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Events: On the road again

AOPA planning 2021 gatherings—with precautions

No one wants to get out and travel and meet our members more than President Mark Baker and AOPA staff, but your association will always prioritize the health and safety of its members.
Pilot Briefing 2021
Photography by Chris Rose

To that end, AOPA is planning participation at events throughout the year but with limited exposure at annual shows, and will extend the hiatus of its popular fly-ins. However, AOPA plans to present small get-togethers for aircraft owners and buyers in the second half of the year. The association is planning two programs: the AOPA Aviator Showcase at two locations in 2021 and, for active pilots in several regions throughout the country, the AOPA Pilot Gathering Air Tour.

“Traditionally, we plan for events throughout the year,” said Chris Eads, AOPA senior director of outreach and events. “But with the continued persistence of the virus across the country, we will keep our members’ health and safety top of mind. We are working hard to prepare events and appearances at traditional events such as Sun ’n Fun and EAA AirVenture, and are shifting to emphasize our own offerings this fall.”

The AOPA Aviator Showcase will be a one-day event geared toward pilots and aircraft owners, which will bring together aviators and the products, services, and manufacturers they depend on. These events will feature 40 to 50 exhibits and 25 to 30 display aircraft and offer seminars related to aircraft ownership, technology demonstrations, and product presentations by exhibitors. There will be two events, one each in the eastern and western United States.

The AOPA Pilot Gathering Air Tour will offer members the opportunity to interact in person with the association, mingle and learn from each other, and build on their aviation inspiration through multi-day, multi-stop tours that visit several cities throughout the United States. Each stop on the air tour will feature a Pilot Town Hall, roundtable discussions with AOPA leadership, and an AOPA Air Safety Institute safety session.

The association will release dates and locations for the AOPA Aviator Showcase and AOPA Pilot Gathering Air Tour this month. The two showcases are planned to be in Fort Worth, Texas, and Manassas, Virginia.

“With the uncertainties surrounding what 2021 will look like, we wanted to develop a special event model for this year that will build in tremendous flexibility and scalability,” said Eads. “We are really excited with the plan our team has created—two different types of events that focus on bringing AOPA pilots together in smaller settings, with socially distanced gatherings with AOPA leaders and our friends in the aviation industry.”

AOPA will work with each municipality to determine the most appropriate gathering strategy for each event. The association will ensure it meets and exceeds Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and government guidelines at the time of the event. AOPA plans to provide a unique event layout that will allow for increased social distancing, appropriate face coverings and barriers as needed, and enhanced cleaning as recommended by medical professionals.

AOPA also will limit attendance (preregistration required with no “walk-up” admission permitted) to meet crowd-size limitations that may be in effect at the time of the event.

“The Air Tour events are purposely much smaller than our traditional large-scale regional fly-ins,” said Eads. “They are simple gatherings in a single venue, with the goal to provide interaction with AOPA leaders, fellow aviators, and local airports and aviation businesses. On our Air Tour, we will not have a large exhibit hall and our educational content will be limited to our Air Safety Institute keynote. But the Aviator Showcase events will feature all the exhibit hall and aircraft display experiences our members enjoy.”

AOPA’s presence at the large annual shows such as Sun ’n Fun, which is scheduled for April 13 through 18 in Lakeland, Florida—and EAA AirVenture, set for July 26 through August 1—will represent all AOPA’s products and services, but the educational programming pavilion will be a scaled-down gathering space for more informal presentations and content.

Plans for events such as the AOPA You Can Fly High School Symposium, scheduled for November 14 through 16 in Orlando, Florida, continue.

“In these challenging times, we must keep safety our first concern, so we invite you to continue to check our website for updates to all planned events," said Eads. “We all hope to see you soon.”

Email [email protected]

Julie Walker

Julie Summers Walker

AOPA Senior Features Editor
AOPA Senior Features Editor Julie Summers Walker joined AOPA in 1998. She is a student pilot still working toward her solo.

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