t’s the fifth year of fly-in fun and the AOPA regional events for 2018 are set—with locations from the Northwest to the Southeast and the Midwest to the mountains. The popular two-day events will kick off June 15 and 16 in Missoula, Montana, then head to Santa Fe, New Mexico, September 14 and 15; Carbondale, Illinois, October 5 and 6; and Gulf Shores, Alabama, October 26 and 27.
“We really want to take our regional fly-ins where our members love to fly,” said AOPA President Mark Baker. “You won’t find major aviation conventions at any of these locations, but they offer exceptional flying adventures for pilots and their families, and that’s what these fly-ins are all about.”
AOPA’s 2018 Fly-In locations are gateways to explore the mountain northwest, high desert, Midwest, and a relaxed beach town along the Gulf Coast—all great family vacation destinations, all strategically located within an easy flight of tens of thousands of AOPA members.
AOPA’s two-day fly-ins will continue to include in-depth workshops on Fridays before the main Saturday event. The all-day intensive workshops—topics in 2017 included IFR proficiency, owner-performed maintenance, overwater and mountain flying, and aviation adventures—have proved popular with members.
“We are working on a new slate of workshops for 2018 that will offer hands-on experiences for pilots to improve their aviation knowledge, safety, and skills,” said Chris Eads, AOPA director of outreach and events.
On Friday evening, fly-in attendees can participate in the Barnstormers Party, peruse the exhibit hall, and walk through the aircraft display. The main fly-in events continue Saturday, with a pancake breakfast, free seminars, lunch, an exhibit hall and AOPA Village, aircraft display, and Pilot Town Hall with Baker. AOPA plans to expand its fly-out and excursion opportunities, which members have enjoyed during the past fly-in seasons.
Since AOPA launched the regional fly-ins in 2014, the association has hosted 20 events in 16 states: Texas, Indiana, Massachusetts, Washington, California, Maryland, Georgia, Minnesota, Colorado, Tennessee, North Carolina, Michigan, Arizona, Oklahoma, Connecticut, and Florida. The association has connected with more than 70,000 pilots where they fly. More than 7,000 AOPA members and aviation enthusiasts have volunteered over the past three years to help make the events run smoothly for attendees.
“When we set out to host the regional fly-ins in 2014, the idea was to be within a few hundred miles of each of our members within a four- or five-year period,” Baker said. “We are getting close to our members, only a short flight for most based on all of the locations we’ve been to so far.”
Missoula International Airport, Missoula, Montana: Located in the Rocky Mountains of western Montana, Missoula boasts breathtaking scenery, unlimited outdoor activities, a rich arts and culture scene, breweries and wineries, shopping, and more. Outside magazine listed Missoula in its Best Towns section as “the next big thing.” Missoula is conveniently located for daytrip flights to Yellowstone National Park, Glacier National Park, the Bitterroot Valley, and the Blackfoot Valley.
Santa Fe Municipal Airport, Santa Fe, New Mexico: Located along the southern stretch of the Rocky Mountains, Santa Fe offers majestic views of the desert mountains, particularly at sunset. At an elevation of 6,348 feet, the airport’s 8,300- and 6,300-foot-long runways give pilots an opportunity to safely experience high-density-altitude operations. Santa Fe is rich in arts, culture, shopping, and dining.
Southern Illinois Airport, Carbondale, Illinois: Home to Southern Illinois University’s Transportation Education Center, the area showcases the latest technology in the automotive and aviation industries. For outdoor enthusiasts, Carbondale is located near Shawnee National Forest and the Crab Orchard National Wildlife Refuge.
Jack Edwards Airport, Gulf Shores, Alabama: Relax on the beach, spot bottlenose dolphins on a dolphin cruise, take in Gulf Shores and Orange Beach fishing charters, and check out nearby golf courses while you are in town. For a fun food-tasting experience, follow tour itineraries for area specialties such as gumbo, oysters, shrimp, and key lime pie. Hope for a sight of the U.S. Navy Blue Angels practicing out of nearby Pensacola, Florida, or visit the National Naval Aviation Museum.