Archive for 2010

Aviation DVD

Sunday, October 24th, 2010

I always enjoy movies with an aviation theme. Not long ago a few friends told me about a film I’d missed from the late 1980s…BAT 21. Just watched the action packed DVD with plenty of flying….mostly a Cessna Skymaster. It is worth a look.

Getting up close with unmanned aircraft

Tuesday, September 28th, 2010

Today my travels took me to Nevada’s Creech Air Force Base, where I was among a group of policymakers and aviation officials invited by Major General Marke Gibson to get up close to some amazing technology and the pilots who fly it.

Col. Peter Gersten and I pose with a Reaper. But when he's off duty, he flies a Cirrus.

Creech is home to Predators and Reapers, two varieties of unmanned aircraft at work in Iraq and Afghanistan. Used for reconnaissance and intelligence gathering, as well as the destruction of targets, these planes are piloted by U.S. Air Force personnel 8,000 miles away from the aircraft they fly.

Seeing these planes in the air is pretty impressive, but even more impressive is being inside the “cockpit” at Creech, knowing the topography you are seeing is actually halfway around the world.

Col. Peter “Gunz” Gersten, commander of the 432nd Wing and 432nd Air Expeditionary Wing based at Creech, is responsible for the operation and maintenance of the more than 150 remotely piloted aircraft in this, the Air Force’s first remotely piloted aircraft wing, in existence since 2007. He has more than 2,800 flight hours and more than 400 combat hours, and he was kind enough to show us the operations at Creech. But what do you think he does in his spare time? He flies GA in a Cirrus, of course!

In the "cockpit" of aircraft being flown thousands of miles away.

Today I also had the opportunity to see the extraordinary measures our military takes to keep their aircraft out of situations that could put others at risk. Much is being learned from the intense combat operations that have these aircraft sharing airports and airspace with manned aircraft. More work remains before they are integrated into our national airspace system, but rest assured that the Air Force and AOPA agree that safety must be the top priority.

A day at the airport

Saturday, September 18th, 2010

I love seeing airports open their doors to the community. What a great way to build good relationships with neighbors, encourage future pilots, and have fun! This morning I had the chance to be part of “A Day at the Airport” in Bloomington, Illinois, and it was a great event.

These future pilots were excited to be in a real cockpit.

The airport invited pilots, neighbors, and aviation fans to come spend a day eating pancakes, looking at aircraft, taking airplane and helicopter rides, and just enjoy being out with the kids. This was the fourth annual event benefitting the Prairie Aviation Museum —a small but vibrant museum right on Central Illinois Regional Airport (BMI). It’s definitely worth a visit if you find yourself in the area.

I had the chance to talk to a receptive crowd about GA and the value it brings to all Americans. And I got to introduce lots of future pilots to the fun of flying. I arrived in the AOPA Caravan, and the airplane drew a lot of interest from people of all ages.

I was invited to the event by Tanya Leahy, who won an AOPA Fly Out at Air Venture. She spent the morning giving Young Eagles rides to first-time fliers–another great way to get engaged in GA!

There are hundreds of events like this one happening all across the country. If your airport hosts an airport open house or similar event, I encourage you to get engaged and take part. If not, why not start a new tradition? AOPA’s “The Complete Guide to Holding an Open House” can give you the tools you need to start a community

The AOPA Caravan got lots of attention on the ramp.

event at your home airport. Whether you host the event or just enjoy it, it’s a great way to spend a weekend and an even better way to help build the good relationships and positive experiences that can ensure the future of your airport.

FAA administrator on safety, avgas, and the value of GA

Thursday, July 29th, 2010
FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt talked about the role and importance of general aviation during a "Meet the Administrator" session at AirVenture.

FAA Administrator Randy Babbitt talked about the role and importance of general aviation during a talk at EAA AirVenture.

One of the best things about coming to events like EAA AirVenture and AOPA’s Aviation Summit is the opportunity for the general aviation community to hear directly from top-level officials, like FAA Administrator Randy Babbit. Just as important, it’s a chance for those officials to hear from GA pilots and owners.

I had the chance to speak with Administrator Babbitt yesterday during a lunch meeting, and today we took part in a town hall style meeting featuring the FAA administrator along with many leading members of his management team. Even Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood dropped by to deliver the message that he considers general aviation “absolutely essential.”

