AOPA Expo 2000: The Elation Continues — The FAA Boss, a New Type Certificate, ASF's 50th Mark a Strong Convention

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It's been described as "Toys 'R' Us for adults," but it's much more than that. Sure, it's the latest and greatest planes and products from the world of general aviation. It's also a series of informative seminars on technique, a chance to ask FAA Administrator Jane Garvey a question and plenty of opportunities to network with fellow pilots and the AOPA staff. It's AOPA Expo, which concluded yesterday in Long Beach, California. AVweb was there: Here's what happened.

The interested observer might conclude that last week's action in New Orleans was the be-all-and-end-all of general-aviation news-of-the-world, what with all the big-dollar purchases, new program announcements and avionics-program launches that came with the National Business Aviation Association convention.

But general aviation pilots attending the annual convention of the Aircraft Owners & Pilots Association — AOPA Expo 2000 — found plenty new and lots improved to celebrate during the annual gathering of the world's largest pilots' group — with a bit of overlap in the companies exhibiting and the news worth hearing.

For example, the audience of AOPA Expo heard plenty to celebrate as the association feted the 50th anniversary of the AOPA Air Safety Foundation and the actions of a staff led by ASF top-safety guru Bruce Landsberg, as well as the continuing success of the general aviation community's outreach effort, Be-A-Pilot — as well as Be-A-Pilot's success in elevating student starts, the key to ensuring future viability of private aviation.

These notable milestones were only the beginning. Then there was the heralding of a new type certificate by FAA administrator Jane Garvey, good news for pilots who fly in Mexico, some new hardware for our airplanes, some new airplanes and a flight bag full of new items worthy of consideration by any active pilot. The list of product demonstrations alone topped 70.

Against this backdrop, AOPA celebrated its 61st year of representing the interests of private pilots and protecting general aviation. Once the event concluded and the bean-counters got busy, they came up with the attendance level: 10,816 — a new record. These dedicated GA industry participants came for the exhibit floor, stayed to attend the evening events and the 82 day-filling seminars and workshops and for the camaraderie that seems to naturally accompany any gathering of aviators who fly mostly for the love of being aloft. And this was against the backdrop of low ceilings and poor visibility for the first full day of Expo, forcing many would-be attendees to either pull up short and (ugh!) drive the rest of the way or cancel their plans to visit southern California altogether.

Other numbers from this year's event are equally impressive: Some 502 exhibitors presented their latest and greatest to the eager crowds, while 85 aircraft were arrayed on the static display area at the Long Beach/Daugherty Field Airport. AOPA says that the organization is very pleased that this year's Expo did so well, especially when considering the weather and the "help" provided by last Thursday's failure of the primary radar system at the Los Angeles Air Route Traffic Control Center. And they should be pleased. Less than ten years ago — 1991, in New Orleans, to be exact — that AOPA Expo, in Phil Boyer's first year as the organization's president, managed to draw only about 3,000 attendees. Even when compared to last year's well-attended event at Atlantic City, N.J., there was a 10 percent increase in attendees. Said AOPA VP-communications Warren Morningstar, "It was an absolutely amazing show."

From seminars on flying aerobatics for "fun with a purpose" to dispelling "aviation oil myths" to tips for "making a secure aircraft purchase" or on "how to become a professional pilot," there never seemed a moment when the association's member pilots couldn't learn something new. And with the meetings of type clubs available to aficionados of those designs, the folks flying something old enjoyed an opportunity to learn something new about their birds and their fellow fans.

The combination of education and fun with some old-fashioned commerce seemed to produce the usual throngs of smiling faces, whether encountered on the exhibit-hall floor or in one of the general sessions that brought mobs of members together. All in all, this year's edition of AOPA Expo was an excellent way for aviation to wrap up another growth year and look forward to yet another.

We'll fill you in on what you missed if you didn't have the opportunity to walk and shop till you dropped in the aisles of the Long Beach Convention Center. Enjoy the ride.

