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Coming home

Meeting new—and old—friends at AOPA Fly-Ins

This month, for the first time, we’ll host an AOPA Fly-In in my home town of Minneapolis, and I couldn’t be more excited.

mark bakerIt seems fitting that right on the heels of our AOPA Homecoming Fly-In, I’m getting the chance to bring a fly-in home. This month, for the first time, we’ll host an AOPA Fly-In in my home town of Minneapolis, and I couldn’t be more excited (see “Pilot Briefing: Fly-Ins,” starting on page 61).

But before I tell you more about what’s coming up, let me give you a little background on the AOPA Fly-Ins so far.

As many of you know, this is just the second year of AOPA hosting fly-in events at airports all across the country. We started it in 2014 as a way to get out and meet our members where they fly and celebrate AOPA’s seventy-fifth anniversary. We thought we might get a few hundred people to come out and spend a day with us enjoying aircraft, camaraderie, and old-fashioned fun. But we were overwhelmed by the response. During the course of our first year fly-ins, we met more than 16,000 attendees, parked almost 3,000 airplanes—and served 1,400 pounds of pancake batter and 50 gallons of syrup. Our Rusty Pilots program, which was launched alongside the AOPA Fly-Ins, helped 803 pilots return to active flying status.

When we started down this path, we thought it might be just a one-time thing—maybe we’d do it again when AOPA turns 100. But with so much enthusiasm for the idea—and more than 40 airports formally asking us to hold an event at their field—we knew we had to build on the grassroots enthusiasm we had discovered.

So far this year we’ve hosted two events—one in Salinas, California, and the other at AOPA headquarters in Frederick, Maryland. And once again, we’ve been amazed by the great response, not only in terms of the number of people and airplanes that have showed up, but also in terms of the great feedback we’ve received from people who come. Between the two fly-ins held this year, we’ve already had some 6,200 attendees flying more than 600 airplanes join us.

On August 22, we’ll be at Anoka County-Blaine Airport—a great airport and one I know well. There’s something special about being able to share AOPA with the hometown crowd. And this fly-in is going to incorporate some of my favorite things that we haven’t done before.

If you read this column regularly, you read about my favorite airplane—a Piper PA–18 Super Cub on amphibious floats (“President’s Position: Cub Effect,” March 2015 AOPA Pilot). For the first time, we’ll incorporate a seaplane base into an AOPA Fly-In. On Friday night, August 21, we’ll host a fun evening social event at Surfside Seaplane Base. With dinner, live music, lots of pilots, and, of course, seaplanes, it promises to be a great evening. Surfiside also has a grass strip, which brings that wonderful backcountry feel to an airport so close to the big city.

Saturday morning, we’ll start off with a traditional pancake breakfast to get everyone fueled for a full day of fun and learning. We’ll have a wide assortment of great seminars, ranging from the serious to the downright funny. We’ll also offer a Rusty Pilots seminar, so if you’ve been out of the cockpit for a while or know someone who has, join us and take this first step to getting back into flying. You can register on to take part in this free course. And when it’s done you can get a signoff for the ground portion of your flight review.

We’ll also have dozens of exhibitors so you can see the latest in everything from pilot gear and apps to avionics and airplanes. There’ll be a busy aircraft display so you can see some impressive aircraft, including classics, Experimentals, and new models.

Lunch will be provided by a selection of gourmet food trucks, so there’s something for everyone. And you’ll definitely want to join me for the free ice cream social sponsored by Sporty’s Pilot Shop that follows my Pilot Town Hall update on the big issues affecting GA, including third class medical reform, FAA reauthorization, the ADS-B mandate, and more.

Every fly-in is great, but this one really is something special to me. I look forward to greeting some old friends and meeting many, many new ones.

Of course, I know not everyone can get to Minnesota this month, but there are a couple more chances to catch an AOPA Fly-In in 2015. If I don’t catch you in the land of 10,000 lakes, I hope we’ll get a chance to meet September 26 at Colorado Springs Municipal Airport in Colorado, or October 10 at Tullahoma Regional Airport in Tennessee. Can’t wait to see you there!

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AOPA President Mark Baker is an active pilot and multiple aircraft owner.

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