Over the course of the meeting, Administrator Babbitt talked about many of the issues that are in the forefront for AOPA and the general aviation community at large and thanked the AOPA Air Safety Foundation for its work on improving safety. In addition to safety, he talked about the value of general aviation, NextGen, and the transition away from leaded avgas.

Administrator Babbitt expressed his committment to working with the aviation community to find a solution for replacing leaded fuel–a solution that, in his words, “works for all piston aircraft…old, new, and even those not yet built.”

Equally heartening was his assertion that user fees are not on the horizon, despite the continuing uncertainty over the future of FAA funding.

It’s good to know that top officials are acutely aware of our concerns and, as always, I look forward to working closely with them to ensure that general aviation’s needs remain top-of-mind as we tackle these issues and pursue new opportunities.

Olympic inspiration

Sunday, July 25th, 2010

Over the past week or so I’ve been hearing from members who have been inspired by the athletes of the Special Olympics and wanted to know more about the Citation Airlift that brought hundreds of athletes from around the nation to the games in Nebraska. I was honored to take part and wanted to share with you some images from this wonderful trip.

We picked up our Baltimore area Special Olympic athletes early last Saturday morning at BWI….here we are wishing them well as we drop them off for a week of competition in Lincoln, Nebraska.





One week later we were back in Lincoln to pick up our athletes. Cessna did a tremendous job organizing the Special Olympics Airlift.  Thanks to well over 100 Citation aircraft, young athletes for around the country were able to participate. The FAA also did an outstanding job managing the flow of aircraft in and out of Lincoln.  The mobile operations center seen here on the right came in from Kansas City.




Speaking of the FAA, Hank Krakowski, chief operating officer of the FAA’s Air Traffic Organization, flew the FAA Citation to take in the operations at Lincoln.






AOPA’s CJ3, N4GA, flew our Special Olympics Airlift mission as Dove 14.






Our athletes were excited to climb back on the aircraft with their medals.  We enjoyed a smooth flight back to Baltimore where family and friends were waiting.





A large welcome sign was rolled out for our traveling party…notice Hannah’s medals!
The CJ3 reverted back to N4GA and made the short hop back to our home base in Frederick.

Again thanks to Cessna for superb organization.  It was a privilege for all of us at AOPA to participate is such a meaningful and memorable event.

Finally, congratulations to all the Special Olympians…each and everyone is a true winner!


Taking flight with the Special Olympics

Saturday, July 17th, 2010

Today, I had one of my most memorable flights as AOPA participated in the Special Olympics Airlift organized by Cessna.

We made an early start this morning, picking up four athletes and two coaches at Baltimore International Airport. All our fine athletes are from the Baltimore area, and today’s trip to Lincoln, Nebraska, was their first flight on a private aircraft. Their enthusiasm for the journey and the upcoming competition was contagious.

AOPA’s Citation, using the call sign Dove 14 for this special trip, is one of 160 participating in the airlift. Together we will bring more than 800 athletes to Nebraska for the games. This is the sixth Citation Airlift for the Special Olympics, and AOPA’s first time to participate. I have to say, I am honored to take part. By working together we are helping athletes from all over the country fulfill their dreams. And it’s something many would be unable to do without our help. It’s a mission that GA is uniquely suited to accomplish and just one more example of general aviation serving the larger community.


Good luck to our Baltimore-based athletes and all this year’s competitors! I look forward to seeing their smiling faces and hearing about their experiences when we pick them up for the return trip next Saturday.

If you’d like to share the excitement of our journey, be sure to take a look at the video on AOPA Online.

Three decades of service

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010

I am often lucky to spend time with luminaries from the general aviation community, but there are only a handful of individuals who have dedicated their lives and careers to making GA, and GA pilots, better. This week I had the privilege of spending time with two of those people, John and Martha King, founders of King Schools.

I visited their Southern California headquarters and saw their operation in action. Needless to say it was impressive, as is their record of service to the GA community. For more than 30 years this dynamic husband-and-wife team has focused on helping general aviation pilots fly successfully through their teaching. They started with simple, in-person classes, but now offer dozens of courses that take advantage of the latest technologies to make learning easier, more enjoyable, and more convenient.

King Schools founders Martha and John King have dedicated the past 30-plus years to making general aviation pilots successful.

King Schools founders Martha and John King have dedicated the past 30-plus years to making general aviation pilots successful.

Even as their teaching and distribution methods have evolved to keep up with the changing needs of pilots, they’ve remained true to their ideals and continue to find ways to make even the most complex aviation concepts simple.

