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Birthday bash at AOPA

Editor's note: This article was updated May 11 with additional information.

Where else but a combination fly-in and birthday party can you go to make new friends, learn what it’s like to pilot a flying piece of history, see parachutists reenact a wartime jump, observe a short-takeoff-and-landing contest, and feast on far-flung fare from pancakes and pizza to pupusas?

  • Douglas C-47 and DC-3 aircraft rumble down the taxiway in front of attendees at Frederick Municipal Airport in Maryland for the AOPA Frederick Fly-In and eightieth anniversary celebration May 11. The historical aircraft will participate in a June 6 seventy-fifth anniversary commemoration of D-Day in Normandy, France. Photo by David Tulis.
  • Future aviator Daniel Owens gives daughter Sabrina, 2, a piggyback ride after viewing historical Douglas C-47 and DC-3 aircraft during the AOPA Frederick Fly-In. Owens said he was excited to begin taking flight lessons next week. Photo by David Tulis.
  • Ellie yawns while she walks the flight line with Ruth Ann Eakin during the AOPA Frederick Fly-In at Frederick Municipal Airport, Friday, May 10, 2019. Photo by David Tulis.
  • Aviation enthusiasts attend the AOPA Frederick Fly-In and eightieth anniversary celebration at Frederick Municipal Airport. Photo by David Tulis.
  • Retired U.S. Air Force Lt. Col. Bob Vaucher, the honorary air boss for the Arsenal of Democracy Flyover of Washington, D.C., shares a smile with AOPA President Mark Baker during a Pilot Town Hall. Photo by David Tulis.
  • The AOPA Sweepstakes Super Cub draws attention during the AOPA Frederick Fly-In. Photo by David Tulis.
  • Spectators at the AOPA Fly-In watched Douglas DC-3s and C-47s take off from Frederick Municipal Airport for a memorial flyover of Arlington National Cemetery on May 10. Photo by Dan Namowitz.
  • A Pilatus PC-24 jet is marshaled to parking during a brief rain storm. Photo by David Tulis.
  • Pilots and aviation enthusiasts attend a Pilot Town Hall during the AOPA Frederick Fly-In. Photo by David Tulis.
  • Placid Lassie, a D-Day Squadron Douglas C-47, joins other warbirds on the flight line during the AOPA Frederick Fly-In and eightieth anniversary celebration. The aircraft participated in a formation flight that overflew Washington, D.C., on May 10. Photo by David Tulis.
  • Clouds are reflected on the polished skin of a Beechcraft Model D18S at Frederick Municipal Airport, Thursday, May 9, 2019. Photo by David Tulis.
  • Aircraft fill the ramps in advance of the AOPA Frederick Fly-In and eightieth anniversary celebration at Frederick Municipal Airport, Thursday, May 9, 2019. Photo by David Tulis.
  • Liberty Jump Team members prepare to board their aircraft during the AOPA Frederick Fly-In Friday, May 10. Photo by David Tulis.
  • Entertainer Chris Bowen brings his one-man-band Bone Show to the Flightline Cookout during the AOPA Frederick Fly-In and eightieth anniversary celebration. Photo by David Tulis.
  • Three AOPA presidents, Mark Baker, Phil Boyer, and Craig Fuller, gather during the Flightline Cookout to sign the AOPA 'Freedom to Fly' book that documents 80 years of aviation. Photo by David Tulis.

For many people who came to Frederick, Maryland, on May 10 and 11, the answer was the AOPA Fly-In at Frederick Municipal Airport. The event was staged to celebrate AOPA’s eightieth anniversary, doubling as the staging point for an event in the national observance of the seventy-fifth anniversary of the June 6, 1944, D-Day invasion of Normandy during World War II.

A cool breeze and a high overcast on May 11 made for fine flying conditions for some showy aviation action that brought the fly-in to its climax and turned the tables on May 10’s conditions, when a squally cold front moved through the area much of the day, dousing some of the flight program and grounding a night drone demonstration.

