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CalPilots AirFest 2017: Camaraderie, education, inspirationCalPilots AirFest 2017: Camaraderie, education, inspiration

Founded in 1949, the California Pilots Association's (CalPilots) mission is to preserve, protect, and promote California's airports and pilots' rights. To that end, the association had its annual meeting and convention, AirFest, Oct. 13 and 14 at historic San Carlos Airport.

CalPilots President Carol Ford, AOPA President Mark Baker and AOPA Western Pacific Regional Manager Melissa McCaffrey. Photo by Jolie Lucas.

San Carlos Airport is the perfect example of a general aviation airport. Established during World War I, the airport (in its present location since 1948) is a reliever for San Francisco International, serves the Bay Area’s thriving business community, and provides educational and emergency services to the surrounding local communities.

AirFest began with a standing-room-only reception at a nearby restaurant featuring a keynote address by AOPA President Mark Baker. The intimate setting of the gathering allowed CalPilots members a chance to connect as well as share compliments and concerns with Baker. Also on hand was AOPA Western Pacific Regional Manager Melissa McCaffrey. The crowd was delighted to hear remarks from Baker that highlighted airport advocacy, the fight against so-called air traffic control privatization, third class medical reform progress, and potential changes to the light sport aircraft category. It was a rare treat for members to be able to have an intimate conversation with AOPA leadership, and they took full advantage.

Saturday’s weather was perfect for the full day of well-attended FAA Safety Team seminars, presentations, and networking opportunities. ACI Jet, which operates several California fixed-base operations, was the premier sponsor for AirFest. Vendors included AOPA, Pacific Coast Avionics, Air Galore, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, Signature, ArtCraft Paint, Disaster Airlift Response Teams, and ACI. Watsonville Airport Manager Rayvon Williams spoke about his experience with DART, which assisted communities devastated by the recent wildfires, and encouraged attendees to spread the word and help inspire more pilots to participate. Highlighting the role of GA airports in disaster response is an important element to building public support, and airport advocacy was one of the main themes of the weekend.

Photo by Jolie Lucas.

Studies have confirmed the financial benefits of GA airports as regional economic engines. Attendees learned more about the importance of airports and how to build public support for them during a panel discussion featuring McCaffrey, Williams, CalPilots Legal Counsel Karl Schweikert, CalPilots Director Andy Wilson, and CalPilots President Carol Ford.

Photo by Jolie Lucas.

Gary Cathey, chief of the Caltrans Division of Aeronautics, reminded attendees that airports serve as an alternate means of travel and are as important as the highway system serving the community and deserve just as much attention and reasonable funding.

AirFest attendees came away from the weekend armed with new connections, ideas for advocacy, a goody bag stocked with fun items for the aviation lover, and a renewed sense of inspiration to share the love of flight.

— By Jolie Lucas

Topics: Events, Aviation Organizations

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