United Airlines First Officer Eric Short was making his usual 1 a.m. arrival on a trip from San Francisco to Washington’s Dulles International Airport. But he had one more stop after that. With assistance from United, the stop was carefully coordinated by AOPA staffers on a mission: to inform Short that he was the winner of AOPA’s 2011 Crossover Classic sweepstakes.
Choreographing anything in the middle of the night can be a challenge, but with the help of a network of willing accomplices all the elements of the plan came together. An AOPA staffer with connections at United learned of Short’s schedule. United’s Dulles Operations staff agreed to pick up Short right at his arrival gate, and then drive him—along with the captain of the flight—to the Signature fixed base operator on the field. Short thought nothing of the shuttle van’s atypical routing on the airport grounds. “Some of these roads are flooded,” he was told, and so a different path had to be taken. And it made sense. The Washington area had been experiencing days of heavy rains. It was only when the van pulled to a stop on the Signature apron that Short sensed things weren’t quite right.
His confusion grew when the van pulled up in front of two massive hangar doors. As the doors rumbled open AOPA President Craig Fuller emerged—trailed by a video crew, greeted Short inside the van, and told him he was the winner of the fully refurbished and restored 1974 Cessna 182P. Understandably bewildered, Short was led into the hangar. There, bathed in spotlights, was the Crossover Classic. Eventually, Short cracked a smile, and then beamed with the realization that he had in fact won.
“A few minutes ago, we were flying 200 people,” he said. “And now here I am with a new airplane!”
Short, who lives in Paulden, Ariz., has spent his life in aviation and served a 20-year stint in the Air Force. A son followed in his footsteps, who graduated from the U.S. Air Force Academy and is currently flying in the Air Force.
By 2:30 a.m. the festivities were over and Short went to his hotel to rest up for the next day’s trip back to California. But more milestones were to come. Short and his family arrived in Hartford on Sept. 22 and appeared on stage with Fuller and FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt at the opening session Friday morning.
“I’d like to explain that deer-in-the-headlights look,” he said. “I have been an AOPA member since I was 17 and have wished and hoped to win. But this year I haven’t been following the sweepstakes; I didn’t know the airplane. My son had just told me about the 2012 sweepstakes and I thought, ‘Is it the Husky?’ but I am pretty happy it’s the 182—it’s better than flying the Triple 7!”
“Don’t get me in trouble with Boeing!” Fuller replied.
It won’t be long before the Crossover Classic finds its way to its new home—most likely at the Ernest A. Love Field in Prescott, Ariz.
In sum, a fine airplane is finally matched up with a quality winner. It’s a fitting finale to the year-long restoration-and-upgrade process that’s transformed this very special Skylane into one of the more popular sweepstakes projects AOPA has ever pursued.
And for the other 399,999 or so AOPA members, who didn’t win this year, there’s always the 2012 Tougher than a Tornado Husky! They’ll find out if they’ve won at next year’s AOPA Aviation Summit, Oct. 11 through 13, 2012, in Palm Springs, Calif.