Let’s Go Flying! Archive

Knocking off the rust

Thursday, March 27th, 2014

If you’ve ever taken a lengthy break from flying, you know that coming back can be a little intimidating. Depending how long you’ve been away, you might wonder if you can remember the regs. You might even wonder if you’ve still got what it takes to fly. Or maybe you just can’t seem to find time to wade through the requirements and get back into the cockpit.

Trust me on this. If you’ve earned a pilot certificate, even if you haven’t used it for years, you’ve done the hard part. Getting back into the left seat is easier than you think, and all of us at AOPA are here to help you do it.

Today we launched our Rusty Pilots Program—an easy, no-cost way to get you flying again. We work with flights schools around the country to offer a seminar that covers the changes that may have taken place since you’ve been away, including new regs, airspace issues, technology, and whatever else you might need to know. The seminars and class materials are free and, best of all, they meet the requirements for the ground portion of the flight review. So bring your logbook and you’re halfway there.

To make it even easier, in many cases you can sign up on the spot for the flight time you need to complete your review and get current.

Visit us at www.RustyPilots.org to find and sign up for a seminar near you. Or join us the day before each of this year’s AOPA Fly-Ins to take part in the Rusty Pilots program delivered by one of our expert presenters. And be sure to bring that logbook! Can’t wait to see you there!

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.

Celebrate Our Freedom to Fly on the Fourth of July

Friday, July 1st, 2011

I hope all our AOPA members and fellow aviation enthusiasts enjoy some aspect of flying on this Fourth of July weekend.

If you need encouragement, I hope you find it in this remarkable photography by our good friends at PILOT GETAWAYS.  George Kounis shot the picture while brother John Kounis flew the aircraft.  And, their spectacular “target” was a beautiful Aviat Husky A 1-C flown by another good friend, Stu Horn.  I was among those fortunate enough to be on the ground at Ryan Field and shot a picture of these fine aviators at work.

We all found ourselves in one of the most enchanted airstrips around, Ryan Field.  The airstrip, built by Ben and Butchie Ryan next to their home, sits at the entrance to Glacier National Park and it is, as you can see, nothing short of a national treasure.  The fact that we can fly there is due to the tireless efforts of the Recreational Aviation Foundation.  It was their annual fly in at Ryan field that brought us together.

In whatever way you can, celebrate our freedom to fly and enjoy the company of great friends and fellow aviators this weekend.

To one and all, a safe and happy Fourth of July.

Springing the trap!

Sunday, February 7th, 2010

AOPA’s own SWAT team arrived in Northern California on Friday, getting out of Frederick before the anticipated record snows. AOPA–a SWAT team? In our case, SWAT stands for Sweepstakes Winner Announcement Team!

On Friday, I was conducting business in Nashville, and with a huge snowstorm threatening the Mid-Atlantic region, I didn’t even try to get back to Frederick for fear I wouldn’t be able to get out in time to spring our carefully laid trap on the unsuspecting winner of the 2009 AOPA Let’s Go Flying Sweepstakes.

Of course, people like to keep an eye on where AOPA’s airplanes are going, so I was careful not to arrive on the scene too soon and spoil the surprise. Instead of heading straight to California, I stopped in Denver overnight, flying to Sacramento on Saturday evening to review the final plans with AOPA SWAT members over dinner at the historic Frank Fats Restaurant.

On Sunday morning AOPA’s team gathered at the Yolo County Airport for a final status check before springing our trap.

We had persuaded a colleague of our winner to help out with a little friendly deception. Jimmy Rollinson, a well-known flyer and, like our winner, a FedEx pilot, said he wanted to look at property in the winner’s Alta Sierra fly-in community. And, to make sure our winner would be willing to give up part of his Super Bowl Sunday to help (not to mention to give us an excuse to bring a film crew to this quiet, private field), Rollinson said he’d be arriving in the famous Cessna 310–Songbird III from the TV series “Sky King”–an airplane owned by Paul and Valerie Erickson, who were also complicit in our plan.

