This past week, I traveled throughout the Midwest meeting with leaders in our general aviation community. It was my first major trip since becoming president of AOPA and I welcomed the chance to get out of the Washington, D.C. area. There are serious concerns based on the state of the economy. However, there is also a spirit of innovation throughout the manufacturing and avionics community that is exciting to witness.
The pictures below try to capture some of what my colleagues and I experienced in our tour.
Our visits with the industry leaders began at Hawker Beechcraft. Each stop provided provocative discussions and interesting tours. I am grateful to all who worked to make this tour so productive.
I was honored to be invited to speak to the Wichita Aero Club. They brought out a large group to talk about the aviation community. In the first speech of my AOPA presidency, I shared views about the issues we face in Washington and across the nation. We at AOPA are looking for ways to build now for the future when the economy improves and that became a theme for the remarks. More about the speech and the event can be found on our AOPA web site…just CLICK HERE.
The folks at the Wichita Aero Club had a fine turnout from the media which gave me an opportunity to take our AOPA message to an even greater audience. As you can imagine, issues concerning the economy and the new Obama Administration’s economic policy dominated the questions.
Our tour took us to Cessna’s headquarter in Wichita where we enjoyed a tour and had the chance to walk through some of the full size models of existing and a future aircraft. Then came the invitation to fly a CJ2+ over to Independence, Kansas where the Mustang and single engine aircraft are manufactured.
The flight demonstrated why this is another popular CJ choice for many businesses and individuals with a need to move around the country efficiently.
It was a special treat to look out across the manufacturing floor to see Mustangs and single engine Cessna aircraft being manufactured. It was 30 years ago when I traveled to Kansas with my father to visit a Cessna manufacturing facility where the Cessna Cutlass was constructed. The next day, my father and I flew my first airplane home to Santa Monica.
Much has changed…now they are making jets next to the 172s!
At Garmin’s headquarters, we had a comprehensive briefing of the aviation products. We were then provide an extensive tour to see and understand the manufacturing process and testing that these amazing products go through before going into our aircraft. It was eye opening to say the least.
The commitment at Garmin to have products available to customers around the world has meant building and expanding a massive distribution center. A view here of just a portion of it tells an important story.
We arrived early at the New Century Airport (KIXD) and taxied N4GA to the Garmin hangar. As a avid user of the Garmin 530/430 combination in my Bonanza, I was really excited to learn more about just how this avionics company developed and what it has in store for the future.
They certainly did not disappoint providing an enlightening experience. From a walking tour of the hangars that house their test aircraft to a simulator flight making full use of the new synthetic vision on an approach to Aspen, the entire experience leaves one with a sense that even with all we have available to us today in general aviation, there is even more to come!
They gave me a chance to experience an approach in a King Air into and around Aspen, using synthetic vision. The system even made a go around and true nap of the earth flying pretty close to non-events.
Our travels took us to Duluth and the headquarters of CIrrus. It was my first chance to sit with Alan Klapmeier and his colleagues to hear the history of this remarkable company. With over 4,000 of their aircraft flying today, they certainly are making an important difference and bringing remarkable aircraft to the market.
They gave me the chance to fly the new Cirrus Perspective with the avionics by Garmin. It was a flight that brought so much of what we had seen all week together into one cockpit. The aircraft was as responsive as it was comfortable. And, the avionics are a marvel to observe. The synthetic vision guided me around the area and straight down an ILS into KDLH.
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.
Throughout the day here at AOPA, we gave our people the opportunity to take some time to witness the inauguration of the 44th President of the United States, Barack Obama.
Frankly, there has been no other moment during my two plus decades in Washington where so many people filled our nation’s capital for such an historic event. The transfer of power in a peaceful and orderly process remains a remarkable moment for our nation.
For me, this was also nostalgic. Twenty-eight years ago, I had the honor of entering the White House grounds just after noon on January 20, 1981. Then, as a new president took the oath of office and participated in a luncheon and a parade, those of us with offices in the West Wing moved in and went to work. President Reagan entered the Oval Office and immediately signed presidential executive orders a few hours later.
In 1989, I stood on the grounds in front of the Capitol and participated in another presidential inaugural…this time, for President George H.W. Bush. And, as he took on the burdens of being president, I ceased being a chief of staff to the vice president and returned to being private citizen after eight years.
I hope wherever you found yourself today, you took a few moments to celebrate this transfer of power and the historic significance of this day.
All of us at AOPA salute and praise the extraordinary performance by Captain Sullenberger and his crew in making an emergency landing in the Hudson River.
All who pilot aircraft train and prepare for incidents that rarely occur. Captain Sullenberger and the US Airways crew demonstrate how important training, experience and judgement are in dealing with emergencies regardless of the size or complexity of the aircraft we fly.
There will be more to learn and hopefully much to hear from the crew. For now, we simply congratulate the Captain and crew for their heroic performance.
AOPA President Craig Fuller speaks to the North Carolina Aerospace Executive Forum.
I’ve just returned from a day at the Piedmont Triad International Airport (PTIA) where during a series of briefings and visits I became further energized about the wisdom of investing in our aviation infrastructure.
You immediately see on approach to KGSO the commitment to growth with the construction underway on a new 9,000 foot runway. During a tour of the airport from the ground, I learned about the HondaJet facility where soon over 350 employees will be working on the aircraft that first flew from this airport just over 5 years ago. And, there is the new FedEx center where nearly 800 people will work. It is due to become operational later this year. New roads have been built. Strong general aviation operations are visible all around the airport grounds. And, talk of expansion is part of every conversation. Indeed, it started early as we toured the Cessna Citation Service Center and viewed the new ramp and space for future expansion.
Cessna Citation Center
Paul Witt runs this center at KGSO and he proved to be an outstanding guide. When I asked about where he recruits his people for the service center, he described a remarkable relationship with the Guilford Technical Community College. It sounded too interesting to miss, so we dropped by for an impromptu visit.
Paul Witt from Cessna and I were joined by Bill Williams from North Carolina’s Division of Aviation for a tour of one of two campuses where the Guilford Technical Community College (GTCC) provides courses to students.
As you can see below, we did run into students who will be working in the aviation industry soon.
It was a wonderful day in Greesboro, North Carolina and one which demonstated the strength of general aviation and the contribution it can make to a community.
Finally, there is someone who has been behind the careful and strategic growth of KGSO – The Piedmont Triad International Airport. Ted Johnson, the Executive Director of the Airport Authority provided us with a comprehensive and enthusiastic briefing….made even more remarkable by the fact that he has been guiding the development and growth of the airport for 41 years! I might add, he seems more enthusiastic about the future than ever.
Thanks to all who made our stop in Greensboro, North Carolina so memorable. You provided a wonderful example for all of us who are seeking to advance the notion that investments in our nation’s infrastructure must include investments in aviation.