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Prescott Fly-In sets new record

More than 6,300 attend

AOPA set a new fly-in attendance record Oct. 1, with more than 6,300 people coming to the association’s fourth and final 2016 Regional Fly-In, which was at Ernest A. Love Field in Prescott, Arizona. Some 565 aircraft flew in to the event, not quite reaching the aircraft record set earlier this year in Bremerton, Washington; 2,160 automobiles arrived at the airport. An estimated 275 volunteers shared their time to make the event happen.

  • Melissa Andrzejewski, who attended Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University's Prescott campus, prepares to cut a ribbon during the university's annual homecoming weekend aerial demonstration. Photo by Mike Collins.
  • Airshow performers Skip Stewart and Melissa Andrzejewski fly a formation pass after their two-ship airshow. Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University marks its annual homecoming weekend with an aerial demonstration. Photo by Mike Collins.
  • A large crowd watches an aerial demonstration presented by Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, a traditional part of its annual homecoming weekend. The university is celebrating its ninetieth anniversary this year. Photo by Mike Collins.
  • Aircraft in the camping area are silhouetted against a dramatic high-desert sunset during AOPA's Prescott Fly-In. Photo by Mike Collins.
  • Bill Waldock explains an accident scenario, re-created in Embry Riddle Aeronautical University's Robertson Accident Investigation Laboratory, to AOPA Prescott Fly-In attendees touring the facility Friday. Photo by Mike Collins.
  • Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University professor Bill Waldock explains a re-reated aircraft accident to AOPA Fly-In attendees taking a tour of ERAU's Robertson Accident Investigation Laboratory--better known as the "crash lab." Photo by Mike Collins.
  • The sun sets behind the large aircraft camping area at AOPA's Prescott Fly-In. Photo by Mike Collins.
  • The sun sets behind static display aircraft, positioned and ready for the opeing of AOPA's 2016 Prescott Fly-In. Photo by Mike Collins.
  • Aircraft campers greet the dawn at AOPA's Prescott Fly-In. Photo by Mike Collins.
  • Jay Burris of Houston enjoys the quiet of the early morning after camping beside his Baron 58 at AOPA's Prescott Fly-In. Burris is a member of the American Bonanza Society board of directors. Photo by Mike Collins.
  • Bill Roberts polishes the propeller of Brent Barton's gleaming 1946 Beech 18 at AOPA's 2016 Prescott Fly-In. Behind him, attendees make their way to the pancake breakfast. Photo by Mike Collins.
  • A Commemorative Air Force crewman, left, explains the TBM Avenger cockpits to Prescott Fly-In visitors. Photo by Mike Collins.

Contributing to the high attendance were Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University’s Prescott campus, which was celebrating its annual homecoming weekend, and strong local support. ERAU hosted a static aircraft display adjacent to the AOPA aircraft display, and also presented an hour-long aerial demonstration at noon.

The Prescott Fly-In pushed cumulative attendance above 40,000 for the 16 Regional Fly-Ins that AOPA has held since 2014. Through the Battle Creek Fly-In on Sept. 17, 37,460 aviation-minded people had attended an AOPA Regional Fly-In; the three-year total is now 43,760.

Jerry McMillan of Prescott was one of those volunteers, helping marshal aircraft into the aircraft camping area on Friday morning. “You’ve got to help,” he said, “especially since it’s local.”

Friday afternoon, early arrivals had an opportunity to tour the Robertson Aircraft Accident Investigation Laboratory—better known as the “Crash Lab”—at nearby Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, where professor Bill Waldock and some of his students explained several accident scenarios. The facility includes re-creations of more than a dozen general aviation aircraft accidents, and is used to teach accident investigation skills to ERAU students and industry professionals. “Most of those accidents resulted from the same cause—bad decisions,” he said. “How many of you own airplanes?” A number of hands went up. “Watch out for situations where you try to save the airplane—and possibly sacrifice your passengers.”

Learning about the crash dynamics and understanding what happened was interesting, said Ed DiEnno of Tucson, Arizona. “The biggest thing is to see there’s a lesson in every one.”

“It was a good tour, but it would have been better without the rain,” said Bill Talman of Knoxville, Tennessee, who flew to Prescott in his Piper Turbo Lance. A late-season monsoonal shower moved through during the tour.

Steve Crouse of Chandler, Arizona, has read accident stories for 40 years and also appreciated the tour. “I was always fascinated to learn what went wrong,” he said. “To be able to see some of that firsthand was well worth coming up a day early.” It was Crouse’s first opportunity to camp with his Cessna 172. “This is really a fun change, because you’re right on the airport.”

