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Sat, Dec 22, 2007

EAA: Regional Fly-Ins Aren't In Danger

But Changes Are In Store

On the heels of the announcement the Southwest Regional Fly-In has been cancelled for 2008, the Experimental Aircraft Association took steps this week to reassure the pilot community other regional events shouldn't feel threatened... while also acknowledging changes in EAA's role in such events.

As ANN reported Monday, officials with SWRFI announced the end of the 46-year event, saying two developments in regards to EAA's relationship with SWRFI led to the decision. "EAA headquarters decided to cease branding regional fly-ins as EAA events," SWRFI officials said, "[and] EAA will no longer insure regional events. The board felt that losing the EAA brand would make it increasingly difficult to obtain sponsors, exhibitors, and volunteers."

In a message posted on its website this week, EAA clarified its position on the statements made by SWRFI.

"For the past several months, representatives of the major fly-ins throughout the nation commonly known as "regional fly-ins" have been discussing with EAA staff the structure and relationships between EAA and these large events that have carried the EAA name," the sport aviation group said. "These are not and have never been EAA-owned or -operated events, but rather grew from the efforts of local EAA members, chapters and aviation enthusiasts seeking to create a community that shares EAA's mission of promoting the spirit of aviation."

EAA states many attendees interpreted the group's support of the events, to mean the regional fly-ins were EAA-operated events -- similar in spirit to the association's annual AirVenture.

"EAA encourages events that bring people together to enjoy the world of flight," EAA states. "Through the years, however, the perception of these events and the environment in which they operate may have changed, often due to forces beyond anyone's control. This requires clarification in the relationship between EAA and these events."

The group says it is in discussions with leaders of other regional events to "more accurately reflect the actual relationship between EAA and the independent local groups that organize these fly-ins.

"EAA wants to address any misunderstanding among fly-in attendees that EAA may be active in or responsible for the operation of the regional fly-ins," EAA states. "In addition to EAA's concern about confusion in the minds of the public, this apparent misunderstanding was a significant factor in a recent judgment and damage award arising from an accident at a regional fly-in" -- which is why, EAA adds, the group is reexamining its insurance obligations to such events.

"The damage award affected the evaluation of EAA's coverage in the insurance market and created a situation that, if not addressed, would lead to very significant and unsustainable increases in the cost of EAA's insurance coverage at the levels required for all of its programs," EAA says. "Such a situation would harm not only EAA, but the regional fly-ins. Therefore, it was prudent for EAA and the organizers of these fly-ins to evaluate and clarify their relationships and public communications."

Until recently, EAA arranged for insurance coverage for regional fly-ins as part of its overall av-insurance plan. Regional organizers would then reimburse EAA for their portion of insurance costs -- meaning, in essence, fly-ins benefited from paying the EAA's rates. Due to liability issues, however, EAA won't be able to continue that plan.

"Fortunately, there are brokers and underwriters willing and capable of serving the regional fly-ins as independent events at what we anticipate will be affordable and sustainable rates," the group adds. "EAA will introduce the fly-in organizers to insurers that can independently provide quotes for this coverage."

EAA stressed it would like to continue supporting regional events through sponsorship of forums, workshops, and other areas. The group will also continue to support regional fly-ins by encouraging its members to attend such events, through its media outlets and chapter communications.

EAA does allow for the unfortunate possibilty the latest developments may hit some events hard -- as they apparently did for SWRFI.

"There is a consensus from the event organizers that they want to continue," EAA says. "However, each event annually decides on its own whether it will operate in future years by evaluating a variety of factors. That ability for the local organizers to determine their own course will not change."

FMI: www.eaa.org

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