Scents of pancakes and sausage sizzling on charcoal grills drew 200 hungry pilots—some who had been camping out and wanted a hot meal—to an appreciation breakfast March 30 sponsored by AOPA, the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, Helicopter Association International, and Sun ‘n Fun.
GAMA President Pete Bunce, AOPA President Craig Fuller, and HAI President Matt Zuccaro gave members of the organizations an extra helping of laughs as they served pancakes and sausage before taking a break to update pilots on the latest events in the industry.
Reinhold Dresler of Waterloo, Ontario, drove 22 hours with his brother Manfred to attend Sun ‘n Fun and camp out. Dresler has been coming to Sun ‘n Fun since 1993 and brings different family members to introduce them to aviation. After camping out in a hotel Monday night to avoid the torrential rains in Lakeland, Fla., the two pitched their tent for the remainder of the week and welcomed the hot pancake breakfast—and the opportunity to meet the leaders of the GA organizations.
“He served me the pancakes, of course,” Dresler said of Fuller.
Sun ‘n Fun and the three associations used the breakfast as an opportunity to express their thanks to pilots and members. Fuller noted that it was also a great way to kick off the 2011 flying season.
Bunce updated the attendees on the success of the GA rally in Wichita, Kan., earlier this month, in which more than 2,000 employees from several aircraft manufacturers gathered at Cessna to show Department of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood the importance of GA to the national economy. Bunce explained that the secretary learned the importance of the industry and promised to have President Barack Obama visit the area next year.
The rally brought together employees from various manufacturers and aviation associations, creating a sense of unity in the industry.
Zuccaro noted the importance of collaboration in the industry, saying, “I think the big message we’re trying to get across here is we all share the same airspace.” Fuller concurred with Zuccaro, adding that the associations work closely in Washington, D.C., and that events like this breakfast give the groups and their members the opportunity to get together in a casual setting.
Rich Guilfoil of Punta Gorda, Fla., said he hopes the breakfast becomes an annual gathering for that very reason: “You gain a lot of camaraderie with other aviation enthusiasts at this type of event.”