AOPA presented an annual update on efforts to build the pilot population and the bid to pass third class medical reform during the ninth Maine Aviation Forum, hosted annually by the Owls Head Transportation Museum, on Feb. 14 at the Knox County Regional Airport in Rockland, Maine.
Sean Collins, AOPA’s eastern regional manager, represented the association at the event, which was well attended on the alternate date for the occasion as bad weather and cold lingered following a fast-moving storm.
He discussed AOPA’s You Can Fly program, efforts to build the pilot population through the promotion of flying clubs, and an initiative to help flight schools improve their customer service and business management methods.
“A regional manager attends many events, but the Maine Aviation Forum is one I always look forward to, particularly as an early kickoff to the region’s flying season,” said Collins, a Maine native. “It’s a chance to catch up with old friends and make new ones while sharing updates on what’s going on at their airports, aviation businesses, and flying clubs.”
Collins said the majority of questions he fielded from the audience focused on the prospects for third class medical reform, which took a major step forward with Senate passage of the Pilot's Bill of Rights 2 in December 2015. The measure next awaits action in the House of Representatives, where in mid-February an FAA reauthorization bill was nearing a floor vote.
As one of the first aviation get-togethers of the new year, the annual Maine forum usually brings out a broad cross-section of the local aviation industry—and the 2016 session was no exception.
Michael Lessard, an FAA Safety Team representative, gave a presentation on recent changes to how student pilot certificates are issued. He also discussed the growth of the unmanned aircraft industry.
Maine Aviation Career Education (ACE) Camp Director Peter Marucci discussed the need to publicize the camp sessions and activities in order to boost participation at the Portland and Bangor, Maine, locations.
Lou Sapienza, explorer, CEO of North South Polar Inc., and a former member of the Greenland Expedition Society, gave a presentation on the P-38 Lightning known as Glacier Girl—the aircraft recovered from a squadron of six P-38s and two B-17s that were forced to land on the Greenland ice cap in 1942. All the crewmembers survived the landing, and the P-38 was freed from the ice that had buried it 50 years after the forced landing.
“I’m always intrigued to learn more of Maine’s connections to aviation’s history and about those from the state who have served our country is varying capacities, from a Tuskegee Airmen mechanic to current astronauts, of which Maine can lay claim to two current astronauts among others through history,” Collins said. “The forum gives AOPA the opportunity to be out where our members are and hear from them directly while I get share with them all the initiatives we work on nationally and in the eastern region.”