by Mark Baker
AOPA President & CEO
Published in Midwest Flyer – April/May 2018 issue
We made it through the cold months and we’re finally back to my favorite time of year: fly-in season. The weather is (usually) great and nothing beats the camaraderie shared among pilots when we gather to enjoy our favorite pastime. And after years of flying, I’ve come to learn that – ironically – half the fun is on the ground.
While I’m somewhat biased, you can’t go wrong attending an AOPA Fly-In. After having attended all 20 of ours, I always look forward to the next one. Each one is designed to help make flying more fun, affordable, and safe.
We created these regional fly-ins to replace the annual three-day national AOPA Summit. The idea is that we come closer to members, rather than expecting members to come to one of the coasts each year, which can be much more expensive for attendees.
This year, we start out in Missoula, Montana, June 15 and 16, where you’ll have several opportunities to experience my favorite type of flying in the backcountry of Montana. I’m planning to participate in one of the fly-outs at Seeley Lake Airstrip, where pilots will be treated to a delicious potato bake hosted by the Recreational Aviation Foundation.
There will also be other opportunities to see Montana in all its glory with a chance to fly over a section of the Bob Marshall Wilderness Area and the 1,000-foot-high Chinese Wall that stretches for 22 scenic miles.
After Missoula, we head to the oldest state capital city in the United States – Santa Fe, New Mexico, September 14 and 15, which is sure to be rich with history and culture. Then if you plan to meet us in Carbondale, Illinois, October 5 and 6, I recommend the award-winning 17th Street BBQ in nearby Murphysboro – and make sure to try the ribs.
You’ll need to pack the sunscreen if you’re going to our final fly-in of the season in the southern town of Gulf Shores, Alabama, October 26 and 27, known for its white sandy beaches and warm blue water.
What a positive impact we can make on the industry when we come together, and that’s one of the reasons the Pilot Town Halls we host at every AOPA Fly-In, along with Sun ‘n Fun International Fly-In and EAA AirVenture, are so important to me. Each one gives us a chance to share what AOPA is focused on, what we’ve accomplished, and what we’re looking forward to next. It’s also a great time for us to hear what matters most to you and what AOPA can do to improve your flying experience.
Attending fly-ins is not a requirement for being a pilot, but participating in these timeless traditions is something every pilot should experience at least once in their lifetime. And if you have one you’d like to share with fellow AOPA members or find out more about one you’d like to attend, you can read and post about it all on the AOPA Hangar (https://hangar.aopa.org).
I look forward to seeing you this fly-in season and hope you have a chance to enjoy it as much as I will.