AOPA Fly-In Draws Thousands ...

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15th Annual Open House Encourages Encore

"We've seen more people today in the first two hours than we did all of last year," Lancair salesman Doug Walker exulted Saturday at AOPA's Fly-in and Open House at the Frederick (Md.) Airport. "We've had constant long lines of people to check out our 'mockpit'" -- the Lancair mock-up that welcomes the curious to climb right in, while the true ship can rest unmolested on the ramp. Last year it rained buckets all day long, but this year the weather cooperated. The cloud cover lifted enough to let about 250 pilots fly in, but lingered enough to keep the ramp comfortable and shady through the humid afternoon. AOPA President Phil Boyer was thrilled with the turnout, estimated at over 5,000. "If we'd had another [rainy] year like the last three, this might have been our last open house," he told AVweb. "It's a lot of work for us. But after today -- we will do it again." Tour the grounds in AVweb's online gallery. The open house tradition began 15 years ago, when Boyer took over the top job at the organization. "I'd be here working on Saturdays, and pilots would fly in and walk over to look at the building and take pictures, and there was nobody here, and the doors were locked ... so I'd run downstairs and let them in. That's when I decided to hold an Open House once a year on a Saturday, so our members could fly in and visit." Saturday's event sprawled through AOPA's headquarters -- with offices open to visitors, meeting rooms packed full for seminars, flight simulators to play with in the hallways and prize drawings to enter. A popular stop was an upstairs office where visitors could have their photo taken and printed out on the cover of an AOPA magazine. On the ramp, dozens of aircraft -- from a Piper Cub to Adam's newly certified A500 twin to AOPA's Citation jet -- were open to explore. Traveling exhibits from Cirrus, SATS (Small Aircraft Transportation Systems) and Lancair made the most of the crowds.