Two years ago, Rick Okikawa turned to Sporty’s during his quest to become a private pilot—he purchased the company’s Learn to Fly course for his ground study. In 2014, he earned his private pilot certificate and more recently turned to Sporty’s once again to purchase supplies for his flying needs. He bought a ForeFlight subscription in April, which entered him for a chance to win the 2015 Sporty’s RV-12 Sweepstakes light sport aircraft.
Sporty’s President Michael Wolf called Okikawa May 16 during the annual Sporty’s Fly-In and Open House to let him know he had won the aircraft. Broadcasting the call through a sound system for fly-in attendees to listen in on the surprise, Wolf spoke to Okikawa about his purchases and listened as the private pilot talked about using ForeFlight and flying Cessna 172s.
“Now you can fly your brand new RV-12,” Wolf said.
In disbelief, Okikawa started laughing. “This is kind of surreal,” he responded after a few moments.
Wolf assured Okikawa that he had won the Van’s Aircraft RV-12 and joked that if he needed more proof, he could call the Sporty’s hotline and ask their customer service representatives for verification.
“I’ll be pinching myself making sure I’m awake,” Okikawa continued.
“You’re a new pilot and now you have a new airplane to go along with it,” Wolf said, explaining to Okikawa that Sporty’s would work out the details for him to pick up the RV-12 and fly it back to California where he lives.
Okikawa’s elation softened the disappointment of the dozens who had gathered inside the Sporty’s facility, hoping one of them would be the winner. “Made his day, didn’t it,” Kevin Arledge mused with a smile.
Arledge, a student pilot from Hillsboro, Ohio, takes lessons at Sporty’s “every time I get a chance” because “I just like the atmosphere here.” Arledge said that some people play golf and others buy bass boats, but he prefers flying.
Sporty’s prides itself on the welcoming atmosphere, and Sporty’s Vice President John Zimmerman asked attendees to view the open house as a family gathering.
“Sporty’s is really like a family … operates like a family in a lot of ways,” Zimmerman told attendees. “I encourage you to view today as a family reunion.”
The event brought families to the Clermont County Airport in Batavia, Ohio, where Sporty’s is based. Whether sliding down a slide in the playground area or admiring aircraft on display, children seemed as excited as their parents to be spending a day at the airport. More than a dozen aircraft were on display, including an experimental Glasair GS-2 Sportsman on floats, Ohio State Highway Patrol and Civil Air Patrol Cessna 182Ts, and a Stinson Voyager. Attendees also perused vendor exhibits, attended educational seminars, picked up their free fly-in T-shirt, and enjoyed a longtime Sporty’s fly-in staple: free hot dogs.
Sporty’s annual open house isn’t the only time pilots fly in for hot dogs. The company grills “hot dogs, metts and brats” every Saturday between noon and 2 p.m. to hand out free to the Sporty’s family—pilots and customers—as a sign of the company’s appreciation.