With Paul Harrop of the AOPA Live crew and former Alaska bush pilot Mike Vivion calling the action, the short-takeoff-and-landing demonstration featuring a variety of tailwheel single-engine airplanes and a twin-engine pusher-prop AirCam (not a flying canoe, as some speculated) wowed the crowd with terse takeoffs and truncated touchdowns.

Also well worth the wait were the sight and sound of five Douglas DC–3 and Douglas C–47 airplanes of the D-Day Squadron as they flew multiple formation passes over the airport just at lunchtime before releasing 14 parachutists of the Liberty Jump Team from two of the aircraft—a great entertainment for the crowds standing in line at the food trucks or strolling the ramp to inspect dozens of aircraft on display.

Liberty Jump Team jump master Butch Garner and jumper James Pearson salute after parachuting from a C-47 during the AOPA Frederick Fly-In and eightieth anniversary celebration. Photo by David Tulis.

You know how they look, and you know that deep rumbling sound—but what is it like to fly a C–47 like the ones that delivered invasion paratroopers to the shores of occupied France?

“It flies like it looks,” said Garrett Fleishman, a pilot of the Tunison Foundation’s C–47, Placid Lassie. “You feel everything. The controls are heavy, the engines are loud—that specific noise they make.”

In June the airplanes that visited Frederick for the fly-in will join other DC–3s and C–47s that will fly to Europe in June to take part in Daks Over Normandy, an event that will fill the skies with “Dakotas” to commemorate the D-Day invasion and honor those who sacrificed so much to liberate Europe.

Take care of ‘my’ airplane

Pilots and nonpilots alike swarmed the AOPA Super Cub Sweepstakes airplane, resplendent on its amphibious floats. They peppered AOPA staff members with questions or simply urged us to “Take good care of my airplane,” as they walked past. The sweeps winner will be selected on June 18.

Alyssa Cobb, left, project manager for AOPA's Super Cub Sweepstakes airplane in the background, discusses the airplane with Lowell Powers Jr. of Middletown, Rhode Island. A 50-year AOPA member, he owns a Beech Baron and has flown 200 missions for Angel Flight Northeast. Photo by Mike Collins.

Just one tent over from the Super Cub, AOPA Media Production Specialist Sylvia Horne was being especially productive inviting passersby to pose for a picture that with a little bit of software magic would place the person being photographed on a virtual AOPA Pilot magazine cover.

Airplane ramp appeal was everywhere: A hulking Quest Kodiak 100 single-engine turboprop proved a popular visit and a prized cockpit for kids to sit in. Single-engine models and a sleek P2006 twin from Italy’s Tecnam drew interest. Many likely also had their first close-up look at a Cirrus Vision single-engine light jet, and the new PC–24 twinjet from Pilatus.

Presidents’ panel

Showgoers who attended the May 11 Pilot Town Meeting in AOPA’s National Aviation Community Center were treated to AOPA President Mark Baker hosting a roundtable with his two immediate past predecessors, Craig Fuller and Phil Boyer, who reflected on AOPA’s major accomplishments during their tenures and shared their visions of general aviation’s future.

Boyer steered the association for 18 years, including a time when light aircraft manufacturing had almost ground to a halt because of product liability exposure. Reform legislation driven by AOPA advocacy turned the industry around, “so that was a hard-won fight,” he said. He was at AOPA’s helm when GA faced challenges of the post-Sept.11, 2001, period, seeking solutions guided by a policy of “working with our hand out and open.”

AOPA President Mark Baker was joined by his two predecessors, Craig Fuller and Phil Boyer at a special Pilot Town Hall May 11. Photo by Jim Moore.

Fuller, Boyer's successor from 2009 to 2013, also noted strides AOPA took in the public sector including launching the GA Caucus—a vehicle for members of Congress to express their support for aviation initiatives—and rebuff his era’s effort to impose user fees on pilots. Fuller credited AOPA members’ readiness to speak out on national and local issues with adding to AOPA’s legislative clout. “It is that effort time and time again that has made the difference,” he said.

Baker turned the discussion to AOPA’s future, noting that GA in the United States is “the envy of the world.”

Boyer confided his enthusiasm for the potential of GA technology, including the development of electric aircraft. Fuller concurred, noting that success conquering the hurdles faced by electric propulsion—essentially the capacity of the batteries that would power such aircraft—would bring down fuel-related flying costs and offer “a viable business model for flight schools.”