No Plain Jane: Garvey Tackles Issues With Wit And Warmth

"I haven't had an allowance increase since I was about 15," quipped the most powerful woman in aviation today, FAA administrator Jane Garvey, as she responded to an introduction by AOPA president Phil Boyer — an introduction in which Boyer told members to applaud their own letter writing efforts that swayed Congress to give the agency its biggest budget increase in decades. We're talking the whopping $12 billion the FAA got for Fiscal 2001, thanks to passage of the AIR 21 bill that locked the Airport & Airways Trust Fund up for aviation use — and barring budgetary slight-of-hand that pilfered the airport pool in past years to mask soaring deficits.

Garvey spoke briefly about upcoming efforts to improve airport access, to resist local restrictions, to return safety programs cut by past budget shortfalls, and to streamline the processes of approving new planes and new equipment — while putting some logic into less-than-bright ideas about making older aircraft meet contemporary standards when improving the quality and utility of the equipment installed.

Not bad for three years, two months and a few days on the job. AOPA and FAA may not always see eye-to-eye, she noted, but the two organizations have managed to work together productively to the benefit of their common constituencies.

An example: FAA's awareness of raising runway incursions started action at 800 Independence and up I-270 in Frederick, Md., where the AOPA Air Safety Foundation began to post the diagrams of hundreds of airports on the AOPA Web site for pilots to access before flying into fields with which they aren't familiar.

Here are, briefly, some others: AOPA's efforts to get the FAA to cut the wait for CFI candidates awaiting check rides, now down to two weeks from waits that lasted months for some instructors-to-be; and the shameful backlog of special medical approvals has shrunken to 13,000 — down from more than 70,000 a year ago — and continues to drop. The goal: same-day medical reviews of special-circumstance applications.

Garvey noted that tension will always exist between the regulators and the regulated. After all, she noted in a colorful quote from Pierre Trudeau, the late Canadian prime minister: When sleeping with an elephant, no matter how docile or tame, you feel every twitch and every grunt. Her goal seems to be making her elephant twitch and grunt as little as necessary to get its job done.

But in quoting the late Max Karant, AOPA Pilot's first editor and a perpetual thorn in the FAA's institutional side, Garvey affirmed the idea that maybe, after all, we can get along more than we disagree. "The system," Karant wrote, "must be designed to serve all users and not just the privileged few."

Said Garvey, "That's right and that's fair."

The Qs And As: No Soft Pitches, No Curveballs, No Strike-Outs

You'd expect an open mic to draw a variety of questions for someone as powerful as the head of the world's leading aviation agency, and the audience of AOPA members did not disappoint. Questions on a proposed Part 161 noise study for Burbank, for example, will only proceed, she affirmed, when the study design is fair and balanced — and lacking any foregone conclusions. "We were very clear: no predetermined outcomes," she said.

She told a questioner that the FAA is walking something of a tight rope in dealing with land-use issues around local airports, trying to balance the often-conflicting views of appropriate use adjacent to airports like Chico, where the powers-that-be would like to develop property in ways less-than-compatible with the airport itself.

Ditto for Hawthorne, where Gary Parsons, winner of AOPA's award for Airport Support Network volunteers is watching the latest antics of the local government: hiring a shopping-mall development company to study the best use of the airport property. The city fathers insist that all they have to do is return $5 million to the FAA to discharge the 11 years of grant obligations remaining since the airport last asked for and got federal funds. "I don't think it's that easy to get out of a grant," Garvey affirmed. "Others have asked about that and backed off after finding out what was involved."

And from an Arizonan came a question about how four airports — Sierra Vista, Bullhead City, Flagstaff and Lake Havasu — can justify locking general aviation out of terminal buildings build in part with federal grant funds, simply because of security rules enforced because of a handful of regional-airline flights. Those airport managers, we expect, will be hearing from both Washington and Frederick in the near future — and rightfully so, we believe.

Other topics covered included the future of the Flight Service Station (FSS) network, on improving air traffic flow in crowded corridors and around the country, on revising the Age 60 Rule that mandates airline pilot retirements, on the Thursday meltdown of L.A. Center's radar and other brought typically informative, generally predicable answers. In all areas, there's work going on.

