One of the first emails I got from a reader while I was at AOPA Summit was a breathless account of how few people had flown into Palm Springs for the show. Well, so what?
There's no question that attendance is down across the board for shows like Summit. Compared to the era of artificial prosperity of five years ago, I would venture to say that attendance is down at a lot of things except food banks and to expect anything else would be dreaming in technicolor.
For instance, there were a lot fewer aviation media folks at this show because they knew that there would be few "new" things to cover and that what did come out could be picked up from those of us who did attend. You're welcome.
On the exhibitor side, I didn't do a count but the "sold out" exhibit hall wouldn't have occupied half of the booth space required for this show a few years ago. It's an honest reflection of tough times and a looming election where neither side of the political spectrum is confident of the outcome or what that outcome might mean.
One notable absence on the floor and in the static display was Cessna corporate. There was a Mustang, Caravan and a few pistons on the boulevard outside the convention center but they were from a dealer. There was not a Cessna honcho to be seen. See above for my best guess as to why they skipped the show
The other thing that was missing was any sign of a palace revolt. Recent media attention critical of AOPA leadership may reflect the opinion of some members but if they were in Palm Springs they were on their best behavior. I get the idea that the leadership is sensitive to those concerns and there was a lot of first-person dialogue from visible members of the executive suite about their recent flying adventures, suggesting a subtle shift to pay more attention to the grass roots.
A good example is the flying club initiative, which, if it's carried out with the attitudes it says it's trying to invoke in the flying club community, should help AOPA regain its footing a little bit with the average pilot. There was clear enthusiasm and optimism about the plan and given the backdrop in which this convention was held, that's something to build on.