Stars Do Shine At AOPA Aviation Summit

by Dave Weiman

PALM SPRINGS, CALIF.  – The AOPA Aviation Summit, October 11-13, 2012, showed signs of stardom from both Hollywood and the GA community. Regardless of wealth, fame or the lack thereof, pilots came together to network, learn, socialize and have a good time in a setting of its own.

The first official day of the Summit was Thursday, but it really took off the day before on Wednesday with the “Parade of Planes” taxiing down the streets from Palm Springs International Airport, to the convention center. Observing singles, twins, and jets parade down the streets is fun…  Observing the general public coming out in droves to witness this feat is good public relations. Anyone who missed the parade to the convention center on Wednesday had another opportunity to watch the parade go back to the airport on Saturday at the close of the Summit. Without question, attendance at the outdoor aircraft displays increases when the host city can accommodate AOPA’s Parade of Planes, and not every site can.

The other Parade of Planes took place in nearby Los Angeles with the transport of Space Shuttle Endeavour from LAX to the California Science Center in Exposition Park – a 12-mile journey, which began on Saturday, October 13, and ended the next day. The shuttle once orbited at more than 17,000 mph. Its top speed through Inglewood and southern Los Angeles for its final voyage was 2 mph and at a cost of $10 million, which was paid by the science center ( Check out the time lapsed video at the L.A. Times’ website:

Also be sure to read or re-read Matthew Olafsen’s article entitled “NASA Ends Endeavour’s Journey” in the June/July 2012 issue of Midwest Flyer Magazine, about his private tour of Endeavour at Kennedy Space Center (

Endeavor’s mission isn’t over… It’s just changed!

Summit Attendance Good!

Nine thousand, two hundred (9,200) people packed the convention center in Palm Springs, and all 400 exhibit spots were taken, leaving another two dozen or so exhibitors in the hallway – a good sign for GA and the U.S. economy.

Impressive was the ingenuity in aircraft technology on display. The winners were the manufacturers that could demonstrate that the benefits of their products outweigh their cost. That same principle is what AOPA has been telling the FAA as to what “NextGen” needs to gain widespread acceptance. Show us that the benefits of upgrading our avionics far exceed the cost of doing so. It may be great for the airlines and corporate jets, which can defray the cost over hundreds and thousands of hours flown each year and help reduce their fuel burn. And it may be great for the FAA in reducing staff requirements. Now make it cost-effective for us, the little GA aircraft owner barely hanging on by a shoestring, struggling to put enough $6.00 per gallon gas in our 40-year-old planes to fly maybe 100 hours a year, and an occasional flight into controlled airspace.

NextGen, or the modernization of the air traffic control system, was one of several topics raised by AOPA President Craig Fuller in his one-on-one with FAA Acting Administrator Michael Huerta. Unfortunately, Huerta was less than revealing as to what NextGen will cost aircraft owners.

It was good to see former FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt (2009-2011) walking the exhibit halls and shaking the hands of fellow pilots. Babbitt got the shaft when he was picked up December 3, 2011 in Fairfax City, Va., for a possible DUI, charges which were later dismissed. Southwest Airlines has recently picked him up too, but to work in labor relations. When I caught up with Randy, he was visiting with our beloved mentor, Bob Hoover, 90, who was at the Summit autographing his book “Forever Flying.”


Among the exhibitors was Alan Klapmeier with the Kestrel propjet. Klapmeier seems fully aware of his competition, but believes that the new pressurized composite will fly circles around it.

Kestrel Aircraft Company has selected the Honeywell TPE331-14GR engine, which produces 1759 thermodynamic horsepower, but is flat rated to approximately 1000 shaft horsepower to allow for better high-altitude, high-temperature performance.

The six to eight-seat, all-composite aircraft cruises at speeds around 350 knots up to 31,000 feet and will sell for around $3 million once it has been certified. Kestrel moved its headquarters from Brunswick, Maine to Superior, Wisconsin in 2011 (

During the AOPA Aviation Summit, Klapmeier accepted an invitation to be the keynote speaker at the Wisconsin Aviation Conference, April 29 thru May 1, 2013 at the Madison Marriott West in Middleton, Wisconsin. For conference details, refer to the Wisconsin Airport Management Association website and future issues of Midwest Flyer Magazine.