But in the end, she noted, the FAA's days of mega projects, sweeping plans for change and revolutionary advances, are over. Incremental changes advanced building-block style are the methods of preference — whether in working on advances like ADS-B, a new architecture for the FSS network, or Free Flight — are the only way these advances can be developed and implemented without technology and costs breaking down the process, she noted.

A Word To The Boss: No Resignation Required

With the 2000 presidential elections just over a couple of weeks away, a question arose asking whether Garvey would offer her resignation to the new Commander-in-Chief — long a Washington tradition for presidential appointees in cabinet-level, agency level and White House posts. But Garvey's appointment, the first under a 1997 law that gave the FAA post a fixed, five-year term, doesn't fit that mold.

Like the five members of the National Transportation Safety Board, the head of the Federal Reserve and the FBI, Garvey's appointment is not "at the pleasure of the president." That's not to say she'd necessarily want to hang around to work for whichever version of Candidate 2000 picks up the Electoral College majority.

But unless she feels the relationship completely untenable, AVweb is optimistic that she'll help establish a favorable precedent for the good of her office and hang around until her five-year term expires in August 2002. The continuity can't hurt the FAA and, we suspect, will be good for all of us in the community. AVweb hopes to see some — but not all necessarily, of course — of what Garvey started actually get finished by her. So hang on to the pen and paper, Madam Administrator. Our community fought long and hard for that five-year law and only you can give it the precedent it needs to give it a future.

It's Here: Cirrus Launches SR22 — Quicker Than Most Expected

Another group of smiling faces belonged to the Dudes from Duluth — the staff of Cirrus Design Corp. — where the final efforts were going into completing certification of the SR22, the 310-horse Continental IO-550-N-powered follow-on to the groundbreaking SR20 personal airplane. And the effort should rapidly come to a conclusion, according to Cirrus President Alan Klapmeier. In fact, the certification program endured a bit of an interruption so Cirrus could bring the 180-knot powerhouse design to Long Beach for its public debut and the company's first official acknowledgement that the program is underway.

According to Klapmeier, certification should conclude before year's end, thanks to an effort to complete drop tests of Ballistic Recovery Systems' emergency-parachute system for the SR22 — tests that were ongoing as AOPA Expo 2000 was underway. Final flying and check-offs of the airplane itself were nearly complete, with drop tests of a weighted airframe among the final, tall hurdles left to clear.

That puts Cirrus in a position to lap competitor Lancair's Columbia 400, a follow-on to the still-sluggish Columbia 300 program. But that's another story for later in this report.

What Is It? A Faster, Heavier, More Capable Cirrus

Cirrus first acknowledged it was considering an SR20 follow-on design more than a year ago — but has never since firmly acknowledged that the program was a go. Still, there have been hints, including company sources stating that a payload increase planned for the SR20 would be completed in concert with certification tests of the SR22. Now, those times are near. But the SR22 is more than simply a higher-horsepower, faster-flying version of the original Cirrus.

For example, the new SR22 flies 20 knots faster and weighs more than 400 pounds more than the SR20 to give the new bird a payload of 1,150 pounds; the wing span is three feet wider, at 38 feet, four inches; the panel is all-electric, with the plane sporting dual alternators, batteries and electrical buses to assure power to the electric gyros used in place of the air-driven units. That means no suction pump and one less system to maintain and worry about. And with 81 gallons of fuel, the SR22 delivers a cruise range of 727 nautical miles, with reserves.

At a price of $276,600 for the base model — which includes an S-Tec/Meggitt System FiftyX autopilot, dual Garmin GNS boxes, one a 430, the other a 420 without the ILS and glideslope receiver and an electric HSI — the SR22 has labored little to build a substantial backlog of orders — 178, according to Klapmeier, about one full year's worth of production, most of them converted from the 600-plus backlog of orders amassed for the SR20. Many of those initial converts opted for the optional "B" equipment configuration, which includes dual GNS 430s and the Sandel 3308 EHSI; this model commands a $294,700 price tag.

