Blue skies and temperatures in the 70s greeted the more than 2,250 visitors to the third 2014 AOPA Fly-In in Plymouth, Massachusetts, July 12.
“It’s a beautiful day in Massachusetts!” declared AOPA President Mark Baker to a packed crowd at his Pilot Town Hall, which capped off a day that couldn’t have been more perfect for a fly-in. The quintessential New England airport welcomed its guests with an early morning breakfast, with pancakes and sausage patties for the early risers who enjoyed a crisp Northeast morning. That started a day in New England that could have been carved out of a Currier and Ives print.
Aircraft of every shape and size—including more than a few seaplanes—arrived all morning. Those hearty New England souls who know the joy of camping under a wing on a full-moon night had arrived Friday evening and pitched tents; more than 45 campers were on the field.
It wasn’t just bucolic skies and camaraderie that enticed the many visitors, but food, fun, and a chance to discuss aviation issues with Baker and staff. Food trucks from the New England area descended on the field. Seven trucks offering a variety of food—from local seafood to Asian specialties—was offered free to AOPA members and their families. The seafood truck sold out but dashed away to bring back more.
Because of the regionality of the event, it was evident that many members knew one another. Old friends greeted one another and swapped hangar flying stories. New friends remarked on the fun of having an event within easy reach.
“This is fantastic,” said Chris Willenborg, Massachusetts state aeronautics administrator. “Massachusetts is so happy to be selected for this event.” He brought his daughter Amelia, 10, who said she was having a great day, too, Her favorite activity was sitting in a helicopter.
Close to 500 aircraft flew in to Plymouth and reliever airport Taunton Municipal for the event. Some 36 exhibitors also were in attendance, and more than 260 volunteers in addition to AOPA staff conducted the event.
At midday, all eyes turned to the sky as Mike Goulian, the airshow performer who is based at Plymouth, whipped his Extra up, up, and over the crowd, providing a superb demonstration of aerobatic skill. The many children in the crowd shouted, “Where is he? Where is he?” as Goulian darted through the puffy clouds. Then, “I see him! I see him!” to cheers and laughter.
Meanwhile, seminars were packing in attentive listeners. From AOPA Foundation President Bruce Landsberg to AOPA Senior Editor Dave Hirschman, the expert seminars provided great educational opportunities throughout the day. Friday evening, the AOPA program for “Rusty Pilots” hosted 75 people planning to knock the rust off and get back into flying.
Baker concluded the day with his Pilot Town Hall meeting. He acknowledged a number of issues currently concerning the association, such as third class medical reform, threats of user fees and illegal search and seizure, and the recent dues increase. First, though, he honored a 55-year member with a framed photograph of his own Beech 18, photographed for the cover of AOPA Pilot magazine.
Baker introduced AOPA Eastern Regional Manager Sean Collins. Collins said, “The Northeast is truly a great place for aviation.”
“We think these fly-ins are what you want,” Baker said. “We want to reach into the community; give you what you want—a low-cost local event. I hope you’re glad we came.” The resounding applause indicated everyone was.
The next AOPA Fly-In will be held in Spokane, Washington, Aug. 16.