More than 500 members of the Montana aviation community turned out to "fly the Big Sky" by attending the thirty-first annual Montana Aviation Conference in Missoula Feb. 26 through 28.
AOPA is a platinum sponsor of the event, organized by the Montana Aeronautics Division to bring aviation enthusiasts together with representatives of associations, general aviation and commercial airports, state transportation, and elected officials for three days of education, social activities and discussions.
National, regional, and local aviation issues were in the spotlight as the aviation associations brought pilots up to date on the state of Montana aviation in 2015, said David Ulane, AOPA’s Northwest Mountain regional manager. Ulane and Bob Lamond, director of air traffic services and infrastructure for the National Business Aviation Association, presented a briefing on the Air Force’s proposed Powder River Training Complex, for which both associations have been pressing for action on general aviation’s concerns.
With the newly introduced Pilots Bill of Rights 2, which would reform the third class medical process for pilots, adding co-sponsors in the U.S. Senate, Ulane met with staffers from the Kalispell and Butte offices of Sen. Jon Tester (D-Montana), an initial co-sponsor of the legislation. Montana’s other U.S. senator, Steve Daines (R-Montana) also is a co-sponsor.
Tom George, AOPA’s Alaska regional manager, gave a presentation on Alaska’s flight service and satellite tracking technologies. He and Ulane hosted a breakfast meeting of AOPA Airport Support Network volunteers, who shared details of news and events at their local airports.
Local news media coverage of the conference focused on its aviation education opportunities in an article highlighting pilot and middle school teacher Kay Ebelt’s "Take Off With Aviation Education" presentation to seventh graders from a local school.
Ulane and George were joined in manning AOPA’s information booth by longtime Montana aviation community members Mike and Jeannie Ferguson. Mike Ferguson is a former AOPA regional representative who founded Montana’s aviation conference during his tenure as director of the Montana Aeronautics Division.
Participating aviation organizations included the Montana Antique Aircraft Association, Montana Airport Management Association, the Montana Pilots Association, the Montana Seaplane Pilots Association, and the Montana Community Airports Association.
"AOPA’s engagement and support of this event is a great example of how we reach out to our members where they live and fly, keeping them updated on AOPA efforts and initiatives, and listening to their input and feedback," Ulane said.
The next Montana Aviation Conference will take place in the state capital of Helena Feb. 25 to 27, 2016.