Nearby, Jay Burris of Houston, Texas, pitched a tent beside his Beech Baron 58—also for the first time. “We’re just having a great time and enjoying the weather,” he said. “It’s a gorgeous place.”

Steve Manweiler of Valley Center, Kansas, said flying his Vans RV-6 to Prescott for the event was well worth the trip. “It was really great,” said Manweiler, who watched a demonstration of AOPA’s Internet Flight Planner. He said he also enjoyed aviation author and humorist Rod Machado’s morning talk—and then raced off to catch Machado’s afternoon presentation.

As part of its annual homecoming celebration, Embry-Riddle presented an aerial demonstration at noon. Melissa Andrzejewski, an alumna of the university’s Prescott campus, flew a solo act in her Zivko Edge 540, followed by Skip Stewart in his modified Pitts S-2S biplane and Bill Stein, also flying an Edge 540. Then, after a brief demonstration by members of ERAU’s national champion collegiate flight team in a Cessna 150—prized by the flight team for its 40 degrees of flap travel—Andrzejewski and Stewart performed a dramatic two-ship routine.

The event concluded with an ice cream social following AOPA President Mark Baker’s Pilot Town Hall. “What do you think of these fly-ins?” Baker asked to open the session, eliciting rousing applause. “There will be four more in 2017 that we’ll be announcing in a couple of months.”

Baker and other AOPA leaders—joined by Jack Pelton, leader of the Experimental Aircraft Association, as they have at all of this year’s AOPA Fly-Ins—took questions on getting young people into aviation, third class medical reform, user fees, and the Santa Monica airport.

U.S. Rep. Paul Gosar (R-Ariz.), whose district includes Prescott, also addressed the audience. Gosar is a member of the House General Aviation Caucus and was an early supporter of third class medical reform. “You have to get involved,” he told the crowd. He suggests watching out for new government fees and charges—depending on which candidate is elected this November, he said, there could be a push to increase collections. The best way to head off such changes, he said, is for pilots to get to know their representatives and senators. “AOPA and other organizations do a great job,” he explained, “but there’s nothing like looking a voter in the eye.”

  • AOPA's Sarah Staudt briefs afternoon airside volunteers at AOPA's Prescott Fly-In. Photo by Mike Collins.
  • Volunteer Jerry McMillan of Prescott, Arizona, marshals an aircraft into the camping area at AOPA's Prescott Fly-In. Photo by Mike Collins.
  • Airside volunteers share a laugh after positioning a Piper Comanche in the static display. A rainbow gives evidence of an afternoon rainshower. Photo by Mike Collins.
  • Pilots listen to the country band Three Horse Town during the Barnstormers Party at AOPA's Prescott Fly-In. Photo by Mike Collins.
  • A young guest dances to the music of Three Horse Town, during the Barnstormers Party at AOPA's 2016 Prescott Fly-In. Photo by Mike Collins.
  • The Phoenix band Three Horse Town performs at the Prescott Fly-In's Barnstormers Party. A Beech Staggerwing serves as a backdrop. Photo by Mike Collins.
  • AOPA President Mark Baker talks with attendees during the Friday night Barnstormer's Party at AOPA's 2016 Prescott Fly-In. Photo by Mike Collins.
  • Aviation author and humorist Rod Machado entertains an audience from the main stage at AOPA's Prescott Fly-In. Photo by Mike Collins.
  • AOPA's Eric Rush demonstrates AOPA's Internet Flight Planner to Mick Harrison of Prescott, Arizona, and Steve Manweiler of Valley Center, Kansas. They visited the AOPA Village at AOPA's Prescott Fly-In. Photo by Mike Collins.
  • Dave Montague of Flagstaff, Arizona, left, talks with two members of Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University's national championship flight team. Matthew Hallock, center, is a senior from Oakland, California; Maddy Mearsch, right, is a junior form Orange County, California. Photo by Mike Collins.
  • Children use water-based paint and markers to decorate Safe Launch's Cessna 182. Honoring young people who have died from substance abuse, the airplane is decorated repeatedly by young people, who then get an anti-drug message. Photo by Mike Collins.
  • AOPA President Mark Baker shares the latest on third class medical reform during his Pilot Town Hall at AOPA's Prescott Fly-In. Photo by Mike Collins.
Mike Collins

Mike Collins

Technical Editor
Mike Collins, AOPA technical editor and director of business development, died at age 59 on February 25, 2021. He was an integral part of the AOPA Media team for nearly 30 years, and held many key editorial roles at AOPA Pilot, Flight Training, and AOPA Online. He was a gifted writer, editor, photographer, audio storyteller, and videographer, and was an instrument-rated pilot and drone pilot.
Topics: AOPA Events, Fly-in

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