Airshows and Events Archive

Five new fly-ins for 2015

Thursday, January 8th, 2015

I’m excited to be able to tell you that the AOPA Fly-Ins will be back for 2015, and we’ll be in five brand-new locations around the country.

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I tend to have pretty high expectations. So it’s not too often that I find my expectations have been exceeded. But last year’s inaugural AOPA Fly-Ins were better than I could have hoped in just about every way.

At our 2014 events, we met more than 16,000 people and parked more than 2,800 airplanes. Most of all, we celebrated everything that’s great about general aviation, and our members loved it.

So it was an easy decision to do it again. The hard part was deciding where to hold these events. More than 40 airports invited us to host a fly-in, and I wish we could visit all of them. But in the end we had to make choices, so here’s what we came up with:

May 16—Salinas Municipal Airport (SNS), California
June 6—Frederick Municipal Airport (FDK), Maryland
August 22—Anoka County-Blaine Airport (ANE), Minnesota
September 26—Colorado Springs Municipal Airport (COS), Colorado
October 10—Tullahoma Regional Airport (THA), Tennessee

I can’t think of a better way to spend the weekend than hanging out at the airport with my fellow pilots and aviation enthusiasts, and I hope you’ll join me when we come to your part of the country.

For those of you who want to make a weekend of it, we’re adding fun Friday night social events to kick off each fly-in and most locations will offer on-field camping.  We’re also adding a lot of new educational opportunities with speakers covering aviation safety, maintenance, local flying tips, aircraft ownership, and more.

Admission to the fly-ins is free to everyone. And of course we’ll have wonderful aircraft displays that feature everything from the latest models to antiques, an exhibit area featuring the very best aviation products and services, a learn to fly area for future pilots, and Rusty Pilots seminars to help lapsed pilots get back in the air.

You can’t have a fly-in without food, so every event will start with a $5 pancake breakfast. Lunch will be provided by gourmet food trucks or local restaurants, and special pricing will be available for people who pre-register.

Needless to say, I’ll be there and I look forward to answering your questions and bringing you up to date on critical issues that affect your flying.

I am really excited to kick off this year’s fly-ins and meet friends new and old. Pre-registration starts next month. In the meantime, you can get all the details and start planning your trip at Can’t wait to see you there.

The great Northwest

Friday, August 22nd, 2014

I don’t get to the northwestern corner of the country as often as I’d like. For an outdoorsman like me, it’s just above heaven. In close proximity you’ll find jagged mountains, high deserts, stunning river gorges, and pristine forests.

But of course, the biggest draw in the Northwest has to be the people.

I was lucky enough to spend last weekend in Spokane, Washington, for the latest in our series of regional events. I can honestly say that we’ve never had a warmer welcome than we had in Spokane, where members repeatedly thanked us for coming to their beautiful corner of the country.AOPA Spokane '14 Fly In AOPA Spokane '14 Fly In AOPA Spokane '14 Fly In AOPA Spokane '14 Fly In AOPA Spokane '14 Fly In

Even though each AOPA Fly-In lasts only a day, there’s a lot of preparation that goes into every event. The staff at Felts Field was hugely helpful and accommodating while the 150-plus volunteers set to work with smiles on their faces. Best of all, they were still smiling even after spending a long day setting up, then doing everything from flipping pancakes to parking airplanes on the day of the fly-in, and even cleaning up at the end.

In Spokane, and everywhere we’ve been, I’ve been delighted to reach so many members who’ve never been to an AOPA event before. Our goal with these regional events was to meet our members where they fly, and that’s exactly what’s happening.

If you haven’t yet made it to one of this year’s fly-ins, we’ve got three more chances to connect. We’ll be in Chino, California on Sept. 20; Frederick, Maryland on Oct. 4; and St. Simons, Georgia on Nov. 8.

And we’ve already begun planning for next year. If your airport is interested in hosting an AOPA Fly-In in 2015, send us your proposal. The application is available online. We’d love to visit your community and get to know you better.

Another great get together

Monday, July 14th, 2014

Every community has its own character—that’s one of the truly enjoyable things about travel, discovering the differences and similarities among people and places. Airports, too, have personalities. And that has made each of this year’s AOPA Fly-Ins a special experience.

