Arrive enthused, depart entertained and informed: That’s what thousands of pilots and friends of aviation did on the weekend of July 9 by dropping in at Gould-Peterson Municipal Airport in Tarkio, Mo., for the Wing Nuts Flying Circus, which is held at the field every other year.
A barbecued dinner Friday evening and an airshow on Saturday were on the schedule along with a town hall meeting attended by about 150 pilots, in which AOPA President Craig Fuller and leaders of other aviation associations joined Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.), as well as Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), to share the latest news on the big issues facing general aviation. Tarkio alternates as the event’s venue with Rosecrans Memorial Airport in St. Joseph, Mo. During the off-years, Tarkio still celebrates aviation with a fly-in on the second Saturday in July.
Organizers said the 2011 event could not have gone better—right down to perfect weather.
“I think our motto, ‘the greatest little airshow,’ says it best,” said spokesman Brooks Hurst. Even the weather was “just unbelievable” on the heels of heavy rains, and “it was just gorgeous the day of the show,” he said.
Hurst said he feels “very blessed” at the quality of the airshow acts who come to perform at the show—and every act dazzled an audience that was treated to a wide variety of airshow performances ranging from museum pieces to military to the modern.
Although the core group that comes out to Tarkio hails from a 60-mile radius by car and about 200 miles for those who fly in, the Flying Circus also draws people new to aviation, and “it’s great seeing people that haven’t been to an airshow and how impressed they are,” Hurst said.
Rep. Sam Graves introduced the leadership of the GA groups. From far left: EAA President Rod Hightower, AOPA President Craig Fuller, NBAA President Ed Bolen, GAMA President Pete Bunce, HAI Executive Vice President Ed DiCampli (not visible), NATA President Jim Coyne, and Rep. Bill Shuster.
The hangar doors were open and aircraft engines provided the background music as Graves introduced the leadership of the general aviation groups at the town hall meeting.
Fuller recognized Graves’ contribution to GA in Washington, D.C., where he serves as co-chair of the House GA Caucus. Fuller briefed the audience on the ongoing public- and private-sector effort to compel the Federal Communications Commission to revoke the conditional approval it gave communications company LightSquared to develop a mobile network that poses a threat to GPS. Testing has confirmed concerns that LightSquared’s planned use of radio spectrum proximate to GPS frequencies, and the power of its proposed ground stations, could interfere with GPS reception and in some cases overpower it completely.
As part of the necessary actions, Fuller said, Congress should begin an investigation of how such an unwise proposal got so far along the path to approval before a multi-industry protest focused attention on technical problems that threaten the foundation of the GPS-based Next Generation air transportation system.
He pointed out the importance of general aviation having a strong voice in Washington, through such elected representatives as Missouri’s Graves.
“All of us in general aviation are fortunate to have someone in Congress who serves his constituents while at the same time co-chairing the General Aviation Caucus in the House of Representatives,” Fuller wrote in his blog about the Tarkio event.
Addressing a question from the audience, Fuller said that a dialog had been entered with the FAA about abolishing the third-class medical certificate, which is required for private pilots. The FAA has been reluctant to consider the proposal, he said, even though AOPA believes that the facts support the idea.
Ed Bolen, president and CEO of the National Business Aviation Association, spoke up for business aviation in the face of disparaging remarks against corporate aircraft ownership by President Barack Obama during budget and deficit-reduction negotiations. The ability of companies to promptly depreciate newly purchased aircraft spurs economic activity and creates jobs in the manufacturing sector, he said. Such a provision was included in tax legislation as recently as 2010.
Bolen also thanked Graves for offering language in the FAA reauthorization bill that would preserve the Block Aircraft Registration Request (BARR) program. The Department of Transportation wants to narrow BARR to the extent that only certain security concerns would allow an aircraft owner or operator to prevent details of a flight being made public through vendors who publicize FAA flight information over the Internet.
General Aviation Manufacturers Association President and CEO Pete Bunce focused on technology and called for FAA participation as a full partner in technological advancement, given the agency’s role in certifying new products. He called on the GA community to maintain its unity during the complex transition to a lead-free avgas, avoiding tensions that could arise if a fuel solution that does not serve all users becomes the favorite of a small faction.
James Coyne, president and CEO of the National Air Transportation Association, took up the briefing on a related issue: a legal action brought against FBOs and leaded-fuel distributors in California. A coalition of those parties has countered with litigation of its own, making the case that avgas-related environmental issues are being addressed at the national level. States passing their own laws would lead to chaos.
Rod Hightower, president and CEO of the Experimental Aircraft Association (EAA), had his eye on the future in his remarks, discussing EAA’s focus on creating the next generation of aviators. It takes everyone—the organizations in attendance as well as every individual pilot—to inspire and encourage the next generation of pilots, he said.