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White-sand beaches, crystal-clear ocean waves, and breezes off the Gulf of Mexico—that’s Gulf Shores, Alabama, host of the final 2018 AOPA Fly-In, and your destination this October. An AOPA Fly-In is an exciting event with amazing aircraft, stimulating seminars, and interesting speakers—and with a fantastic setting like Gulf Shores, this fly-in is worth the trip. We’ve saved the best for last: join us October 26 and 27 in a beautiful beach town sure to delight your senses—and challenge you to expand your aviation horizons.
For years, people on the southern coast of the United States kept the beaches of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach, Alabama, to themselves. But this little-known vacation treasure is becoming a sought-after destination and its white-sand beaches and Gulf of Mexico breezes are going to convince you that summer should last forever.
There are 32 miles of soft, sandy beaches along the stretch of coastline of Alabama. Bordered on one side by Pensacola, Florida, famous for its renowned naval air station, the towns of Gulf Shores and Orange Beach are popular summer vacation spots that continue to beckon beachgoers even in the fall. That’s because the average temperature is still around 75 degrees Fahrenheit—and the water temperature is the same! You’ll experience warm days and mild nights during the AOPA Fly-In October 26 and 27.
The sand at Gulf Shores truly is remarkable. Made up of quartz grains washed down from the Appalachian Mountains, the sand is a surprisingly bright white and unusually soft. Once you take your sandals off, you’ll walk the beach barefoot for as long as you can. It’s so soft and pillow-like, don’t be surprised if you squeak as you walk. For fishermen, Orange Beach offers the country’s largest artificial fishing reef. Gulf species include the Atlantic sailfish, amberjack, grouper, and black snapper.
Jack Edwards National Airport is located just two miles from the center of Gulf Shores. Originally a reliever field for Naval Air Station Pensacola, it was called Canal Field. The city bought the field in 1977 and renamed it for former U.S. Rep. Jack Edwards, who was instrumental in the city’s purchase of the airport. A new terminal was added in 1998 and the main Runway 9/27 was expanded to its current 6,962-foot length. Runway 17/35 is 3,596 feet long. It is the second busiest airport in Alabama, averaging approximately 228 operations each day.
Three full-service FBOs serve JKA: Gulf Air Center, Salt Air Aviation Center, and Platinum Air Center. Each is unique. Gulf Air will host the AOPA Fly-In and is show center. Gulf Air is managed by Shawnda Henderson, below, at 28 one of the youngest general managers in aviation. Salt Air is the newest and its high-style facility is beautiful. Platinum Air Center is a member of the Paragon Aviation Group. All three FBOs will help with the AOPA Fly-In. The AOPA Fly-In is presented by the ALDOT Aeronautics Bureau.