Noting that safety education is no fair weather friend, South Carolina Aviation Association officials said Sept. 29’s drizzle did little to dampen the enthusiasm for knowledge among those attending the final day of the Southeast Aviation Expo at South Carolina’s Greenville Downtown Airport. Hundreds of pilots from throughout the Southeast attended the event, which provided some 15 hours of safety seminars and time to peruse the wares of nearly 50 exhibitors.
Safety topics ranged from engine maintenance by Lycoming to ways to become a safer pilot. AOPA President Craig Fuller capped off the event the afternoon of Sept. 29 with a keynote address where he relayed the state of general aviation affairs in regard to a wide-ranging series of topics, from the challenges of building the pilot population to his days flying a Cessna Cutlass in support of his growing business in California in the 1970s.
Fuller said one of GA’s biggest challenges is stemming the decline in the pilot population and keeping today’s pilots engaged. To that end, he gave the group an advance look at the Center to the Advance the Pilot Community, a new entity the association will detail at AOPA Aviation Summit in Palm Springs, Calif., Oct. 11 through 13. The center’s goals are multi-faceted, but all focused on decreasing the student pilot drop-out rate and keeping pilots in the air longer and more often. The center is the next step in AOPA’s three-year-old Flight Training Initiative. More details about the center’s goals will be released at Summit. However, Fuller noted that flying clubs will play an important role in rebuilding airport social communities, something student pilots and active pilots have told the association is sorely lacking at most fields. AOPA announced earlier this summer that it had formed a steering committee of 11 flying clubs to help guide the association’s work in understanding best practices and ways to share those best practices with all clubs.
The need for leadership in advancing such causes has never been greater, he said. “Pilots should recognize that what made has made AOPA the 70-plus-year success it has become is not what will propel it forward for another 70 years.” The association is moving in new directions, necessary for its success and for the success of GA in the future, he reiterated. “You will hear this story retold many times in the coming months as we lay out a plan for new growth.”