This past weekend, we were in Plymouth, Massachusetts, a very different setting from our previous fly-ins in San Marcos, Texas, and Indianapolis, but every bit as much fun.

The good weather brought out a lot of airplanes, with 495 aircraft flying in to Plymouth Municipal Airport and Taunton Municipal Airport. We even had 45 airplanes, and their occupants, camp overnight.

We had 2,250 people come out for the day plus more than 250 volunteers to help things run smoothly. I really can’t thank our volunteers enough. Instead of coming just to relax and enjoy, they come to work.  And they are all so willing to work together to help make each event great. They really exemplify the community spirit we hope to build with our fly-ins.

As I’ve traveled the country meeting pilots, both at AOPA events and at other types of gatherings, I’ve discovered that while there are regional differences in how we fly—location has a lot to do with whether you need to worry about preheating your engine, planning for high density altitude, or accounting for pop-up thunderstorms—there are huge similarities in why we fly.

Pilots everywhere fly because they enjoy the freedom it provides, they love the challenge, and flying enhances their business or personal lives. And pilots everywhere are passionate about protecting general aviation so they can continue to enjoy everything it has to offer.

I count myself lucky to be part of a pilot community that is ready to come together to work with AOPA to protect the freedom to fly. And I’m thrilled to be meeting so many pilots from around the country and learning what matters to you.

My next chance to do that is at the hub of general aviation activity—AirVenture in Oshkosh. I hope you’ll join me there to learn about how AOPA is working for you and to see all great new things we have to offer, starting with a new location right on the flight line.  And for those of you on the West Coast, I’ll be in Spokane, Washington, for the next AOPA Fly-In on August 16.  Look forward to seeing you there.

AOPA’s First Fly-In

Monday, April 28th, 2014

0501_volunteers4 Saturday was our first-ever AOPA Fly-In, and what a great day it was!

More than 2,500 people joined me in San Marcos for a day of all things aviation. We had wonderful exhibits, all kinds of aircraft on display, good food, and plenty of chances to mix and mingle with our fellow aviation enthusiasts. 

 A little IFR weather in the morning slowed down early arrivals, but we kept the pancake breakfast going to make sure everyone had the chance to eat. And by the time I hosted my Pilot Town Hall mid-afternoon, the fun was in full swing.

We started these events because we wanted to meet our members where they fly, and because we wanted to help more aviation enthusiasts get engaged in all the exciting things happening in GA. I think we accomplished both goals.

If you joined us in San Marcos, thank you for making our inaugural AOPA Fly-In an event to remember. And a special thanks to the 185 volunteers who helped make it all possible. If you couldn’t make it to Texas, I hope you’ll join us when we come to your part of 0501_volunteers1the country later in the year. 

Here’s the schedule:

May 31—Indianapolis, IN

July 12—Plymouth, MA

Aug. 16—Spokane, WA

Sept. 20—Chino, CA

Oct. 4—Frederick, MD (AOPA 75th Anniversary Homecoming)

Nov. 8—St. Simons, GA

Hope to see you there!


A stop in Emerald City

Sunday, February 23rd, 2014

I was lucky to be able to spend the weekend in the Seattle area attending the Northwest Aviation Conference with thousands of my fellow pilots. I love coming to the Pacific Northwest. Not only is this a beautiful part of the country, but it’s also a place where lots of water means lots of seaplane flying, one of my favorite activities. Every pilot loves to compare experiences and share stories about their favorite aircraft and destinations, so I had a great time just chatting with folks who stopped to say hello.

But I also spent some time talking about the serious issues that affect our flying and taking questions from conference attendees. It should come as no surprise that the burning issues here in the Northwest are very much the same as elsewhere in the country. People want to know how we can control the cost of flying, what we can do to bring more people into aviation, and how we can stop government agencies from targeting innocent pilots

Legislation or regulatory changes that would let more pilots fly without the need for a third-class medical could really alter the landscape, saving money and making it easier for many people to keep flying or get back to flying. I don’t think it’s a cureall, but I do think it’s a huge step in the right direction. Promising alternatives to leaded avgas are another good sign for the future of GA. Finding ways to make airports more welcoming, to help rusty pilots get back in the air, and to make it possible to fly for around $250 a month, are also high on my agenda.

