The first Minnesota Pilots Association Great Aviation Gathering on March 21 and 22 welcomed more than 800 attendees who had access to aviation seminars, exhibits, and opportunities for pilots and nonpilots. AOPA participated in and helped sponsor the event, created to allow residents to learn more about general aviation in Minnesota.
Randy Corfman, who spearheaded the effort, is president of the Minnesota Pilots Association Board, which was created on April 1, 2013. “I speak annually at the Montana Aviation Conference, where I was struck that Minnesota had nothing like this,” he said. “We also didn’t have any other pilot associations outside of AOPA.”
The goal was first to create a statewide organization for pilots who might fall through the cracks between AOPA and the Experimental Aircraft Association, said Corfman. “Second, we wanted to create an annual event to promote camaraderie, safety and education for pilots,” said Corfman. “We worked aggressively to hold our first event in 2014.”
Corfman credited AOPA Alaska Regional Manager Tom George with helping to create the annual gathering. “I spoke at the Great Alaska Aviation Gathering. After the event, I told Tom what I wanted to do in Minnesota,” he said. “Tom spoke to me for three hours on how to do it. He was invaluable in getting the event off the ground.”
When he arrived at the event on March 21, Corfman wasn’t sure how many people would attend. “We had 300 people on the first day and even more on Saturday,” he said. He credited AOPA with being a sponsor of the gathering, along with Great Lakes Regional Manager Bryan Budds for helping to spread the word.
More than 30 exhibitors covered a variety of aviation businesses. The gathering also featured seminars on topics including air traffic control operations, aircraft engines, and emergency survival. AOPA President Mark Baker stopped by, greeting attendees as he toured the event.
“We wanted attendees to walk away with an appreciation that there are other pilots who are excited and concerned with aviation in our state, and we accomplished that,” said Corfman. “We had so many positive comments on how this event was needed. Many people already want to be involved next year and are asking how they can help.”