“The results are phenomenal,” said Chris Eads, AOPA director of Outreach and Events. “In three years we’ve met more than 40,000 members, pilots, and aviation enthusiasts. It took 18 years of combined AOPA Expo and Summit conventions to meet that many. And, 74 percent of fly-in attendees had never attended a Summit or Expo.”
Eads said the change to one-day fly-in events, which began in 2014, was a result of recognizing that Expo and Summit could only reach a limited number of members, and it was expensive for members to attend—and for the association to produce. “The success is really because fly-ins are very accessible, they’re close to our members, and they are held in an airport environment,” he said.
AOPA fly-ins feature an early morning pancake breakfast, locally sourced lunch options, and an ice cream social. In addition to aircraft displays, aerobatic demonstrations at some locations, exhibitors, seminars, and product displays, the association also presents a Pilot Town Hall meeting during which AOPA President Mark Baker and other aviation leaders present the state of the industry and engage members and attendees in conversations.
“Because the entire fly-in exeperience is so inexpensive, attendees have funds to engage with a great array of exhibitors and products and services,” Eads said. “Our seminars are world class and offer nearly the same level of content as previous convention-based events.”
AOPA Fly-Ins generate goodwill and exposure for the local airports where the events take place. The 16 fly-ins held since 2014 have taken place in small and medium-size towns across the United States in states such as Washington, California, Texas, North Carolina, Colorado, Tennessee, and Massachusetts. The AOPA team spends months researching, visiting, selecting, and coordinating the events.
“We made the fly-ins about the airport, the community, and the flying,” Eads said. “The fly-ins have enabled us to build quality relationships with the communities, with the mayors, with the economic developers, and with the residents who then realize how cool airplanes and their local airport can be.”
Eads says he is most proud of the fact that AOPA Fly-Ins expose local communities to the dream and excitement of aviation.
On to 2017
As of press time, the AOPA team was in final selection of the fly-in locations for 2017. Four fly-ins will be held across the country beginning in late spring. Look for the location announcement on AOPA Online.
Building on what they have learned in the past three years, the AOPA team will expand the events, with two goals in mind: Deepening pilot skills and enhancing friendships. The 2017 fly-ins will feature an expanded workshop and clinic lineup on Fridays. In addition to the highly successful Friday night Barnstormers Party, attendees can come in early for in-depth clinics with aviation experts who will help them build their skills and confidence.
Sharing and engaging with other aviation enthusiasts will also strengthen friendships and build camaraderie. Look for more information online and in upcoming issues of AOPA Pilot.
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