By Roy Gabay
Three days of low IFR predictions are not what you want to be looking at right before the start of a pilots’ destination weekend, but there it was—just before the start of the National Gay Pilots Association’s Cape Cod Classic in Provincetown, Massachusetts.
As Mark Twain said: “One of the brightest gems in the New England weather is the dazzling uncertainty of it.”
Unlike a typical fly-in such as EAA AirVenture, the NGPA event took place all on the ground, which meant that the weather wasn’t really an issue, although it did prevent some attendees from flying there.
Like many organizations, the NGPA had to cancel last year’s Classic, so this was the first time in 19 months that members could gather in person. Some 300 members attended, which is pretty much the maximum that the Classic can accommodate. NGPA also hosts an annual event in February in Palm Springs, California, and attendance at that event normally hits 1,000.
NGPA is the largest organization of lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, and transgender aviation professionals and enthusiasts from around the world. Its mission is simple: to build, support, and unite the LGBTQ aviation community worldwide.
The weekend began with a screening of the 1980s film Airplane! It’s hard to imagine a pilot (or anyone associated with aviation) not having seen the film before and that was proven at the screening with people yelling out punchlines before they even happened. Envision a Rocky Horror Picture Show for pilots (although no one came in costume).
The next day was a new member and retiree meet and greet, a chance for new members, first-time event attendees, and retirees to gather with NGPA leadership for coffee and conversation. It is an opportunity to learn about NGPA and its services, such as its scholarship program (which has given away more than $750,000 to date) and the NGPA Industry Expo, the second largest pilot recruiting and aviation networking event in the United States.
Ryan Antoon, a Los Angeles County aviation commissioner and flight instructor, flew himself to the event from Santa Monica and spoke mostly to us GA pilots about the highs and lows of making a long cross-country trip over varying types of terrain and weather. A spirited Q&A followed with lots of real-life experiences from people who made a similar trip.
The rest of the events were predominantly social gatherings (typical New England lobster bake; not so typical drag show brunch) but the highlight of the weekend was lunch at Provincetown Municipal Airport (PVC) and a chance to walk the ramp and view more than 25 airplanes and vote on Queen and Princess of the Fleet. On display were everything from a few new Cirrus SR22s to a beautifully restored 1973 Piper Challenger, and a 1961 Beechcraft Bonanza (with its distinctive V-tail). The standout was a 1949 Globe/Temco Swift with its canopy fully opened to reveal fire-engine-red leather upholstery matched by an equally intense red paint job on its shiny metallic body.
The weather did reach VFR conditions on the last day as Cape Cod began to make the transition from summer into fall. At the final event, organizers announced that they had surpassed their goal of raising $150,000 from the attendees for the scholarship program. That announcement was made by Ongina, a contestant from season one of RuPaul’s Drag Race. Only fitting for an NGPA event.
Roy Gabay is a private pilot living in New York.