Engaging new audiences

March 14, 2010 by Craig Fuller


All year I’ve been talking about getting engaged and I had a great opportunity to do that today in downtown Los Angeles as part of the launch for Mike Torchia’s Shape Up America Campaign. (Some of you may have met Mike at AOPA’s Aviation Summit last fall; if you didn’t you can see him talking about the importance of health to pilots on AOPA LIVE at www.aopa.org/aopalive.) This event was everything we have talked about and tried to do in terms of bringing the aviation experience to new audiences.

People gathered by the thousands in Pershing Square park in downtown Los Angeles to spend a Sunday afternoon learning more about their health and how being healthy can help them fulfill other dreams–like flying.

We brought along a flight simulator, and kids and adults lined up to try their hand at flying and learn more about general aviation. The energy and excitement was wonderful.  And for some of the younger participants the whole experience was magical.

Kids and adults were excited to try the flight sim.

Kids and adults were excited to try the flight sim.

As for the adults, over and over again I heard comments like, “I’ve always wanted to fly but…” The “but” is usually some misconception about GA, like “you have to be rich” or “I’m not smart enough” or “it takes years”. I find that people are always pleased to learn that the barriers to becoming a pilot are much lower than they imagine. And who knows, some of the people we touched today may make their way to an airport in the future.

But even if they don’t rush out and start training, they’ve had a positive experience and learned something good about GA–and that benefits us, too. And, for the kids, today’s experience may help nourish their dreams for the future.

Introducing LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa added to the excitment of the event.

Introducing LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa added to the excitment of the event.

I had a great time bringing a taste of aviation to a whole new audience. And when it came time to officially launch the program, I even got to introduce LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and talk a little about the connection between good health and living your dreams. Not a bad way to spend a Sunday afternoon!

  • http://www.truckeetahoeairport.com Kevin Bumen

    Great work Craig and team! This type of outreach is critical to the future of GA. Keep it up and I look forward to hearing about what other venues you select.

  • scot griffith

    I have read in one of my e-mail updates from AIN that the new FAA authorization bill will require “ADS-B Out on all aircraft by 2015 and ADS-B In on all aircraft by 2018”. Is this accurate for my 1969 C177A? Is there any assistance with the cost of the equipment? Is there any estimate of the cost of equipment and installation on my type of aircraft.

  • http://www.aviassist.org Tom Kok

    Great work AOPA! As AOPA member and active in safety promotion in Africa, I look forward to finding ways in which we can roll out a similar program in some African countries together with AOPA

  • http://www.friendsofaviation.org Nick Rahkonen

    Great event! I was lucky to be there with some other members of the Los Angeles based group, “Friends of Aviation”. The flight simulator was a real hit and we will hopefully have one set up in our Glendale event on August 21st!
    Great work AOPA!

  • http://www.friendsofaviation.org Ari Ibarra

    I was lucky to be at the event with the President Friends of Aviation and colleagues. AOPA is doing an AMAZING job under Craig’s leadership, benefiting us all weather in aviation or not with AOPA’s General Aviation Serves America! We support you and wish you all the best! Thank you and please keep going! X Ari

  • GatorRob

    State of the Union for pilot training funding: Due to the lack of available loans/funds for commercial aviation jobs, I am attempting something new. Yes I am asking for help..you can go to my website http://WWW.fundapilot.com and help. I am leaning on the power of the masses to help..if 39,000 people each donate a dollar, I could go to a flight academy. The new 1500 hour requirement for even co-pilots will kill the aviation community. So if you can help by forwarding the site or donating, thanks so much.