Sonoma pilots Rally GA!

April 17, 2011 by Craig Fuller

I spend a fair amount of my time traveling around the country, meeting with pilots, and talking about the issues that affect our flying. You might think these trips would become routine. But nothing could be further from the truth. Wherever I go, I am impressed by the people I meet and their commitment to general aviation.

Several hundred pilots turned out to Rally GA at Sonoma County Airport.

Yesterday, I was at the Sonoma County Airport in California, and once again, I was amazed by the aviators I met. A few hundred people were out at the airport, looking as some wonderful new aircraft and some great oldies, including a B-17. A few lucky folks even got to take rides. It was a great way to Rally GA and share the excitement.

One of the amazing folks I spent some time with was Josh Hochberg. He’s a lawyer and aviation enthusiast who purchased Sonoma Jet Center and is really transforming it into a first-class facility. He was our host for this event. I was also joined by Jon Dauplaise of Cirrus, who updated the audience on all the exciting developments at his company and showed off some of their beautiful airplanes.

I even had a chance to introduce John and Martha King, founders of King Schools, to the crowd. The Kings graciously offered some insight into the flight training process and the innovations that are making training better and more appealing in today’s busy and complicated world.

For my part, I had the chance to talk about issues like NextGen, avgas, and growing the pilot population—and to answer some very astute questions from the audience about topics like security and regulation.

And perhaps that’s really the thing that impresses me the most when I travel. Everywhere I go, the pilots I meet don’t just fly, they believe in flying. They have a remarkable breadth and depth of understanding about the issues that affect aviation in general, and their local communities in particular. There aren’t too many vocations or avocations that inspire that degree of passion, and I count myself lucky to be part of it.

  • Paul Peterson

    It’s wonderful that AOPA has the available resources to help support and participate in meetings like this. I thought the Sonoma Jet Center and Josh Hochberg did an excellent job in hosting the event. The sound system (usually a low point of events like this) worked superbly. The comments shared by Jon Dauplaise of Cirrus were well received, especially those comments about his son’s perspective on aviation and learning to fly. Although the topic was addressed and discussed, the large issue of a declining GA pilot population still needs to receive the lions share of our attention. I heard lots of little ideas that will help, but no big ideas that are going to turn this situation around. It’s nice to know that GA pilots have a strong national association like AOPA to fight and address the many issues that confront GA today.

    As a side note, it would have been nice to see the California Pilots Association involved in this meeting. As AOPA plans additional town meetings like, please don’t fail to include the State Pilot Associations. Like AOPA, they are key in helping to win the many battles faced by GA.