John Zapp and Aileen Hummel brainstormed a way to combine their passions for aviation, music, and community service. A decade later, their Flying Musicians Association counts more than 700 members.
The group’s first performance was in Texas during the Fly-In Musicfest at Fort Worth Spinks Airport in 2009. Zapp and Hummel hosted a fun and spirited event that encompassed live music on two stages—one on the ramp and another in a corporate hangar—impromptu jam tents, songwriting seminars, Experimental Aircraft Association Young Eagles flights, and aircraft rides on a Douglas C–47 Dakota passenger aircraft and a North American B–25 Mitchell bomber. More than 100 musicians joined several thousand music aficionados and aviation enthusiasts during the premier event.
He complimented AOPA for becoming the organization’s first corporate member, and he recalled that the music community came on board “almost immediately.” The group was selected to become a National Association of Music Merchants foundation partner, which afforded Flying Musicians Association members “unfettered access to music merchants across the globe.” Annual NAMM conventions draw professional musicians and musical instrument and electronics manufacturers, and are the music world's equivalent of aviation's EAA AirVenture.
In 2014 the association began the FMA Solo Program to help grow the pilot community and to reward good musicianship. To date, 11 learn-to-fly scholarships have been awarded to student musicians in the United States and Canada. Nine recipients have soloed and with mentorship from other Flying Musicians members, several student musicians have gone on to earn their private pilot certificate.
“We have done a wonderful job facilitating student musicians’ inclusion into the aviation community through the FMA Solo program," said Zapp. He added that the organization was looking forward to “creating our own annual event while expanding our focus towards the music pursuits of members,” as the group embarks on a second decade.