I, for one, am grateful for all they do help pilots, through their company and through their personal efforts. In fact, I’d say we all owe something to the Kings, who’ve devoted their lives to making general aviation stronger.

The world in a day

Saturday, July 10th, 2010

This time of year, having access to an airplane is a great opportunity to experience more than the joys of flying—it’s a chance to take in the festivals and events going on all over the country. Sometimes, you can travel the world in just one day.

That’s what I’m doing this morning at the Santa Fe International Folk Art Market.

Santa Fe is always one of my favorite stops when heading west. And with a round of meetings in California later this week, I decided to make a stop and spend a day at the amazing folk art market. My wife, Karen, arrived in Santa Fe a few days before me to escort the delegation from Oman around the city.

Dancers from Oman greet market visitors.

Dancers from Oman greet market visitors.

This is a vibrant and colorful event with participants from developing countries around the globe. Some artists literally sell out and take home enough money to support a small village for most of the year. To give you an idea of how big it is, last year 123 artists from 46 countries and six continents participated and more than 23,000 people attended.

My visit began early this morning, when I watched as Oman’s ambassador to the United States joined a group of dancers from her home country in welcoming participants to the market.

If by chance you are within range of Santa Fe this weekend, the weather is perfect for a visit today or tomorrow. And, a private plane helps get your fine purchases home in one piece.

An artist from Kenya displays his work for an enthusiastic audience.

An artist from Kenya at work.

You can find out more about the International Folk Market at their website.

IAOPA World Assembly gets under way

Tuesday, June 8th, 2010

Every two years delegates from AOPAs around the world get together to discuss important issues and set an agenda for our international efforts for the months and years ahead. We call this gathering the World Assembly of the International Council of Aircraft Owner and Pilot Associations, and this year we are meeting in Tel Aviv, Israel.

IAOPA gets down to business on the first day of meetings in Tel Aviv.

IAOPA gets down to business on the first day of meetings in Tel Aviv.


As you might imagine, our agenda is full as we discuss the many common opportunities and threats facing general aviation around the globe.

Our Israeli hosts have organized a very robust program, which kicked off this morning with speakers from Israel’s Civil Aviation Authority and Ministry of Foreign Affairs, both discussing the importance of GA.
After lunch, our speakers came from multilateral agencies—the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the European Union.

Bustling Tel Aviv from the air.

Bustling Tel Aviv from the air.

Whenever I am with colleagues who lead AOPA organizations from around the world, I am reminded of the uniqueness of our GA community in the United States. Nowhere else in the world are there so many pilots, so many private aircraft, and so many opportunities to enjoy and use aviation.

Oklahoma guarding the future of aviation

Thursday, June 3rd, 2010

I am excited to be in Oklahoma City this morning at the Oklahoma Aerospace Summit and Expo. This is an event that brings together representatives of every aspect of the aerospace industry, and GA plays an important role.

I love to visit Oklahoma and often plan fuel stops in Ponca City, my mother’s hometown. I always get a warm welcome and make time to enjoy a bite at the airport’s great Mexican restaurant. But today I am in the state for more than a fuel stop and lunch.

I’m here as part of a panel on the challenges facing general aviation. It’s a great opportunity for me to talk to a new audience about General Aviation Serves America and how much value GA brings to the nation, to individual states, and even to specific communities. Also on the panel are Ed Bolen of NBAA, Pete Bunce of GAMA, Jim Coyne of NATA, and Henry Ogrodzinzki of NASAO—together we represent just about every segment of the GA community from pilots to FBO owners to manufacturers.

Also here are Congressman Tom Cole and Lindy Ritz, director of the FAA’s Mike Monroney Aeronautical Center, home to the largest concentration of Department of Transportation personnel outside of Washington, D.C. Along with many other leaders in business and government, they’ve taken the time to participate because they recognize that aviation and aerospace are an important part of the future, for everyone.

Lots of people here in Oklahoma know that, and this is a state that takes aviation seriously. In fact, the state legislature has recently passed “The Aircraft Pilot and Passenger Protection Act” to help protect airports from obstructions. It was championed by Oklahoma Aeronautics Director Vic Bird, who has worked closely with AOPA and is a driving force behind this week’s conference. Vic and Mary Smith, executive director of the Oklahoma Aerospace Alliance that hosts this summit, are committed to supporting aviation and aerospace in their state, and it’s paying off for everyone—aerospace, including GA, accounts for about 10 percent of the state’s economy.