Who wouldn’t enjoy giving away an airplane? The day I hand the keys to our sweepstakes aircraft to a new owner is always one of the best days of the year. But, in 2012, I confess it’s going to be just a bit personal. Here’s why.
For years I admired the Aviat Husky. During my travels in the Northwest, I had the chance to get up close to a few and saw that this was an aircraft I really wanted to fly. Like many of you, I got busy and put it off…and, it’s not like I spend too much time on the ground as it is now.
Then, along came Sun ’n Fun in April and I got to talking to Aviat President Stu Horn about the Husky when our good friend John McKenna, president of the Recreational Aviation Foundation (RAF), suggested it would make a great AOPA sweepstakes airplane. Then, a sudden and violent storm hit Sun ’n Fun.
We captured what happened next in what has become one of the most widely watched videos on AOPA Live. The new 2011 Aviat Husky parked in front of the RAF tent was picked up by the storm, turned 180 degrees, and backed into a curb where it bounced and rocked and rode out the high winds of the storm. At that moment, N40WY became the “Tougher than a Tornado” Husky and, with the RAF’s encouragement, we began the process of acquiring her, repairing the damage to “better than new” condition, and making her our 2012 AOPA Sweepstakes aircraft (see “ New Again,” page 87).
There is much more written about N40WY here in AOPA Pilot and at AOPA.org, as well as some great video of the Husky being flown by AOPA’s Dave Hirschman, who will travel around the country with the airplane during the next 12 months.
What I wanted to share here is our motivation.
AOPA offered its first sweepstakes airplane in the 1950s, and the modern sweeps program has been going strong since 1993. Throughout those years, the idea has been to fly, and frequently rebuild, a special aircraft—and to share that journey with our members. This year is no different. N40WY is absolutely ready to go and has in fact crisscrossed the country once. So, the focus will not be on rebuilding—it will be on fun!
The first time I saw the aircraft on display, it struck me as something that just had to be pure fun to fly. In my 40-plus years of flying, I had not flown a tailwheel aircraft, and that certainly needed to be corrected. Nor had I flown with the remarkable view you have when your passenger—if you have one—is sitting behind you!
As it turns out, about the same time we were working through the details for our Sweepstakes airplane, a low-time 1998 Aviat Husky appeared on the market. It just seemed like a great opportunity. I could have my own Husky to learn with—and I wouldn’t have to give it away in 12 months.
There is no doubt about it, these are fun aircraft to fly. I am looking forward to joining Dave and our sweepstakes airplane from time to time. Whether on pavement or the kind of grass strips the RAF is protecting around the country, we look forward to showing our members and aspiring pilots just how fun these aircraft are for those who fly them.
And that is the real mission of the AOPA sweepstakes—creating more interest in flying and showing more people that it’s within their reach.
The 2012 Sweepstakes Husky starts moving around the country in late September right after AOPA Aviation Summit in Hartford, Connecticut. So, if you see N40WY and another yellow Husky parked next to it, along with two smiling people, there is a good chance it will be Dave and me in for a visit!
I hope you enjoy a year’s worth of fun as the Husky travels around the country. We especially look forward to making it out to RAF events during the year. Then, by the time we arrive in Palm Springs next October for AOPA Summit, one of you will be a lucky winner. Good luck!
Email AOPA President Craig Fuller at [email protected].