Heading out with Songbird III to surprise our winner at Alta Vista Airport.

Heading out with Songbird III to surprise our winner at Alta Vista Airport.

Acting as producer, AOPA’s own Warren Morningstar arranged to bring in the film crew under the pretense of shooting some footage of the famous airplane against the beautiful backdrop of the Sierra Nevada range.

The plan was to have our winner join Rollinson on the tarmac to talk about the Sky King series in time for me to swoop in and land in our beautiful 2005 Cirrus SR22 GTS. A tough job, yes!  But, as they say, someone has to do it.

I was excited and honored to present the airplane to this year’s winner–Michael Graves. Graves, an 18-year member of AOPA who lives in a fly-in community and sometimes uses GA to commute to his professional flying job, was stunned and delighted.

I have to say this is the second time I have had the thrill of giving away an AOPA sweepstakes airplane to a deserving winner and they have been two of the best days of my life! I just love being part of the excitement and watching the reaction as the truth dawns on a winner’s face.

Winner Michael Graves shows off the keys to his Lets Go Flying Sweepstakes Cirrus.

Winner Michael Graves shows off the keys to his Lets Go Flying Sweepstakes Cirrus.

There’s a lot more to this story, and you can find all the details in our special edition of AOPA ePilot and on AOPA Online (www.aopa.org), and of course we’ll be making that video footage available, too. But I couldn’t wait to share my own excitement and offer my first public congratulations to Michael Graves, as well as my thanks to all those who conspired to make the plan work, including our AOPA Airport Support Network volunteer Meriellen Couppee and the folks at Davis Flight Support who got the SR22 ready for its closeup and helped us coordinate the many details that go into a surprise like this.

I am not sure just how much better this month can get. First, no aviation user fees in the President’s budget, and then I get the chance to return to my home state of California and give away our 2009 Sweepstakes airplane!

Now, I just need to figure out if I can get back into Frederick Municipal Airport with all the snow!

An inside look at aerobatics with AeroShell’s team

Saturday, August 1st, 2009
What a surprise! A ride with AeroShell's aerobatics team.
What a surprise! A ride with AeroShell

I got quite a surprise this morning when what I thought was an 8 a.m. meeting turned out to be an opportunity to do a little formation flying and aerobatics with the AeroShell team in their North American AT-6 “Texans”. It was an unforgettable experience. The team flew through spectacular maneuvers including loops and an amazing bomb burst with the smoke on. It could only happen at Oshkosh.

The view from inside the cockpit during maneuvers.
The view from inside the cockpit during maneuvers.

My morning began with savoring the thrill of flight and ended with working on the serious business of  protecting our freedom to fly. Just a couple of hours after the adrenaline rush of flying with the AeroShell team, I found myself in a meeting with EAA’s Tom Poberezny, other association heads, and a delegation of congressional leaders.

It’s been a perfect finale to a fun and productive week at EAA AirVenture.

Exercising our freedom to fly

Thursday, July 2nd, 2009

I have spent the past few weeks traveling all around the country—mainly to speak with groups of pilots about the value of general aviation and the General Aviation Serves America campaign.


The whole experience has been a wonderful chance for me to talk face-to-face with AOPA’s members about how they fly and why general aviation is important to their business and personal lives. It’s also been a wonderful validation of the efficient use of general aviation aircraft.


Last month, in a 48-hour period I was able to travel to California, New Mexico, Ohio, and Maryland. In that same time frame I was able to give a commencement address to UCLA’s political science graduates, participate in fundraising event for General Aviation Serves America, attend an important business meeting, and get back into the office in time to put in a full afternoon’s work. I could never have managed all that on such a tight timeline if I had been forced to follow airline schedules.


And I do it all the time. If I have a long trip to make, I try to plan my fuel stops around airports, pilot groups, or events I need to visit. Can’t do that on the airlines, either.


