Ask any visitor to AOPA’s Livermore Fly-In what was most memorable, there’s a good chance the answer would be short. Short-field, that is.
Many will remember watching Jimmy Gist, the “wrangler” for the AOPA STOL Invitational short takeoff and landing demonstration, coordinate masterful performances by 11 participating pilots just before the California sun set on June 21, and again at noon on June 22. Others might remember the weather, which was fantastic both days. Or the incredible opportunities for education and networking.
Presenters included Barry Schiff, a longtime AOPA Pilot columnist and contributor, who shared his “Nifty Tips for Safe Flying” with an audience almost filling the Main Stage tent on Saturday morning. Schiff, who has contributed to the magazine for 56 years, suggests that every pilot keep a second logbook. “In the second logbook I write down the mistakes I made on the flight I just took,” he said. “Nobody reads that logbook but me. Believe me, you can learn a lot from that.”
“It’s a great Saturday when you can spend it at the airport,” AOPA President Mark Baker said in opening his Pilot Town Hall on Saturday morning. Baker and other members of AOPA’s leadership team updated the audience about the association’s activities. Pilot certification numbers have been declining since World War II—a trend AOPA seeks to reverse with its You Can Fly initiatives, funded by donations to the AOPA Foundation.
“We’re starting to see a turnaround,” Baker said, with student starts up 18 percent and private pilot certificate numbers up 17 percent. “What we’re starting to see now is real growth in aviation.”
California Assembly Bill 245 would establish an Aerospace and Aviation Commission. AOPA supports the idea but opposes the current bill, because it has been “watered down with inadequate GA representation,” said Mike Ginter, AOPA’s vice president for airports and state advocacy. He told California members that they may receive an email asking them to contact their state representation. “There’s your warning. You’re all lobbyists now,” he said.
Matt Johnson, president of California Aeronautical University, introduced Kimberly Rodriguez Gaona, a Bakersfield, California, high school student who was awarded CAU’s $151,650 Dreams Take Flight Scholarship that covers tuition, fees, and flight training. “My passion for aviation started when I was younger, but I didn’t realize I wanted a career in aviation,” she said. An introduction flight opened her eyes, and she enrolled in an aviation class at her high school. “I’m really grateful and blessed,” she said. “No matter how big your dream is, pursue it—nothing is impossible.”
David Lewis of Venice, Florida, was recognized for flying the longest distance to the Livermore Fly-In, and received a Lightspeed Zulu III headset. His straight-line distance of 2,082 nautical miles edged out a pilot from Manassas, Virginia., 2,075 nm away. However, the actual flight in his Mooney M20C was 2,335 nautical miles and took more than 21 hours. “I have three children in Oregon so after this, I’m going up there,” Lewis said. “I’m retired; I figured I would make these fly-ins a habit. These things are great,” he added, citing all the information and all the airplanes. “They’re very well done.”
Marc Miller of Tiburon, California, was among the large crowd watching Saturday’s noon STOL demonstration. “It’s like a rocket ship,” he said as Draco, Mike Patey’s extensively modified—and Pratt & Whitney PT6-powered—Wilga climbed steeply. The Cessna 182 he flies doesn’t perform like that, Miller said. “It looks like a lot of fun. It puts the fun in flying.”
Ron Wiener, 78, a 51-year AOPA member, flew in from Tucson, Arizona, for the event. He’s been flying for 61 years and still teaches—primary training in a Cessna 150, and instrument training in a Piper Cherokee 140. “I’ve got the oldest Cessna 120 in existence; that’s my fun airplane.” He flew his Cessna 182 to Livermore with another pilot. “I got to fly with Pancho Barnes. That was amazing,” he said. Wiener met Bob Hoover and Chuck Yeager at Barnes’ ranch when he was 6; he spent his summer vacations there. “I soloed at the age of 16 and kept going from there,” he added.
Julian O’Dea and his son, Evan, 6, traveled from Sausalito, California, for the Fly-In. The Sling TSi was the most interesting thing he saw, and he’d just read about it in AOPA Pilot. “I said to Evan, ‘That may be the kit we decide to build,’” O’Dea said. “It looks like the Tecnam Sierra I used to have.” Evan said his favorite airplane was a Beech T–34 in Air Force livery. Both father and son enjoyed watching the STOL demonstrations.
Friday’s scheduled Drone Night Show, which was scheduled to follow the twilight STOL demonstration, had to be cancelled because of software issues experienced by Great Lakes Drone Company. The issue resulted in a safety stand down by the drone operator. The night performance remains on the schedule for AOPA’s third and final 2019 Fly-In, which will take place in Tullahoma, Tennessee, Sept. 13 and 14.