Alan’s brother, Dale Klapmeier, cofounder of Cirrus Aircraft, was also at the Aviation Summit with the Cirrus lineup of piston aircraft and their SF50 personal jet, which is undergoing certification. A check for $100,000 will reserve you a production slot for the $1.6 million aircraft.

Keynote Speakers

There were several excellent speakers at the Summit including pilot/actor Harrison Ford; the editors of AOPA Pilot magazine who told of their adventures flying outside the United States; a combat veteran who despite losing an arm and a leg, managed to obtain his Sport Pilot Certificate; and of course, AOPA President Craig Fuller, who shared his experience flying the back-country of America in his Aviat Husky.

DavFor the elites, there was “A Night for Flight” charity gala on October 11 to support the work of the AOPA Foundation. Some 400 members paid $250.00 a plate to attend the reception and dinner, half of which was tax deductible. For $2,500.00, you could sit at Harrison Ford’s table. A silent auction raised even more money, including $70,000 to go flying with Harrison Ford.

The meal and silent auction were interrupted briefly with a little comedy from “Fuller and Ford,” and pilot/comedian, Dave Coulier, best known as the loveable Uncle Joey on the 1990s sitcom “Full House.”

Brian Landsburg is president of the AOPA Foundation, which is involved in everything from sponsoring safety seminars and online programs, to preserving and improving community airports, growing the pilot population, and educating the public of the benefits of GA ( All good stuff!

Harrison Ford stayed over Thursday night and was the featured speaker for the general session Friday morning. Ford, who saved GA hundreds of thousands of dollars in lobbying by working the halls of Congress two years ago, discussed how aviation helped him reinvent his life, and why all pilots should share the value of aviation with the public. “I love it (flying) as much now as when I first got the taste,” Ford said. Completing three films this year made it more challenging to go flying as much as he would have wanted, but he vows to make up for it in 2013.

Another speaker who grabbed everyone’s attention was former U.S. Marine Sgt. Adam Kisielewski, 28, who lost his left arm and part of his right leg in combat in Iraq in 2005. Adam overcame his injuries to learn how to fly a Light Sport Aircraft, thanks to an “Able Flight Scholarship.” He soloed on March 14, 2012, and earned his Sport Pilot Certificate in April. At the Summit, Kisielewski shared how he became interested in flying and how he learned to maneuver an aircraft with one arm. A family man with a 2-year-old son, Kisielewski now plans to go for his Private Pilot Certificate as his budget allows (

When the morning general sessions were over, the information and training sessions began, and the exhibit hall opened. Among the session speakers was aviation author and flight instructor, Rod Machado, who packed them into the main hall with his wit and knowledge.

The American Bonanza Society combined its annual convention at the AOPA Aviation Summit. Bonanza owners had their own sessions and social events, but also participated in Summit activities.

AOPA Puts Emphasis On Lowering The Cost of Flying

Flying clubs have long been the most affordable means of flying, and because of that, AOPA announced during the Summit that it is putting emphasis on developing a “flying club network” to spur GA growth.

As the aviation industry seeks to reverse rising costs and a decline in pilot numbers, flying clubs can be part of the solution, says AOPA. Flying clubs offer affordability, but also a sense of community, quality instruction, an entry point to aviation, a means to stay flying as a retiree, and a viable business model. Flying clubs may also help reduce student pilot dropouts if promoted during flight training.

State-Level Aviation Advocacy

AOPA’s Airport Support Network (ASN) continues to grow, and AOPA’s new regional manager program celebrated its first anniversary at the Summit. A team of seven full-time regional managers are now focused are building government relations and strong local aviation communities. By all accounts, the program has been successful as evident by the reports published in Midwest Flyer Magazine by AOPA Great Lakes Regional Manager Bryan Budds, and Central Southwest Regional Manager Yasmina Platt. Budds and Platt were on hand at the Summit to meet members in their regions.

AOPA Aviation Summit 2013

AOPA Aviation Summit 2013 will be held October 10-12, east of the Rockies in Fort Worth, Texas, making it more affordable and less time consuming for pilots from the Midwest to attend. Begin now to make personal travel and vacation plans to attend, and consider organizing a “plane pool” with spouses or fellow pilots. For details refer to, or call 1-800-USA-AOPA.

See you in Fort Worth!

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