by Mark Baker
AOPA President and CEO
Published in Midwest Flyer Magazine August/September 2021 online issue
Over the past year, I think we’ve all learned a simple lesson in appreciation. Most of us didn’t realize how much we’d miss the little things: a family gathering, a sporting event, and for us pilots, an airshow. Or to be more specific, the World’s Greatest Aviation Celebration.
I’ve spent many summers at EAA AirVenture in Oshkosh, long before I became president of AOPA, and I’ll likely return to these grounds long after that title is retired. Along with half a million aviation enthusiasts, I was disappointed to miss last year’s show. But we’ve waited patiently, weathered the storm, and I can tell you it will feel really good to be at Wittman Regional Airport once again.
Reflecting on previous trips, within minutes the nostalgia sets in. The roar of the military fighters over the flight line, the seaplanes splashing along Lake Winnebago’s shore, and the smell of brats grilling in the afternoon. I’ve missed being in the company of legendary pilots and innovative aircraft. But above all, I’ve missed that unmistakable blue tent proudly displaying my favorite acronym. In other words, I’ve missed seeing you.
Of course, it’s what’s inside AOPA’s tent that brings the magic to life. Over the course of a week, this tent is home to many aviators across the spectrum—rusty pilots, students, professionals, and pilots flying for fun.
I know there are hundreds of exhibitors to visit, lots of merchandise to buy, and many performances to see, but I hope a stop at the AOPA campus is on your agenda. Come say hello to the people behind your AOPA membership who work hard for your freedom to fly every day. Our government affairs staff, AOPA Air Safety Institute experts, member service representatives, and legal specialists are on site to answer any of your questions. Check out our recently renovated AOPA Sweepstakes Grumman Tiger in person (you might be calling it yours someday) or join us and your fellow AOPA members for a great view of the excitement taking place on the flight line. From educational seminars to my Pilot Town Hall, and our social media meet-and-greets, a lot of action is jam-packed into this airshow. We wouldn’t have it any other way.
AirVenture’s weeklong celebration reinforces what makes our aviation community so special and reassures me that our general aviation industry is thriving. The same demand to be in the company of the aviation community is extending to the desire to buy aircraft. Demand for aircraft outstripped supply in numerous market segments in the first quarter of 2021. According to the aircraft valuation service Vref, piston single-engine aircraft accounted for almost 65.5 percent of valuation activity. Cessna 182 Skylane models were at the top of a most-valued list for the category, followed by some Cessna 172s.
The momentum for GA is alive and well. It makes me excited for fly-ins down the road, and especially for our AOPA Aviator Showcases. I think we all could use an excuse to get out and fly! AOPA’s Aviator Showcases will be held August 27 in Manassas, Virginia, and October 1 in Fort Worth, Texas. These events require registration in advance and won’t be like our usual fly-ins, but rather a more intimate experience geared toward connecting pilots with industry leaders in avionics, technology, and aircraft. While these events may take a different shape, I can assure you that they reflect our same passion to connect with the community.
If you aren’t able to make it to our showcase events, we will be hosting a multi-stop air tour later this fall during which members will be able to interact in person with me and other AOPA leaders. I look forward to meeting you, all while building on our aviation inspiration.
I know I’ve said it time and time again, but the GA community never ceases to amaze me. It’s easy to see the spirit of GA come to life each year at grand celebrations like AirVenture or major fly-ins. We should all strive to keep that energy alive year-round for, as they say, the show must go on.