AOPA Fly-Ins for 2017 will offer more to experience—from camping and camaraderie to workshops and clinics providing opportunities to learn new skills, fly more affordably, or make the jump from aircraft renter to owner. Thanks to a tremendous response from attendees and exhibitors, AOPA has expanded the scope of each of the four 2017 Regional Fly-Ins, adding a second day to allow attendees to experience more hands-on aviation, and more of what has drawn praise and sparked enthusiasm from the nearly 44,000 who have attended an AOPA event to date.
The 2017 AOPA Regional Fly-In schedule includes four events and kicks off April 28 and 29 in Camarillo, California, followed by Norman, Oklahoma (Sept. 8 and 9); Groton, Connecticut (Oct. 6 and 7); and Tampa, Florida (Oct. 27 and 28). Each event will feature two full days of activities, including an expanded roster of learning opportunities and workshops beginning on the Friday of each event at 9 a.m. These workshops will cover a range of topics such as mountain flying or owner-performed maintenance that will help make flying more fun, affordable, safe, and accessible.
Eads and the event planning team have heard a great deal and refined their efforts based on experience gained at 16 AOPA Fly-Ins held to date. AOPA launched the regional events in 2014, shifting from a single annual convention to this new approach that was designed to gather members at locations closer to home, and make it possible for more members (and guests, including future pilots) to attend. That proved to be a formula for success: Total attendance grew 15 percent between 2014 and 2015, and 33 percent between 2015 and 2016. More than 6,000 aircraft arrivals have been logged to date, safely handled by a team of AOPA staff backed up by hundreds of enthusiastic volunteers. The AOPA Fly-Ins also have proved to be a venue where friendships are forged, gatherings where the aviation community has grown stronger.
“Our members are loving it,” Eads said.
Each event has included a delicious selection of local dishes because every party needs good food. Ice cream socials and Pilot Town Hall meetings with AOPA President Mark Baker also have been popular, and those will continue to be part of each Saturday program.
The aircraft display, exhibit hall, and AOPA Village will open at 4 p.m. on Friday, following the workshops and clinics. A program of various topics and speakers is being developed that will include some that are location specific, taking advantage of the geography of each area. While details of the workshop and clinic programs are still being worked out, count on each to “take you to new places in your aviation experience,” Eads said, adding that attendees can look forward to learning about the fine points of mountain flying, overwater flying, or other topics that will sharpen skills or make aviation easier.
The Barnstormers Party, established as a popular Friday evening event, will continue to be held from 6 to 9 p.m.
The Saturday agenda for 2017 begins with a pancake breakfast (possibly with some new menu additions that the chefs are cooking up), with the AOPA Village and seminars opening after breakfast at 9 a.m. AOPA also will offer the popular Rusty Pilots seminar that morning for those who have been out of the cockpit for two or more years and want to get back up to speed. Saturday activities will culminate at 3 p.m., but that won’t be the end of the experience: AOPA is also working to organize small fly-outs to nearby destinations to allow new friends and old to spend more time flying together to interesting regional destinations.
Details are being worked out to create an aircraft sales corral at each AOPA Fly-In to help members buy and sell aircraft. A drone experience, including caged flight demonstrations, is another feature likely to be added that will give members who are interested in unmanned aviation a close look at drones in action.
As AOPA looks to the future, growing the general aviation community remains a top priority. The AOPA Regional Fly-Ins will continue to serve that goal by bringing pilots together to experience a rich array of skill development, group flying, and hands-on activities.