Programs to bolster the GA pilot population, long a shrinking demographic, are a priority front for AOPA, and they are making a difference, said Senior Vice President of Media, Communications, and Outreach Tom Haines, reporting an 18-percent increase in student pilot starts in 2018.

Elizabeth Tennyson, AOPA vice president for aviation program operations, added that AOPA’s Rusty Pilots program, a component of You Can Fly, AOPA’s initiative to get pilots flying and keep them flying, has now helped 6,500 pilots become active again since the program launched in 2014.

That number looks likely to grow: As the Town Hall session was underway, in another venue on the airport, an estimated 50 individuals were attending an AOPA Rusty Pilots seminar hosted by Chris Moser, AOPA’s director of flight training initiatives. For many who attended, his lively session promises to be the first stop on the road to becoming rust-free—in a few cases, after an absence from the cockpit for 25, 30, or even 40 years, based on a show of hands.

They are likely encouraged by Moser’s description of his own reaction to returning to flying after a long absence.

“It was like home,” he said.

  • Liberty Jump Team member Kristopher Carroll thanks retired U.S. Air Force Col. Warren Halstead for his military service. Halstead joined the jump team for a Douglas C-47 aircraft tour during the AOPA Frederick Fly-In. Photo by David Tulis.
  • North American T-6 Texan pilot Mike Ginter gives a thumbs up during the AOPA Frederick Fly-In Flightline Cookout before heavy weather scrubbed a planned parachute drop and STOL demonstration. Photo by David Tulis.
  • Aviation enthusiasts document Douglas C-47 and DC-3 aircraft before a jump team demonstration during the AOPA Frederick Fly-In and eightieth anniversary celebration. Photo by David Tulis.
  • Liberty Jump Team members descend from a Douglas C-47 during the AOPA Frederick Fly-In. The aircraft is one of several that will fly overseas to Normandy, France, for the Daks over Normandy seventy-fifth anniversary commemoration of D-Day. Photo by David Tulis.
  • Fourteen Liberty Jump Team members parachute from a Douglas C-47 aircraft into the AOPA Frederick Fly-In. Several of the historical World War II aircraft are flying overseas to Normandy, France, for the seventy-fifth anniversary of D-Day. Photo by David Tulis.
  • Aircraft participating in the invitational short takeoff and landing competition at AOPA's Frederick Fly-In are gathered in the STOL Corral, where they can be examined by guests. Photo by Mike Collins.
  • AOPA President Mark Baker in his Piper Super Cub on floats leads STOL aircraft during the AOPA Frederick Fly-In Flightline Cookout before heavy weather scrubbed the mission. Photo by David Tulis.
  • AOPA Air Safety Institute Executive Director Richard McSpadden makes a precision landing in a Piper Super Cub during a short takeoff and landing (STOL) demonstration that was one of the highlights of the AOPA Frederick Fly-In. Photo by David Tulis.
  • Visitors to AOPA's Frederick Fly-In, along with a Pilatus PC-12 turboprop, are reflected in a puddle on the Frederick Municipal Airport ramp. Rain fell several times during the day but otherwise the weather was good. Photo by Mike Collins.
  • Craig Barnett, left, owner of Scheme Designers, discusses paint options with Jerry and Emma Chapman of Niagara Falls, New York, during AOPA's Frederick Fly-In. The Chapmans own a Piper PA-32 Saratoga. Photo by Mike Collins.
  • Gyroplane pilot and flight instructor Frank Noe, left, takes Candy Greenway, center, and Greenway's grandchildren Lyra and Oliver Vidoni, for a ride on the motorized sofa he built Easter Sunday using an electric wheelchair chassis. He's also walking Turbo the Flying Dog, who disembarked from the sofa during a stop to talk with other pilots. Photo by Mike Collins.
Dan Namowitz

Dan Namowitz

Dan Namowitz has been writing for AOPA in a variety of capacities since 1991. He has been a flight instructor since 1990 and is a 35-year AOPA member.
Topics: AOPA, You Can Fly, Events

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