Plane Crazy in California

January 17, 2010 by Craig Fuller

As I travel around the country, at every stop I make I can’t help but be impressed by the energy, activist spirit, and knowledge of the people I meet.

Cathy Hansen, our AOPA ASN volunteer extrodinaire, introduced me and did a lot of the legwork for my visit. Photo courtesy of Mike Massee.

Cathy Hansen, our fantastic AOPA ASN volunteer, introduced me and did a lot of the legwork for my visit. Photo courtesy of Mike Massee.

On Saturday, Jan. 16, I found myself in Mojave, California–the featured speaker at the airport’s Plane Crazy Saturday, an event that takes place every third Saturday of the month to encourage the broader community to come out to the airport, talk to pilots, and enjoy some of the camaraderie and fun that the GA community has in such abundance. Cathy Hansen is AOPA’s Airport Support Network volunteer at Mojave, and she did an incredible job helping to organize and support the event. She’s also a great example of the role an ASN volunteer can play, helping to bring together key parties to talk about regulatory and airport issues that affect everyone. Not to mention her role as a liason to the neighboring communities.

I learned about Plane Crazy Saturdays, and had a chance to spend some time at this great airport in California’s vast Mojave Desert, thanks to Jeff Holle, who won an “AOPA Fly-Out” at Oshkosh last year. He said he wanted me to fly out to his airport in Mojave, and so I found myself at the home base of the nascent commercial space travel industry–this airport is home to the folks who designed, built, and flew Spaceship One, winning the X Prize. They continue to build and develop innovative aircraft, some of which I was lucky enough to see!
About 500 people came to the Plane Crazy event, and they had plenty of insightful questions for me. Photo courtesy of Mike Massee.

About 500 people and more than 100 aircraft came to the Plane Crazy event, and the audience had plenty of insightful questions for me. Photo courtesy of Mike Massee.

You might hear the word “desert” and think I’m talking about the middle of nowhere, but don’t make that mistake. The Mojave sits just outside such major Southern California population centers as Los Angeles and San Bernardino, so it came as no surprise when some 500 pilots came to participate in the event and ask me some very well-considered questions.

We were also joined by California Assemblywoman Connie Conway and Assemblywoman Jean Fuller (no relation to me).  Pilots in the area can count themselves lucky to have representatives in Sacramento who know aviation well and are supportive of GA.

As I generally do when talking to pilot groups, I offered an update on the state of GA, talked about the role of the GA Serves America movement, and discussed how our advocacy efforts are helping  to shape our future. Then I took questions from the crowd.

You might be interested to know that a pattern is starting to emerge in these questions. Everywhere I go, someone asks me about the declining population and what AOPA, and individual pilots, can do to resolve this challenge. First, let me say how heartened I am by the fact that so many pilots are taking an interest in this issue. There was a time when talking about the decline in the number of pilots was greeted with a nod and a yawn. But today, pilots everywhere really “get it.” There’s power in numbers and we need new pilots to help us maintain our voice in Washington and in communities nationwide. Pilots are GA.

To the thousands of pilots who want to help, let me say this. Growing the pilot population is absolutely a priority for me personally and for AOPA as your association. We haven’t found a magic bullet for this one, and frankly, I don’t think there’s one solution. But I will tell you that we’ve got the best minds in the industry–not only from AOPA but from other aviation associations–working on it and we intend to come up with a clear course of action. In the meantime, I encourage you to participate in AOPA’s Let’s Go Flying program (http://www.aopa.org/letsgoflying), EAA’s Young Eagles program (http://www.youngeagles.org)\, or any other program that supports the goal of helping others become involved in aviation.

I am headed back to Frederick now, but I will be on the road again soon. You can follow my speaking schedule at www.aopa.org/prez and I will stay in touch about where I am headed next.

2 Responses to “Plane Crazy in California”

  1. Ken Stake Says:

    Loved your Plane crazy event article. We are a group of aviation enthusiasts (GA) and would love to attend any future events that are close to the California central valley. We fly classic, vintage and experimental aircraft. Keep us advised. Thanks, Ken

  2. Larry Bogner Says:

    Craig
    Keep up the good work on behalf of general aviation.
    Now a question for you:
    What was going on in Napa, California (KAPC) the same day as the shindig at Mojave? N4GA landed in the mid-afternoon. I was at KAPC celebrity-spotting. The actual celebrity several of us were waiting for was a member of our flying club who was on the way back from New Mexico with a Piper Archer we bought for the club. He arrived a few minutes after N4GA landed.
    Larry Bogner
    AOPA 754705

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