Two great celebrations of aviation—one to bring pilots in the Great Lakes region together, and the other to raise awareness of airports’ importance to the communities they serve—will intersect Sept. 17 when the Michigan Air Tour touches down in Battle Creek, Michigan, during the AOPA Fly-In at the W. K. Kellogg Airport.
The 2016 Michigan Air Tour is a three-day event organized by the nonprofit, volunteer-run Michigan Aviation Association.
The event, which spotlights airport operators and supporters “for establishing and maintaining an aerial gateway to their communities,” will be flown Sept. 16 through 18, with participating pilots making stops at Grand Haven Memorial Airport in Grand Haven, W. K. Kellogg Airport in Battle Creek during the AOPA Fly-In, Wexford County Airport in Cadillac, and Mackinac County Airport in St Ignace.
At each stop, air tour pilots visit the communities served by the airports, become acquainted with local residents, and patronize local businesses.
“Emphasis has been placed on showing the communities that their airport has an economic value. As the Tour pilots visit restaurants, gift shops, museums, and hotels, they leave the MAT message. The Tour director provides participants with cards that say things like 'we were here because your city/town has an airport,'" Rebecca Duggan, president of the Michigan Aviation Association, wrote in an email.
Pilots wear name badges while visiting communities, further prompting curiosity from residents and business people.
This year, the organizers arranged the tour to give participants an opportunity to attend the AOPA Fly-In after arriving in Battle Creek on Sept. 17.
“This way, you will be able to make the most of your flying weekend while promoting and supporting aviation in Michigan,” according to the Michigan Aviation Association's website.
The AOPA Fly-In will kick off the evening of Sept. 16 with a Barnstormers Party, and will continue all day Sept. 17, with activities including a Pilot Town Hall with AOPA President Mark Baker, aircraft displays, scores of exhibits, and a packed seminar schedule.
The Michigan Air Tour dates to 1929. Modified over the years from its original format as a weeklong event, the tour is flown over a different route each year, VFR only, and includes a presentation on the economic importance of local airports at each stop.
The organizers hope that participating pilots, who include many Canadian aviators, will return to the communities they visit later on personal outings or vacations.
The Michigan Air Tour also helped create the grant-making nonprofit Michigan Aviation Education Foundation, which was founded in 1992 to promote and advance aviation and aerospace education within the state.