Volumes of snow and a record cold February proved no obstacle for about 65 hardy Maine aviators, including AOPA Eastern Regional Manager Sean Collins, all of whom turned out Feb. 28 for the Eighth Annual Maine Aviation Forum at the Owls Head Transportation Museum, adjacent to the Knox County Regional Airport.
“This one-day forum, recognized by the Aero Club of New England for its commitment to promoting general aviation in Maine, gathers the leadership of the various Maine based aviation organizations together to share ideas, concerns, and information and to coordinate activities for the coming year,” said Duke Tomlin, the event’s coordinator and member of the Maine Aeronautical Advisory Board.
For Collins, attending the forum as he did in 2014 to discuss the interests and concerns of Maine pilots, the event was a homecoming, and he noted that such gatherings are “a staple” for AOPA’s state-level advocacy program and a critical way to bring grassroots aviation issues to light.
“Maine has a great aviation community,” he said. “Most who know me know that Maine is where I grew up, and still call home. The opportunity to get back to see old aviation friends and meet new ones is always a welcome outing.”
The annual event, held shortly before the spring flying season blossoms, brought together representatives of 20 aviation groups in a cross section of Maine’s diverse aviation community, some traveling from far reaches of the state to share news, swap stories, promote businesses, and announce the year’s planned events.
This year’s forum also was an opportunity for Collins to reconnect and receive an update on youth aviation education from Malcolm Brydon, coordinator of the Maine Aviation Career Education (ACE) Camp.
Known as the Ace Camp, the organization runs “a unique educational, hands-on, nation-wide program co-sponsored by the Federal Aviation Administration with outstanding support from the U.S. Military, State and local aviation businesses, general aviation, corporate aviation, seaplane pilot groups and hundreds of volunteers,” says the organization’s website.
It adds, “These camps are designed for middle and high school students who have a strong desire to learn about aviation and explore possible aeronautical careers.”
Citing his firsthand experience as an Ace camper, Collins urged aviation enthusiasts to volunteer to help pass along the aviation tradition.
“For all those who have volunteered their money, time, and energies into educating the nation’s youth on aviation, I serve as proof—as do so many of my aviation colleagues—that what started as just a summer camp for middle school kids, plants seeds and put young people on a path to careers in aviation. Programs like these are invaluable for the experiences they create,” he said.
Speakers at the forum represented the FAA’s Portland, Maine Flight Standards District Office; six Maine chapters of the Experimental Aircraft Association, the Ninety-Nines; several flying clubs; LifeFlight of Maine; the Brunswick Executive Airport; the Maine Aviation Business Association; the Seaplane Pilots Association; Maine Aeronautics Association; the Recreational Aviation Foundation; Civil Air Patrol; and the annual Wings Over Wiscasset (Maine) Veterans Appreciation Day and Air Show.
Another highlight of the mid-winter event, Tomlin noted, was “some great food from volunteer cooks.”