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Vendors, members smiling at AOPA Aviator Showcase

Attendees arrive from far and wide

On Friday and Saturday, September 8 and 9, AOPA hosted the Aviator Showcase at its rampside National Aviation Community Center (NACC), adjoining hangars, and space on the grounds of Frederick Municipal Airport in Frederick, Maryland.

The Aviator Showcase at Frederick Municipal Airport brought together aircraft owners, prospective buyers, manufacturers, avionics specialists, and other aviation experts in Frederick, Maryland, September 8 and 9, 2023. Photo by David Tulis.

The Aviator Showcase was conceived by AOPA as a consumer-based sales event, targeting an audience familiar with all aspects of general aviation and cognizant of the latest offerings in avionics, flight planning and weather resources, and new aircraft. Seminars on topics ranging from picking flight instructors to specific product reviews were held in tents on both days. The static display was filled with all kinds of aircraft, and attendees were invited to hop into the cockpit of a Cirrus SF50 Vision Jet; admire an Icon A5; or browse numerous Bonanzas, Piper and Pilatus aircraft, and a couple of helicopters. One of only 13 U.S. Air Force CN-235 aircraft made a special appearance, and its sheer size and bulk were impressive, dwarfing all the other aircraft around it. Food trucks catered to all. The event was free to AOPA members.

The attendees

Summers in Maryland are muggy and hot, and there’s a strong possibility of thunderstorms in the afternoon. But the prospect of bad weather and IFR conditions didn’t keep attendees away. Those who didn’t fly in, drove in. And they came from everywhere. Doors opened at noon on Friday, but the first attendee, John N. Sheridan, showed up around 9 a.m.; he’d driven in from Massachusetts. And while one would think that a comparatively short event would draw people who live close to Frederick, a number of attendees flew or drove in from places as far as New Mexico, Illinois, California, Florida, or Texas. And plenty hailed from New Jersey, Virginia, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and–yes—even Maryland. A good time was had by all, judging by the many positive comments and happy faces. The tour of AOPA’s headquarters was a hot ticket and the first thing most people asked about after registering. Questions about where to catch the shuttle to headquarters and what time the tours began and ended could be overheard frequently. A total of 930 potential visitors registered for the event.

The exhibitors

The industry’s leading experts in all things GA showcased their products in booths at the NACC and a neighboring hangar. Several branches of the FAA, and companies like Dynon, David Clark, ForeFlight, Garmin, Aircraft Spruce, and Jeppesen, to name a few, were present. The Aviator Showcase is by definition not as big an event as a fly-in, but, “Quality over quantity,” said Chris Baldwin, who was staffing the booth for ForeFlight. “We had great sales.” said Nick Wood from Aircraft Spruce, and David Readoug from Dynon was happy with the “good traffic.” Stephanie Glazer from PilotMall.com said, “We had many good conversations and learned a lot.” There were 60 vendors exhibiting inside the hangars and 20 outside.

AOPA's Aviator Showcase

More than a dozen transient aircraft are parked for the Aviator Showcase. Photo by David Tulis. A Pilatus turboprop attracts attention. Photo by David Tulis. A Piper M600 at the static display is framed by the tail boom of a Robinson helicopter. Photo by David Tulis. The U.S. Air Force operates only 13 of these aircraft. The CN-235 was jointly developed by CASA of Spain and Indonesian manufacturer IPTN. Photos by Erick Webb.

The volunteers

Not enough can be said about the volunteers. When the event opened at noon on Friday, all exhibits were set up, chairs were placed in the seminar tents, and tables and umbrellas populated the hospitality area. Water coolers were filled with ice and bottles, trash cans were in place, and aircraft were towed and placed in the static display. A crew of pilots had been working since morning marshalling and parking aircraft flying in; others were busy at the parking lot, directing traffic. A golf cart stocked with snacks, fruit, and water made the rounds to supply parking attendants both air- and showside with the necessary liquids. Most volunteers (and yes, many of them are staff, but not all) had been working since Tuesday. Bruce Hoffberger said, “It’s all about giving back,” as he took yet another shift when there was nobody else. Betty Ann Green, after having done her share on Friday, returned on Saturday to drive the snack cart, while her husband Sean took one more shift parking aircraft. Another volunteer casually said, “I thought I’d hang around and help with tear-down” when it was clear that more people were needed. All volunteers were given a special Aviator Showcase T-shirt (and a free meal) and were recognizable throughout the show, always moving.

So it appears that attendees, vendors, volunteers—in short, all the aviation enthusiasts—were enjoying themselves. There'll be another Aviator Showcase next year. Stay tuned for details. Hope to see you there.

Sylvia Schneider Horne

Digital Media Editor
Sylvia Schneider Horne is a digital media editor for AOPA's eMedia division.
Topics: AOPA Events

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