With Cirrus' total orderbook approaching 700, Cirrus plans to establish a second production line to build the 300-horse Cirrus — which means shorter lead times for people holding orders on either list. Regardless of which you might lust after, you might want to stop dreaming and start ordering, before the wait gets longer yet again — and you can count on the list getting longer before it gets shorter.

And Next Up From Cirrus? Hope You Can You Spell FADEC

Given the innovations Cirrus Design has successfully tackled — composite airframe, large-screen multifunction display and the Cirrus Airframe Parachute System, and a single lever to control engine power, to name the top ones — some seem to expect company executives to be hot for some of the new powerplant options emerging from engine makers. So, the question went, would it be a Diesel, as at least one European distributor has stated? How about a shaft version of a little Williams turbine? Or even a fanjet?

Nope, said Alan Klapmeier. He's excited about Teledyne Continental Motors development of a full single-power control for the Continentals Cirrus uses. Certification of the system for the IO-360 and IO-550 is near its end, opening the door for Cirrus to further enhance its two models sooner rather than later.

Micco Celebrates The SP26's Rapid Certification

What's an aviation convention without at least one new airplane to ogle and fantasize about? It'd be something of a let down during these boom times, don't you think? Not to worry. Thanks to the rapid work of Micco Aircraft and the FAA, the Florida-based, Seminole-tribe owned company was able to celebrate the certification of the 260-horse, tailwheel SP26 — only 10 months after the January certification of the company's 200-horse SP20, the first reincarnation of the old Meyers 145.

FAA administrator Jane Garvey brought company representatives to the stage of the convention center's ball room at the start of her annual Meet-The-Boss session — a session in which the first fixed-term FAA boss showed herself to be at the top of her game a bit more than three years into her five-year-fixed-term tenure, we must add. But more on that later.

Getting back to the SP26 certification, Garvey noted that through the hard work of the company and FAA staff, the follow-on aircraft came through the program much more quickly than the it took to get the SP20 through the program. It shows, Garvey noted, what the public and private sectors can accomplish working together.

Free Bird: Mooney Madness, With A Cause

Here's one you don't encounter every day — an airplane company working to give away airplanes. But that's exactly what Mooney Aircraft Corp. plans to do with a brand-new Eagle to one of the 5,000 people who buy a $100 ticket in a lottery to benefit the Eagles Against Diabetes Partnership that's funding research into a promising new therapy that could cure the disease. Yes sir, according to Mooney President Chris Dopp, this isn't a free lease or a temporary loaner. Someone will take home $360,000 worth of Eagle, equipped with all the goodies, including a Garmin GNS 430, an autopilot and slaved HSI.

The Children's National Medical Center in Washington, D.C., and Vanderbilt University's Center for Microgravity Research will share in the benefits from the raffle, which is being supported by the General Aviation Manufacturer's Association, the Mooney Aircraft Pilots Association, the Evans-Gilrith Foundation, and the planemaker, of course. For information on how to get your one-in-5,000 chance for a new Eagle, check out the details at www.EaglesAgainstDiabetes.com. The tickets should go about as fast as the 180-knot prize.

Down To The Tropical Sun: Baja Pilots Work Wonders With Mexico

Some of you may have read my missive in the delights of paperwork that's been part of the experience flying through Mexico for years and wondered whether it's worth the effort. Well, we thought so then and plan to return for another adventure trip South of the Border. But things should go more easily and less expensively thanks to work by the Baja Bush Pilots Association with the government of Mexico and Mexico's version of AOPA, FEMPPA, unveiled during Expo 2000.

According to BBPA, association president Jack McCormick received an appointment from Mexico Senator Alejandro Gutierrez to sit on a special committee dubbed "Simplification for the Private Aviation" in Mexico earlier this year and the first meeting October 11 has already brought some changes. For example, now all 57 international airports in Mexico are port-of-entry points for both piston and turbine aircraft, ending the differentiation between POI airports designated for either piston or turbine, a particularly arcane system in which you could depart Mexico, for example, from Mattamoros in a piston plane but not from Tampico — and vice versa. Pilots from north of the border can now change their passenger list and even fly within Mexico with different passengers than those listed on the entry permit, another welcome, logical change. A special tax has been rescinded, as well, saving American flyers some welcome bucks.

