AOPA’s fifth 2014 regional fly-in, held in Chino, California, on September 20, set records for the largest number of display aircraft to date, as well as the largest number of exhibitors. Air traffic control tracked 329 arrivals to Chino Airport during the event, which does not include based aircraft displayed at the event.
A thin cloud layer early in the day discouraged some VFR pilots, and many decided to drive to Chino instead. More than 950 cars were parked with the help of a crew of more than 300 volunteers. More than 2,400 lunches were served, most by the 13 food trucks brought to the airport for the event.
As an unexpected treat for attendees, Goodyear’s West Coast-based blimp performed a low-altitude pass.
Chuck Stuewe of Chino Hills, California—who bases his Cessna 401 at Chino—raved about the two morning seminars he attended. “I never got to go to seminars during Summit in Palm Springs or Long Beach. I was always with friends who wanted to check out the aircraft and avionics.”
The event was “super-enjoyable,” said Brittany Greer; she and her husband keep their Piper Cherokee 180 at the French Valley Airport. “It’s nice to have all these vendors in one place.”
A Pilot Town Hall with AOPA President and CEO Mark Baker concluded the day’s program. He was joined on stage by EAA Chairman Jack Pelton for a discussion about third class medical reform and other issues on which the organizations are collaborating.
Chino by the numbers
700 Pancake breakfasts
48 Exhibit booths
33 Aircraft on display
2,450 Lunches served
13 Food trucks
136 Rusty pilots learning how to get back into aviation
By Mike Collins
By Ian J. Twombly
When you think of Georgia’s Gold Coast, beautiful beaches and top-end golf come to mind. St. Simons Island and its smaller cousin Sea Island offer this, but both are a mere headline to an inviting story of fun, adventure, culture, and relaxation.
Such a unique mix of activities—from natural wonders to history and culture to great food—welcome visitors year-round to one of the country’s finest barrier islands. And the gateway to all of it is Malcolm McKinnon Airport (SSI), host of AOPA’s seventh and final fly-in of 2014.
It would be easy to dismiss St. Simons Island and SSI as a beach town and a beach airport. The beaches are wide, the water warm, and the sun bright. But St. Simons is truly a small town, with tree-lined streets, locally owned shops, and drivers who wave at one another as they pass. The difference is that they live among world-famous golf courses—there are six full PGA courses, top-ranked resorts, including two ranked within the top five nationally—and the occasional international political summit.
The airport mirrors the unique feel of the town. There are plenty of airport bums keeping seats warm every day of the week, but instead of grading only each other’s landings, they get to watch aircraft from some of the country’s biggest corporations come and go for meetings, conferences, and the occasional executive perk. Despite the sometimes high-end clientele, Golden Isle Aviation—the FBO—remains a place to chat with friends and drink a cup of coffee.
Golden Isle is helping to support Renn Gruber, a private hangar owner who is hosting events at SSI. Gruber’s impressive hangar houses his charter and managed aircraft. His is just one of many privately owned hangars on the airport. The city allows private ownership of all hangars, and collects only a modest ground lease. It’s all part of a fantastic working relationship between tenants and airport management.
The close-knit airport community is a modern rendition of what’s been happening there since it opened in 1938. From training pilots to housing German POWs and working on secret radar technology, the airport has a colorful past. It continues to thrive 76 years later, thanks to its focus on community and great service.
AOPA Fly-In takes place November 8 at Malcolm McKinnon Airport (SSI).
San Marcos Municipal Airport
(HYI)—April 26, 2014
Indianapolis Regional Airport
(MQJ)—May 31, 2014
Plymouth Municipal Airport
(PYM)—July 12, 2014
Felts Field, Spokane
(SFF)—August 16, 2014
(CNO)—September 20, 2014
Frederick Municipal Airport
(FDK)—October 4, 2014
Malcolm McKinnon Airport, St. Simons Island
(SSI)—November 8, 2014
By Ian J. Twombly
A restaurant outside Maryland known for crab cakes is a bit suspect. Ditto one purporting to serve Southern food that focuses on vegetables. But there’s nothing suspect about Barbara Jean’s Restaurant and Bar, a St. Simons Island institution.
Flying and eating go together so beautifully that websites, books, and web discussion boards are dedicated to finding the best spots. If the Gold Coast of Georgia is in your GPS, Barbara Jean’s should be your destination.
The restaurant is owned by Barbara Jean Barta and her husband, Jim. They opened the doors in 1998 after Jim ended his career with the Marine Corps as a fighter pilot. Having played the role of military wife for decades, it was time for Barbara Jean to shine, which she does brilliantly through down-home cooking honed through her years serving a pilot focus group of one.
Although you can find the standard pilot hamburger on the menu, locals and tourists flock to Barbara Jean’s for the seafood and the vegetables. Crab cakes are a specialty, but the locals also swear by the wild Georgia shrimp, a variety known for being slightly sweet. You can have them fried, on a salad, or with grits, a feast fit for a Southerner.
Don’t discount the vegetables as mere side dishes. Barbara Jean offers a selection of five that serves as a hefty entrée. With choices such as cheese grits, broccoli and rice casserole, and 17 others, there will be something you like.
If it’s more comfort food you are the mood for, selections such as meat loaf, pot roast, and chicken fried steak are excellent.
Finally, a word about drinks. Normally drinks are an afterthought, a simple quench to help cool you off. When at Barbara Jean’s, do as the locals do and skip the soda. Order the sweet tea. It is better than your aunt’s, your neighbor’s, and probably even your grandmother’s. They should bottle that stuff and sell it around the world.
Mix with the locals, support a fellow aviator’s family, and make the trip to Barbara Jean’s Restaurant and Bar. You’ll be in good company.
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