AOPA Snips and Bits
As AOPA's Summit draws to a close today, I'm finally catching a breather and looking over my notes. Yes, the show was smaller than in past years, at least in terms of exhibitor numbers. It's hard to judge attendance—there were moments when I couldn't navigate the aisles in the convention center and moments when they were empty.
So should the name be "Summit" or "Expo"? I have to admit, I don't get Summit—it doesn't resonate with anything other than a meeting of pols or world leaders, and this convention is not that. It is and should be about members, their airplanes and the companies in the industry. They are the people who will make it live or die. My vote is to go back to Expo or pick another name if the association thinks it needs to reposition itself.
One thing that did work was the live coverage at the show. If you were in the convention hall, the center stage area had giant screens on the ceiling, plus repeaters all around the hall. At best, with their bloodless lighting and dull carpets, these convention halls can be a graveyard with lights. But the center stage idea livened up the joint and the programs were appropriate and interesting. Plus, I found myself exposed to the specter of the Inescapable Dave Hirschman. I was wandering the hall when he was interviewing someone and he was everywhere, following me his eyes—sort of like 1984, but in a wholesome, friendly sort of way.
The static area—now there's something that does need a name change—was anything but. And AOPA tried. They called it "AirportFest," but it didn't stick, as such things never seem to. The place was hopping and if you've never been there, Peter O. Knight Airport in Tampa is one of the best sites for this display. It's hard by Tampa Bay and right near downtown. Boats, cars and airplanes all come together and it is as pleasant a place to be in November as you can imagine. I found it interesting and upbeat and I'm hard bitten enough to make Dick Cheney look like Mary Poppins.
We did a video story on Joe Shepherd's Electra, which appears in the current film, Amelia. Bernard Chabbert e-mailed to remind me that it was his France-based Electra that appeared in the flight scenes, not Shepherd's. We should have noted that somehow in the story; Shepherd told us and he was clear that his airplane was used for static shots—there's that word again.
Chabbert flew his Electra to South Africa for 65 hours of aerial photography and a total of 165 hours of flying. Marooned in Luanda, Chabbert tells us avgas had to flown in via Twin Otter at a cost of $54 per gallon. Lessee, at 25 per side, that leg cost $2700 an hour, just for gas. The real Amelia flew her Electra 17,000 miles before it vanished. Chabbert's trip totaled 19,000 miles.
I had a terrific time interviewing Thom Richard for the Invictus video story. My idea of max zoot flying has always been anything below 100 feet and at Reno, they not only allow it, they expect it. The Formula One International class is something that an amateur racer can afford and that makes it all the more appealing. Check out Richard's cockpit-view vid of the race here.
I've seen some hardworking PR agents in my time, but the guy representing the Dominican Republic at Summit set new standards for dedication. In the press room, he buttonholed everyone in sight—did we want to interview the air minister for a story? Well, no…On the convention floor, he spotted my camera and media badge and tried again, suggesting I might like to meet the two stunningly gorgeous Latin beauties the DR had thoughtfully provided to staff the booth. Not that I wouldn't liked to have met them, but I was already two hours behind some deadline or another. To such depths has my beloved craft of journalism sunk that we now throw over the babes just to get a few seconds of fleeting video that's forgotten 30 seconds after it's viewed. This is progress?
One thing that is progress is Cessna's rollout of the 162 Skycatcher. I flew it for a video review and a full report in the December 2009 issue of Aviation Consumer. It was exactly what I expected it to be—solid, competent and no major warts that I could see in a short trial flight. Well, there was one surprise: the control stick emerges from under the panel, rather than being floor mounted. I'm not sure if I like that or not. I'm still chewing on that. One thing I am certain of: The Skycatcher will break the LSA market wide open. I don't see how any but a few smaller companies can compete with it.