By: Yasmina Platt
AOPA’s Central Southwest Regional Manager
The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) held its very first (of seven) Regional Fly-in in San Marcos on April 26, 2014. The goal of an AOPA Regional Fly-In is to create a positive, grassroots relational experience for our members and the local aviation community, to promote the value of general aviation, and to draw positive attention to the local airport and its value to the community. We want to meet our members in their own backyards and hear firsthand what is on their minds.
A whopping 700 airplanes had RSVPed to attend but IFR conditions the morning of the event kept some aircraft away. Still, over 2,500 pilots and aviation enthusiasts attended and 350 aircraft flew in despite the overcast layer to check out the aircraft displays and exhibitor tent, attend seminars, and enjoy great food and camaraderie.
The event got underway with a traditional fly-in breakfast: yummy pancakes and sausages prepared by AOPA staff members and volunteers. Lunch was also served and free for all AOPA members: brisket, sausage, and several side dishes.
Aircraft ranged from light sport aircraft to biplanes, jet trainers and helicopters. The Experimental Aircraft of America’s (EAA’s) B-17 Aluminum Overcast gave a few rides also. A couple of Bell Boeing V-22 Ospreys entertained the crowd as well with their helicopter and airplane capabilities.
Several seminars were held throughout the event, including topics like owner-performed maintenance, flying with iPads, stick-and-rudder flying, and improving radio communications. The Pilot Town Hall meeting in the afternoon was standing room only where AOPA President Mark Baker and I gave an update on state and federal issues and initiatives as well as answered questions from the audience. EAA President Jack Pelton also joined Mark Baker on the stage to talk about the partnership between the two organizations.
A large number of the attendees also signed a traveling petition on display in support of the third class medical reform. This was a popular stop for most pilots.
I also cannot forget to mention the Rusty Pilots seminar conducted on Friday night where approximately 90 people received a great ground school in preparation for their FAA flight review after many years (as many as 28 years) of inactiveness.
But, none of this could have happened without the great help of 185 volunteers, who helped set up, parked cars and aircraft, served meals, cleaned, etc.
Thank you to all of you who came, volunteered, and spent a wonderful day with us. The event was widely successful and we look forward to many more. Unfortunately though, we will have to wait until 2015 to have another one in our Central Southwest Region.
You can read more about these and other developments in our region and specifically in Texas by visiting http://www.aopa.org/Advocacy/Airports-and-State-Advocacy.aspx or following me on Twitter (https://twitter.com/AOPACentralSWor @AOPACentralSW).