FREDERICK, Md. – More than 2,500 people took part in the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) 2014 regional fly-in held in San Marcos, Texas on Saturday. This was the first of seven fly-ins AOPA will host this year.
The expansive ramp at San Marcos Municipal Airport was bustling with pilots and aviation enthusiasts of all ages. They came to check out the aircraft displays and exhibitor tent, attend a seminar, enjoy a pancake breakfast served by AOPA staff and partake in a barbecue lunch that was offered free to members. AOPA President and CEO Mark Baker also hosted a Pilot Town Hall, taking members’ questions and addressing issues that included third class medical reform, unwarranted stops and searches of general aviation aircraft and lowering the cost of flying.
“We couldn’t have asked for a better turnout, even with some weather in the morning hours,” said Baker. “It really shows just how enthusiastic people are about general aviation and it was great to engage with so many members who traveled here to take part in this community event. Our goal this year to meet our members in their own backyards and hear firsthand what is on their minds. Their concerns - protecting the freedom to fly – are our concerns.”
Participants in the April 26 fly-in could also examine more than 35 aircraft parked in a display, visit the exhibitors’ tent to look over new aviation products and inspect and ride in the B-17 bomber “Aluminum Overcast,” operated by the Experimental Aircraft Association. Seminars proved popular as members crowded into sessions that discussed owner-performed maintenance, flying with iPads, stick-and-rudder flying and improving radio communications.
In addition, 185 AOPA volunteers took part in everything from setting up aircraft parking areas and displays to directing arriving aircraft, serving meals and helping with the post-fly-in clean-up.
“This fly-in would not have been possible without our volunteers,” said Katie Pribyl, AOPA’s vice president of communications. “Their work was invaluable and we owe them a huge debt of gratitude.”
Nearly 2,000 people also signed AOPA’s traveling petition encouraging continued movement on third class medical reform. That issue proved to be a popular one with fly-in attendees. The Federal Aviation Administration announced earlier this month that it will undertake a “rulemaking” process to consider changes that would allow more pilots to fly without the need for a third-class medical certificate. Bills in the U.S. House and Senate have also proposed such changes and AOPA continues to work with Congress on moving the legislation forward.
The night before the fly-in, more than 90 pilots also took part in a “Rusty Pilots” program sponsored by AOPA. It consisted of a seminar designed to bring certificated pilots who have gotten away from flying up to date on regulatory and airspace changes.
The free course, which AOPA is offering nationwide through flight schools and flying clubs, satisfies the FAA flight review requirement. After participants complete some flight time with an instructor, lapsed pilots can then quickly become current again.
AOPA estimates than more than 500,000 people have earned pilot certificates but later stopped flying. AOPA will hold Rusty Pilot programs the night before each of its remaining fly-ins nationwide this year.
Those fly-ins will be held in Indianapolis, Ind., (May 31), Plymouth, Mass, (July 12), Spokane, Wash., (Aug. 16), Chino, Calif., (Sept. 20), and St. Simon’s, Ga., (Nov. 8). AOPA will celebrate its 75th anniversary during an Oct. 4 fly-in at its Frederick, Md., headquarters. Learn more at: AOPA fly-ins
Since 1939, AOPA has protected the freedom to fly for thousands of pilots, aircraft owners and aviation enthusiasts. AOPA is the world’s largest aviation member association, with representatives based in Frederick, Md., Washington, D.C., and seven regions across the United States. AOPA provides member services that range from advocacy at the federal, state, and local levels to legal services, flight planning products, safety programs and award-winning media products. To learn more, visit www.aopa.org.