...Of Current And Future Pilots...

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While many of those checking out the static displays, attending seminars or browsing 100 exhibits under the big white tent were AOPA members and pilots, a lot were prospects the members had been encouraged to bring along. Three sessions on "How To Start Learning To Fly" drew overflow crowds. By midday, AOPA staffers had run out of their supply of learn-to-fly kits -- with a video and DVDs and a Be A Pilot certificate for a $49 intro flight -- and were taking names to send them in the mail. "The response has been phenomenal," said AOPA Communications Director Sue Walitsky. Boyer said the kickoff of a rejuvenated Project Pilot was the day's most important event. "We're all getting grayer," he said. "We need to invest in this so we can continue to grow. If we have more AOPA members, we have more lobbying power, and if GA has more participants, it lowers costs for all of us. So everyone benefits." Walitsky said AOPA has a lot of resources for student pilots -- a Web site loaded with information, Flight Training magazine, seminars and mentors. "Students who are AOPA members are three times more likely to finish their training," she said. After the seminar, prospects could head for the ramp, where flight instructors were ready to show them a Cessna or Diamond trainer, sit them in a cockpit and explain how it all works. Boyer said he'd like to see Project Pilot grow into a nationwide, annual Learn-to-Fly Day, with local flight schools everywhere holding an open house to welcome pilot prospects. "We're reaching out to our members to help identify future pilots," Boyer said. "People who have the interest, the time, and can afford it. And to mentor them. And we will pledge a lot of support to that effort."