The Southwest Chapter of the American Association of Airport Executives (SWAAAE) held its 68th annual Summer Conference in Long Beach, CA, July 20-23. Titled “Navigating A Sea Of Change,” the conference focused both on education and information as well as history and relationships. Having been a member of SWAAAE for more than 20 years, I try to participate in the Summer Conference as often as budget allows, and this conference was certainly well worth it.
Beginning with the venue itself, the Queen Mary, and continuing through the informative conference sessions, Board of Directors and General Membership meetings, and evening social events, the conference was outstanding and one that I will remember for a long time.
I had only been on the Queen Mary once, and that for an AOPA EXPO Friday night party around ten years ago. The opportunity to spend four days aboard and explore the ship when the conference was not in session was fascinating. The ship really is a floating art gallery and rich in history. It was amazing to me that the beautiful craftsmanship, paintings, sculptures, and furnishings survived the ship’s service as a troop carrier during World War II. If you find yourself in Long Beach, I highly recommend building in time to tour the ship.
After the opening ceremonies on July 21, Keynote Speaker Kurt Robinson, President of Robinson Helicopter Company, told the fascinating story of his father’s dream of producing an affordable personal civilian helicopter. This was the story of a company started in a garage that has now become the world’s leading manufacturer of civilian helicopters. It certainly held everyone’s attention.
I found all the educational sessions of value. About a week before the conference, I was asked to give an update on the saga of Santa Monica Airport during the “Hot Topics in Aviation” session on July 22. I always enjoy contributing to the conferences in whatever way I can, so was happy to participate in the session. As it turned out, the timing of the session could not have been better. On July 18 the City of Santa Monica announced that the Santa Monicans for Open and Honest Development Decisions (SMOHDD) proposed charter amendment, which would require a vote on land use decisions regarding the airport, had qualified for the November ballot. Then on the 21st the City announced that the City Council would vote on three proposed ballot measures aimed at competing with the SMOHDD measure during the Council meeting the evening of the 22nd. Can’t get more up to date than that.
As we all know, beyond the informational and educational value of conferences such as SWAAAE’s Summer Conference and annual Airport Management Short Course, there is a wealth of human fellowship, support, and collaboration that comes from participating in events and organizations. These lines of communication are simply invaluable. A highlight of this conference for me was on Monday night, when a reception at the Aquarium of the Pacific began with “Lean on Me,” a celebration of the support that SWAAAE members have provided one another over the years. It was a wonderful time for reflecting on the friendships and personal growth with which I have been blessed in over 30 years of involvement with the organization.
So here’s the thing. Participation and involvement in the organizations which support and promote our aviation industry is really important. If you are not already involved, consider participating in your local pilots or airport association and your statewide pilots or airport association. Of course you are already involved with AOPA or you wouldn’t be reading this. And here are a couple of fun events to consider: AOPA’s Western Pacific Regional Fly-In is coming to Chino on September 20 and the AOPA Homecoming Fly-In will be two weeks later in Frederick on October 4. Hope to see you at one or both.