“It’s always a pleasure to host AOPA,” said John Tiliacos, the executive vice president of airport operations and customer service for Hillsborough County Aviation Authority. The authority operates Tampa International Airport and the general aviation airports of Tampa Executive, Plant City Airport, and Peter O. Knight Airport. “We have a strong relationship with AOPA, a relationship we highly value.”
Tiliacos welcomed the crowd during AOPA President Mark Baker’s Pilot Town Hall. There, Baker addressed issues facing GA, including unleaded fuel, FBO fee transparency, and AOPA’s efforts to grow and support the pilot population.
The Hangout featured a wide variety of activities, including short-takeoff-and-landing demos each day; industry and safety seminars; nearly 50 exhibitors; and aviation movies each night; including Top Gun: Maverick and Speed & Angels, all included as part of the admission fee. The event also included an expansive 39 Lounge, which provided plenty of seating and shelter for pilots to hang out and socialize throughout the day and evening. Food trucks, a bar, fire pits, and a live band helped create a welcoming environment.
The exhibit area included festival-style tents for exhibits, including engine and avionics manufacturers, flying clubs and flight schools, and a host of aviation service providers. The static display included aircraft from Cirrus, Evektor, Vashon, Icon, and Daher, among others, plus a variety of airplanes from Premier Aircraft Sales and Van Bortel Aircraft.
“Our goal was to provide a relaxed and welcoming event where pilots can learn new safety techniques, examine new products, and simply hang out with one another,” said Elizabeth O’Connell, AOPA’s director of events. “An important element was to incorporate aircraft camping into the event. We wanted camping to be close to show center and convenient for those who want to pitch a tent under a wing.” Pilots camped with 64 airplanes in Tampa. In all, 170 aircraft flew into the event.
Thomas B. Haines is the former editor in chief of AOPA.
DID YOU KNOW?
86% of all GA aircraft in the United States are owned by AOPA members.