Travels Archive

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.

Speaking up for GA in AK

Monday, September 17th, 2012

For those of us who live in the “lower 48,” Alaska can sometimes feel a world away. But it’s a state I love to visit, not least because so many of the residents are involved in general aviation.

Today I had the privilege to be part of an event with Sen. Mark Begich of Alaska, as well as Pete Bunce of GAMA, Tom Hendricks of NATA, and Ed Bolen of NBAA. Sen. Begich co-chairs the Senate General Aviation Caucus and routinely speaks out against user fees and in favor of general aviation. He’s worked to ensure that avgas remains available even as the industry seeks safe and affordable alternatives. And he has fought hard against new taxes for GA operators. In short he’s a real friend to GA.

Senator Begich

Sen. Mark Begich speaking to an audience of Alaskan aviators.

The crowd that gathered for the event was enthusiastic about protecting GA, too. And for good reason. Tourism is an important part of Alaska’s economy and hundreds of thousands of tourists each year take advantage of GA to go flightseeing or fishing. Residents, too, depend on GA for transportation, access to medical care, and the delivery of everything from food to mail.

It should come as no surprise that this was a knowledgeable audience that asked pertinent questions and really understood the issues facing general aviation.

It’s been a great trip to Alaska and I look forward to returning to this beautiful state with its GA-friendly atmosphere. If I’m lucky I’ll find a way to bring my Husky north for some real backcountry flying.

The early bird…

Wednesday, August 8th, 2012

I love to fly early in the morning, especially in the summer and especially down low. The bumps that come with summer’s heat have not yet formed and the air is smooth and pleasantly cool.

This morning’s sunrise over Spencer, Iowa.

This morning I launched from KFSD in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, at 5:30 a.m., traveling ahead of a thunderstorm. I arrived over KSPW in Spencer, Iowa, just about dawn and I was treated to this beautiful view of the sun rising over the fields. The coming days for me will be full, involving a combination of travel and meetings. But before the rush begins, it’s great to have a moment like this one that reminds me just how lucky I am to be a pilot.

Land of the Relentless Fun (46U)

Sunday, August 5th, 2012

Our travels in Wyoming took Dave Hirschman in the AOPA Sweepstakes Husky and me in my N24HU to Alpine, Wyoming.  There, the residents of the Alpine Airpark (46U) warmly welcomed us to their community which claims 14 Huskys on the field.  Located to the south of Jackson Hole, Wyoming, this majestic community sits at the southeast corner of the Palisades Reservoir. 

The Reservoir provided a beautiful backdrop one morning for some photography…and we had a great photographer with us:  George Kounis from Pilot Getaways

 During our visit, Dave and I were treated to some great meals and fantastic flying.  We learned first hand that this is one airpark community that is committed to what they call “relentless fun!”

One evening, we had perfect conditions for a flight right over the top of the Snake River.  We took two groups of four Huskys on about a 20-mile run down the river in a carefully briefed and perfectly coordinated flight.  It was flying as Huskys were meant to fly and we were rewarded with remarkable scenery as the sun was low in the sky behind us.

These folks also just go out for early morning runs to find a cup of coffee at neighboring fields.  Since we were enjoying our own coffee in a guest house just a few yards from the 5,850 foot runway, it was enjoyable to go out and watch our new friends departing.

While our purpose in traveling to this part of Wyoming was for a final round of service at Aviat Aircraft for the AOPA Sweepstakes Husky before the giveaway, this community sitting just north of Aviat’s home in Afton was a real find and a perfect way for Dave and me to conclude what has been a wonderful year of flying the two yellow Huskys together across the country.

With about 200 hours on the Sweepstakes Husky, the aircraft has been carefully broken in for a new lucky owner.  Dave has headed to what we in  Washington, D.C., call  an “undisclosed location” in the West to stage the aircraft for our October AOPA Aviation Summit.  I’ve headed on to fly back to Frederick. 

So, while the sun may be setting on this wonderful trip west, along the way we’ve made some great new friends and discovered a place to which we both agreed we must find a way to return.

We have also witnessed the pure enthusiasm of pilots of all ages for flying a type of aircraft that can take you to back country airports all across the country.  We appreciate the positive response to our 2012 Sweepstakes aircraft and I personally look forward to handing the keys to one of our lucky members in the next few months.

Huskies to Wyoming

Tuesday, July 31st, 2012

The Huskies arrived safely in Alpine, Wyoming.

On Monday, Dave Hirschman, flying the Tougher Than a Tornado Sweepstakes Husky, and I headed west en route to Wyoming. The scenery was spectacular. We flew along the Missouri River near Pierre, South Dakota, before stopping in Alpine, Wyoming.

This morning, we took the Sweeps Husky to the Afton, Wyoming, Aviat factory for its annual. Dave and I received a warm welcome as we brought the plane home one last time. The next stop for that beautiful aircraft will be AOPA’s Aviation Summit in Palm Springs, California, where we will give it away to one very lucky winner. I know it will be hard to part with, as every sweepstakes plane is. But this time the blow will be softened by knowing I have a Husky of my own waiting in the hangar.

 As for me and my Husky, we’ll be flying around this area for the next couple of days, enjoying the scenery and the company of other Husky enthusiasts.

A view of the Tougher Than a Tornado Husky as we fly along the Missouri River near Pierre, South Dakota.


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.