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.
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.
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!