Mark Baker talks to pilots at the 2014 Northwest Aviation Conference.

Mark Baker talks to pilots at the 2014 Northwest Aviation Conference.

There was plenty of passion around all of these issues, but the biggest audience reaction came when I answered a question about the unwarranted stops and searches of general aviation aircraft by Customs and Border Protection. As I told the audience, I don’t know why general aviation is being singled out for this outrageous treatment, but I do know that America is supposed to be the “home of the free” and we aren’t going to stand by while the rights of law abiding pilots are trampled.

Stay tuned for more about our next steps and rest assured that we won’t let this issue go.




Let’s get together

Monday, January 6th, 2014

I love to spend my Saturdays at the airport, hanging out with pilots and airplanes. I’m hoping you’ll join me at least once this year as we inaugurate a series of Saturday AOPA Fly-Ins to be held all across the country.

These gatherings were inspired by you—AOPA members. Many of you told us that you wanted ways to connect with one another and with your association, and we wanted to create a fun, easy way for you to do that.

Each fly-in will start with a pancake breakfast and pilot town hall. I’ll bring you up to speed on the big issues that affect our flying and some of AOPA’s most important initiatives. Then I’ll take lots of your questions so we can have a meaningful discussion about the issues that matter the most to you and the way you fly.

Throughout the day, we’ll have flying activities, educational seminars, exhibits, and aircraft on display. We’ll also have a learn-to-fly area for the aspiring pilots you bring along with you.

Admission is free for everyone, and lunch is free for AOPA members.

Every event will be special, but there’s one in particular that I’m looking forward to—the AOPA Homecoming set for October 4 at our Frederick headquarters. It’s going to be a celebration not only of all things GA, but also of AOPA’s 75th anniversary.

I can’t tell you how proud I am to lead an organization with such a long and impressive history of protecting the freedom to fly, and I can’t wait to share some of that history with you—the members who make AOPA what it is. We want you to come home to your association headquarters and get real insight into what it means to share in the long tradition of AOPA membership.

I have always been lucky to fly at airports where there’s a strong sense of community. More than anything, I want to share that experience with all of you. So I hope you’ll join me and other members of the AOPA team for at the Homecoming or any of our Saturday Fly-Ins for a day of fun, flying, and camaraderie.

Here’s the schedule:

  • Texas: San Marcos Municipal Airport (HYI), April 26
  • Indiana: Indianapolis Regional Airport (MQJ), May 31
  • Massachusetts: Plymouth Airport (PYM), July 12
  • Washington: Spokane Felts Field (SFF), August 16
  • California: Chino Airport (CNO), September 20
  • Maryland: Frederick Municipal Airport (FDK), October 4
  • Georgia: Malcolm McKinnon Airport (SSI), November 8

Hope to see you there!

Weekends are for flying

Monday, October 21st, 2013

As far as I’m concerned, weekends are for flying. OK, every day is for flying, but like you, I sometimes have to wait for the weekend to be able to hang around the airport and talk to pilots.

This past weekend, I had a great time doing some of the things I love most.

The Beech Party celebrates all makes and models of Beechcraft planes.

The annual Beech Party celebrates all makes and models of Beechcraft planes.

Classic airplanes at the Beech Party in Tullahoma Tennessee.

Classic airplanes take flight at the Beech Party in Tullahoma, Tennessee.

On Friday, I stopped in Tullahoma, Tennessee, to drop in on an amazing “Beech Party.” Pilots from all over the country had gathered at this gem of an airport to celebrate the past and present of some of their favorite aircraft. Lunch was held at the Beechcraft Heritage Museum, and this year marked the 50th anniversary of the Staggerwing Club and the 40th anniversary of the museum, which the club founded. As the owner of a Beech 18 and the past owner of a succession of Barons and Bonanzas, I was in heaven.