Almost every day I personally take advantage of the freedom general aviation gives me to get where I need to go, get the job done, and get back into the office. And I’ve done it for years. Long before becoming president of AOPA, I relied on general aviation to maximize my most limited resource—time.


I am sure many of you have had similar experiences—discovering that general aviation allows you to “warp” time and do things that simply wouldn’t be possible by any other means. That’s a story worth sharing, and I hope it’s one you’ll tell every chance you get.


I hope you’ll also take a look at this amazing YouTube video developed from pictures taken by general aviation pilots—it just may remind you of how extraordinary our freedom to fly really is. Share it with a non-flying friend to give them a unique insight into the world of general aviation flying, and consider inviting them up for a flight.  And, this Independence Day weekend join me and thousands of general aviation pilots in exercising one of the greatest freedoms we share—the freedom to fly!

A Day at Sporty’s

Saturday, May 16th, 2009

Today, Karen and I enjoyed a great time at Sporty’s world headquarters in Batavia, Ohio.  As most know, it is located right at the Clermont County Airport (I69).

We joined with hundreds of other pilots to hear the winner of the new Cessna Skyhawk announced.  A pilot from Portland, Oregon was the lucky winner and he was reached by phone while we stood by to hear his reaction to the good news.  You can learn more about the plane and the winner by CLICKING HERE.

Of course, there were plenty of aircraft to check out and a many great products to look at during the fly-in.

Not to be missed were the barbecued hot dogs!  And, I found out they are available every Saturday….

Many thanks to Hal Shevers and all the folks at Sporty’s for the great time!

Open House at Georgetown, Delaware (KGED)

Saturday, May 9th, 2009

After flying about 30 hours in the past eight days, I looked forward to a flight in my Bonanza to the beach late Friday afternoon.  I headed from Frederick, MD to Sussex County/Georgetown (KGED) – an airport that has become very familiar over the nearly 18 years we have been traveling to a home at a beach community in Delaware. 

On arrival, I picked up a crew car from the good folks at the FBO and learned from Delmarva Aviation’s Garrett Dernoga that they were sponsoring an open house and had encouraged Cirrus owners to fly in.  I checked to see if our Sweepstakes Cirrus SR22 was in the area and learned that PILOT’s Dave Hirschman welcomed the chance to fly over this morning for breakfast at the airport’s fine restaurant.

As things turned out, the Georgetown pilots group was meeting for breakfast and our fine airport support network (ASN) representative, Bob Young, was in attendance.  He invited me to speak….and, I invited the members to go take a look at the sweepstakes plane.

Dave and I along with our good friend Ray Gebhart spent the next few hours visiting with people who came to the airport by plane and by car.

After all the places I have been during the past 8 days, it was great to just spend some time at a local airport talking to friends who fly.  We are finding more opportunities to “fly out” from our base in Frederick….this was one day that just seemed to come together naturally….and, sometimes that’s the best way!

Flying Our New Sweepstakes Plane

Saturday, January 24th, 2009

At the end of the week, a mission to an airport not far from Frederick provided me with an opportunity to fly AOPA’s Let’s Go Flying! Sweepstakes Airplane, a Cirrus SR22, for the first time. After more than two weeks of very cold weather, PILOT’s Dave Hirschman and I had a spectacular day for the flight. We departed from the ramp in front of AOPA.

There is a generous amount of room up front. Our chief pilot, Bill Ryan, joined us and took a few pictures during the flight from his “window seat” in the back. The controls were easy to adapt to and the avionics are impressive.

After hand flying up to altitude and a very comfortable steep turn, we turned the work over to the auto pilot and monitored our progress.

As I said, it was a beautiful day for the flight and the SR22 proved to be a great platform for a few aerial photographs. Bill found a ski resort….I bet they were not as pleased with the warm weather as we were. But, that was yesterday. Today in Frederick we saw a few snow flurries again….so, I am debating whether to pull the Bonanza out of the hangar or not.