Floatplanes, Amphibs Popular in Frederick Last
More than 3,000 people turned out for the 13th
annual AOPA Fly-In and Open House despite weather that remained
stubbornly IFR. "The enthusiasm of the general aviation community
never ceases to amaze me," said AOPA President Phil Boyer.
"We were thrilled to see so many pilots and flying enthusiasts
drive in when the weather refused to cooperate. It just goes to
show how vibrant general aviation really is."
Some 2,700 people drove in for the day, while nearly 120
aircraft came through Saturday's instrument meteorological
conditions to attend. Another 45 aircraft came in on Friday to beat
the bad weather.
Plenty to see
Once there, visitors braved the rain to look at the 33 aircraft
on static display at AOPA's ramp. Aircraft ranged from two-seat
trainers such as the OMF-160 Symphony and Diamond C-1 Eclipse
through four-seat, single-engine aircraft such as Cessna 172s and
182s, and the recently certified Luscombe Model 11E, up to the
"heavy metal" of GA, such as the Beech King Air, Pilatus PC-12, and
Cessna Grand Caravan. Bell Helicopter, Cirrus, EADS Socata,
Lancair, Mooney, New Piper, and Tiger were also
The star of the show, AOPA's Centennial of Flight
Sweepstakes giveaway aircraft, a fully
restored 1940 Waco UPF-7 biplane (featured, right), had to stay
inside because of the weather. But the hangar doors were thrown
open, and members were able to get an up-close look at "their" new
plane. The Centennial of Flight Sweepstakes runs through the end of
2003, with the drawing to give away the Waco, worth an estimated
$250,000, taking place early in 2004.
FAA went the extra (nautical) mile
As they always do, FAA air traffic controllers and flight
service station personnel played a crucial roll at this year's
Fly-In, helping pilots get in and just as importantly, get out
again at the end of the day. Controllers from many of the
Washington/Baltimore-area facilities helped man the temporary tower
set up just for the event. And representatives from the Leesburg
Flight Service Station set up shop in one of AOPA's offices to
offer pilots face-to-face preflight briefings.
The 14 hours of seminars offered at this year's Fly-In were a
big draw, as always. And every seminar was filled to capacity.
Topics ranged from single pilot IFR operations, spatial
disorientation and aeronautical decision making, to deciding
whether it's better to rent or own an aircraft, to the
always-popular hangar flying session with Rod Machado.
Fly-In shows GA side of aviation business still healthy
But no matter the concerns over TFRs and ADIZs,
pilot attendance at the Fly-In helped demonstrate that GA is still
alive and kicking. Exhibitors reported a good volume of traffic in
the big tent behind AOPA's headquarters building.
AOPA Certified Services partners were especially pleased. "We
took dozens of applications for AOPA credit cards and the AOPA
Insurance Agency was doing a brisk business telling pilots about
renter's liability insurance," said Debbie Hayden, program director
for AOPA's Products and Services Division.
Many of the aviation businesses exhibiting at the Fly-In said
that business has been fairly good since the September 11 terrorist
attacks, although the market's grown softer since the war with Iraq
began. One paint shop operator said that while there's usually a
six- to twelve-month wait to get an aircraft painted, right now his
shop is working about two months out. Other businesses report
similar situations, with customers still coming in, but at a
somewhat slower rate.
information supports AOPA's position that general aviation, at
least that part which supports small, single-engine owners and
pilots, is weathering the current soft economy better than the rest
of the aviation industry. During a recent speech to the Aero Club
of Washington, Boyer noted that wait times to have new avionics
installed are running as long as three months, indicating good
health among companies that help owners outfit their aircraft. At
the same time, new sales of the typical four-seat, single-engine GA
aircraft are holding steady, unlike most other sectors of the
AOPA's next major gathering will be in Philadelphia for the
annual AOPA Expo, October 30 - November 1, 2003, in