Tullahoma has both paved and soft landing areas, so the airplanes old and new were in their element. What’s more beautiful than a pristine grass strip with carefully restored Staggerwings buzzing overhead? I just love that sound and the smell of sod crushed under fat airplane tires.

I had the chance to talk to the pilots about some of AOPA’s most critical work, and then I got to just talk airplanes with them.

It was hard to leave Tullahoma, but I had to get to Denver where I spent Saturday morning with another enthusiastic group of AOPA members. This time we were at the Wings Over the Rockies Museum with its enormous hangar filled with military and civilian aircraft, historic flight suits, and even an X-wing replica for you Star Wars fans.

I spent Saturday morning talking to AOPA members at the Wings Overs the Rockies museum in Denver.

I spent Saturday morning talking to AOPA members at the Wings Overs the Rockies Museum in Denver.

I was joined there by Rob Hackman, our vice president of regulatory affairs, and Dave Ulane, our regional manager for the northwest mountain states. More than 200 people turned out to hear about my priorities for AOPA, learn more about state
aviation issues, and get updates on big regulatory efforts, including avgas, changes to aircraft certification, and our medical petition. They had some great questions about where GA is headed and what AOPA is doing to protect our freedom to fly.

So my weekend was just the way I like them—all about aviation.

GA makes strong showing in New Mexico

Monday, August 12th, 2013

Today I’m in New Mexico, where I’ve had the chance to see just how general aviation can prosper when we get pilots and elected officials engaged.

Companies including Aspen Avionics, Bendix/King by Honeywell, and Eclipse Aerospace all have operations in New Mexico, a state where general aviation is represented by more than 4,200 pilots operating out of 61 public-use airports. It’s also a state where general aviation generates more than $700 million each year.

We had a terrific crowd at Cutter Aviation here in Albuquerque to hear Sen. Tom Udall and Gov. Susana Martinez speak about the future and importance of GA to the state and the nation. Here are two elected officials who really understand what general aviation is all about. They recognize that GA provides transportation, recreation, humanitarian relief, business opportunities, and so much more.


Sen. Udall speaks to a gathering of GA business leaders, workers, and pilots at Cutter Aviation in Albuquerque.

Sen. Udall speaks to a gathering of GA business leaders, workers, and pilots at Cutter Aviation in Albuquerque.

The event was hosted by GAMA and co-sponsored by AOPA and others—a wonderful way our aviation organizations can work together to rally all segments of the general aviation community.


New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez speaks about the importance, and future, of general aviation in her state.

New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez speaks about the importance, and future, of general aviation in her state.

I love being part of events like this because the elected officials who take part in similar gatherings nationwide are always impressed not only by the size of the audience, but by their understanding of the issues and their active engagement to preserve and promote our freedom to fly. I hope next time we’re in your area, you’ll turn out to show your elected officials just how much general aviation means to you.

Boy Scouts share excitement of GA

Thursday, July 18th, 2013











I travel the country talking to pilots and AOPA members, but even I rarely get to see so much enthusiasm from so many young people as I have today at the Boy Scouts of America National Jamboree in Mt. Hope, West Virginia. In just a couple of days more than 1,000 scouts have visited our tent to enjoy a flight experience in the AOPA Jay. And some 600 have signed up for our special teen AV8RS program. Today, as part of Airborne Day, our own Dave Hirschman led a flyover that had all eyes looking up.

Weather wins the day

Tuesday, July 24th, 2012

They say it’s better to be on the ground, wishing you were in the air, than it is to be in the air and wishing you were on the ground. With that in mind, I landed the Husky and waited this one out.

No matter when or where you fly, you must obey the laws of nature. In light general aviation aircraft, that means watching the weather and knowing when it’s time to get on the ground.

The first part of my trip to Oshkosh in the Husky was beautiful, but a good look at the weather radar told me the last 150 miles would be considerably more challenging. I decided to hangar the Husky and get a good night’s sleep while I waited out the heavy rains and high wind.

This morning I was lucky enough to catch a window of pretty weather between storms.

I’ve just landed in Oshkosh and I’m looking forward to all this week holds.


A break in the weather this morning let me take off and resume my journey to Oshkosh for AirVenture.