Michael Bush has been an AOPA member since 2009 and was one of the winners at the AOPA Foundation’s annual “Night for Flight” auction. He bid $2,901 to go on a T-6 flight with country music legend Aaron Tippin.
Bush said he got a late start in aviation. “I’m an aviation newbie, but an old guy, aged 51. I was busy raising and family and running a business,” he said. “I started taking flight lessons about four years ago and got my certificate in December 2009 out of Georgia’s Gwinnett County Airport-Briscoe Field.” He owns a 1997 Cessna Skyhawk 172R.
Bush had two reasons why he wanted to bid on this particular auction item. “First, it was Aaron Tippin. He’s well-known in country music circles. He’s also a good guy who sings songs about America and patriotism,” he said. “Second, it was my chance to fly in a T-6 Texan, which was a piece of history. It’s a warbird that aviators used in World War II. I wanted to fly in a piece of history and with Aaron Tippin.”
Tippin said it took three tries to schedule the flight with Bush. “The previous two times we were not able to meet due to the weather or my schedule. I had my publicist call Mike the night before to confirm the flight,” he said.
The day of the flight, Tippin had an engagement in the morning. “I called Mike to let him know that I would be there shortly and to tell him to hang out in the lounge at the airport with my pals Jim and Dallas from Upper Cumberland Regional Airport (SRB) in Sparta, Tennessee,” he said. “I knew they would take good care of him till I arrived.”
Bush and his fiancé flew in, secured his plane, and walked into the FBO. “Word had spread that Tippin’s guests were coming and everyone knew who we were,” he said. “So we chatted with the people in the hangar, then Tippin pulled up in a van,” he said. “He waved us out and we joined him in the van. He took us to his hangar and we saw the T-6 Texan and Aaron gave us the history of it.”
Once they were in the air, Bush said Tippin allowed him to take the controls for 20 minutes. “We toured Middle Tennessee as well as Center Hill Lake and the beautiful surrounding Cumberland Mountains,” said Tippin.
After landing, Tippin asked Bush if his fiancé wanted to fly. “I thought it was neat that Mike was willing to give up a half hour of his time in order to let her fly some too,” said Tippin.
“After the rides were over I decided to give them a special Middle Tennessee thrill. I took them to my favorite burger place, Flippin Burgers, in Cookeville, Tennessee,” said Tippin.
Bush said all the locals knew Tippin, and he and his fiancé had a great time. “It was the best hamburger I ever had,” he said.
The day ended with a private hangar party with Tippin, his wife, one of his sons, and some of the local people, said Bush. “That was it. I had a great ride in a vintage World War II trainer with a great pilot and a great community. I could not ask for a better day.”
Tippin is happy to be involved with AOPA. “I am just like any other aviator. I’m always looking for organizations that are going to look out for the interest of pilots, aircraft owners, and mechanics,” he said. “AOPA is one of the leaders in aviation that does just that for general aviators.
“I am very passionate about aviation and the importance of preserving community airports and encouraging folks to learn to fly,” said Tippin. “I want to see the future of general aviation survive for future generations.”