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Tue, Feb 21, 2023

Copperstate Fly-In Postponed Due to ATC Foul-Ups

MSC Tower Staff Falls to Unsafe Level

The Copperstate Fly-In is an all-volunteer-run non-profit organization dedicated to promoting recreational and general aviation through events, scholarships, and public education.

Proceeds from the Copperstate Fly-In help support scholarship programs for young people seeking careers in the aerospace industry. Since its inaugural event in 1973, the Copperstate Fly-In has been bringing together aviation enthusiasts from not only the state of Arizona, but from across the entirety of the United States.

Until 2018, the Copperstate Fly-In was held at numerous Phoenix area airports, to include Ak-Chin Regional Airport (A39), Williams-Gateway Airport (AZA), Casa Grande Municipal Airport (CGZ), and Falcon Field (MSC). However, in 2018, the Copperstate Board of Directors partnered with the Buckeye Air-Fair, an event held every February at Buckeye Municipal Airport (BXK). The partnership proved an excellent pairing insomuch as the Buckeye Air-Fair emphasized a youth-oriented science/technology theme consistent with the Copperstate Fly In’s guiding ethos.

In 2017, the city of Buckeye added an air-show, thereby making the Air-Fair a bona fide aviation event.

By adding aviation exhibitors, forums, and workshops, and attracting a larger number of pilots and airplanes, the Copperstate Fly-In elevated the Buckeye Air-Fair. What’s more, the hybrid event has raised the bar for all aviation events west of the Mississippi River. In point of fact, the Air Fair/Fly-In—by dint of its annual draw of more than 35,000 attendees—enjoys the distinction of being one of the United States’ largest air-shows.

Regrettably, the 2023 event—the Copperstate Fly In’s fiftieth anniversary—has been postponed to October owing to ATC staffing shortfalls.

Sarah Andrews, Executive Director for the Copperstate Fly-In, explained in a letter (some contact info redacted) to event stakeholders:

My name is Sarah Andrews, and I am the Executive Director for the Copperstate Fly-In. This delayed response is due to acquiring all the facts before I relayed information to each inquiry. 

It is with a heavy heart that the Copperstate Fly-In has been postponed to October. Airport Tower Manager Kent Hatcher claims he has let his staffing drop to unsafe levels and affirms he can’t handle the fly-in traffic for March. Airport Director Corrine Nystrom is accommodating Mr. Hatcher’s blunder; she also claims she let her staffing fall to critical levels as well. She decided to postpone the fly-in to October without specifying a date....

Being the 50th Anniversary of this fly-in, it is important, now more than ever, that we help Falcon Field’s airport bureaucracy manage the civil service they provide effectively and efficiently. I humbly ask that you attend Ms. Nystrom’s mandatory meetings, virtually or in person, when she gets them scheduled, to establish the accountability that we all count on as pilots and members of the aviation community. 

For the time being, I will continue to focus all my efforts on a fly-in event worthy of a Golden Jubilee. I have received your request for event dates and will be creating convenient digital platforms for you to customize your highly valued participation. Honestly, I am at a standstill with the Airport Director and Tower Manager. Ms. Nystrom stated in an October 2022 meeting that March 24-26, 2023 was available for the event. Several failed negotiation meetings later, Mr. Hatcher confirmed he can’t make anything work; which is delaying the City of Mesa Event Permit too. 

I can’t thank you enough for the support and camaraderie you bring to the Copperstate Fly-In, I hope you can make it out in October.

Sincerely,

Sarah Andrews
Executive Director
CopperstateFlyIn.org

As an all-volunteer-run event, the Copperstate Fly-In could neither thrive, nor even take place were it not for the generosity of those intrepid individuals who step up yearly to give of their limited time and ample talent. Residents of the Phoenix/Mesa/Chandler area interested in volunteering for or learning more about the Copperstate Fly-In are invited to visit the organization’s website. As a recruitment inducement, volunteers are provided free event parking, the opportunity to work with an exceptional group of aviation enthusiasts, and the ever-elusive free lunch.

FMI: www.copperstateflyin.org

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