATC interacts via voice with students using the sim. The pilot can talk to the computer, and it understands and replies as ATC would in actual flight situations.
Several minutes into the demonstration, the simulator announced, “Congratulations Yorke Brown, you are the winner of the 2010 AOPA Sweepstakes Remos! Enjoy your beautiful new airplane.” Just to make sure Brown got the message, the sim repeated the good news—this time in AOPA President Craig Fuller’s voice. Moments later, Fuller stepped into the room to congratulate him in person. (You can watch a video of the surprise on AOPA Live.)
The difference between The Sting and AOPA’s sweepstakes, of course, is that we go to these lengths not to cheat somebody, but to give away an airplane.
“I wondered what was going on” when Fuller entered the room, Brown said. He admitted that he hasn’t closely followed coverage of the 2010 sweepstakes in AOPA publications, because he understands the odds. Like last year’s winner of a Cirrus SR22, Brown received extra entries because he signed up for automatic annual renewal of his membership—and it was one of those additional entries that was randomly drawn.
Fuller led the winner to a picture window overlooking the ramp at Lebanon, where a Remos GX sat on display. The actual Fun to Fly—N210FN—was tucked away in a hangar at Santa Paula Airport in California, waiting to be flown to Long Beach for the opening day of AOPA Aviation Summit. But we couldn’t spring a surprise on the winner without an airplane to show him. We asked Mid Island Air Service in New York to loan us a Remos and a demo pilot for this special event. Pilot John Rathmell flew to New Hampshire from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, and made sure that the airplane was hangared out of sight. His message to AOPA staff said it all: “The fox is in the henhouse!”
Rathmell took Brown for a quick flight to allow him to get a feel for the Remos. Brown, a CFI who has one primary flight student at the moment, emerged from the airplane and said, “It flies like a dream. It’s very light on the controls, not only [in response] to what you do, but what the air does—which makes it fun.”
A member since 1986, Brown did not own an airplane at the time of our gambit. He said he loves to fly in New Hampshire. “No matter where you go, there are things to see and things to do.” Each time he takes off from the airport, he says, he looks out the window and thinks, “I’m glad I’m a pilot and I live in this airspace.”
Yorke Brown, Ph.D. is the proud new owner of the Fun to Fly Remos GX. AOPA President Craig Fuller and Jerry Gregoire, vice president of Redbird Flight Simulations congratulate the winner and Fuller and Andrew Broom, AOPA public relations and marketing vice president, hand over the keys.