And perhaps best of all, we can fly night VFR from and to towered airports that are open after dark. Before, any night flight had to be on an IFR flight plan to fly at night. But this isn't the end of McCormick's work — more improvements are expected, including a 360-day multi-entry permit for a flat $50 fee, a new form that combines all the entry-permit forms into one, and even a single-window payment system that will eliminate the running around to multiple offices that prevails today, and more. To learn more from the source, you can contact McCormick at (480) 730-3250, Sen. Gutierrez at (011) 525-345-3329, or Dr. Luisa Romero M del Sobral, the head FEMPPA, at (011) 522-383-0260.

Hasta la vista.

Extra, Extra, Read All About It: 400 Gets Its FAA Papers

Walter Extra's latest vision of things with wings got its flying papers, Extra Aircraft LLC announced during NBAA, and the four U.S. dealers are hot to sell this hot new pressurized single. Powered by TCM's rare TSIOL-550C liquid-cooled engine, the 350-horsepower turbocharged six-seater can cover more than 1,000 nautical miles at 230 knots. The 400 can also get its occupants above most weather, thanks to a service ceiling of 25,000 feet — FL250, to regular users of their heights — as the occupants enjoy a cabin altitude of 8,000 feet.

The carbon-fiber-fuselage design sports a cantilever high-wing configuration that even delivers all-weather capabilities in its full IFR panel — radar and a pair of Garmin GNS 430s to guide you along. Pacific Extra in Seattle, Extra Southwest in Deer Valley, Ariz., East Coast Aviation at Hanscom Field in Massachusetts, and Showalter Aircraft Sales in Orlando are handling U.S. sales of this scorcher. Oh, yeah, bring along plenty of pennies, because the Extra 400 is going for a bit more than a million — perhaps a new high for a piston single.

I'll See Your ‘Chute And Raise You A Parachute: The GARD's Back

Years before Cirrus made jaws drop by announcing that its planes would sport their own whole-plane parachute systems, the company that made those 'chutes possible won an FAA STC to put the General Aviation Recovery Device (GARD) in Cessna 150 and 152 models. But the 1993 GARD never quite caught on as South Saint Paul's Ballistic Recovery Systems had hoped. Well, hope and patience are often rewarded, as Cirrus proved, since the systems have been standard equipment aboard every production SR20.

And more proof is at hand through the launch of Millennium Aerospace's plans to acquire and refurbish 150s with new paint, new interior, a new Garmin 530-anchored avionics stack, and new GARD-150s for the training and personal-flying markets. According to Chuck Parsons, owner of Chicago-based Millennium Aerospace, the final price of these updated and upgraded birds will be less than half a new 172 — which lacks both the big Garmin and the big parachute.

Flight schools around the country can expect to start hearing from Parsons in the coming weeks, as BRS gears up to produce more GARD 150s — a no-brainer for a company that's delivered more than 13,000 emergency parachute systems in the past 18 years. With the documented save of 134 pilots in that time, and Cirrus' adaptation of the BRS system to both the SR20 and SR22, we won't be surprised to hear that acceptance of the GARD-equipped 150 will be higher than before.

Stack Attack: Honeywell, UPSAT Advance Their Color Gear

Even as its corporate future is in play, Honeywell's Bendix/King staff was smiling as they let everyone within earshot know that the new KLN94 color IFR GPS is starting to ship after the unit received its TSO approval recently. That gave the Honeywell display a new appeal for pilots interested in something from the other side of Olathe, Kan., where rival Garmin is headquartered.

The combination of a KLN94 — which is plug-and-play compatible with the KLN89B mounting tray — linked to the new KX155A nav/com delivers all the same features as another Kansas company's all-in-one box, Honeywell staff offered — with a color display screen only slightly smaller than "those other guys' unit" and at a lower price. Add on a KMD 150 multifunction display, and for less than "those other guys'" bigger box, you get even more color display area and some redundancy, to boot, since each unit has its own color screen.

Shipments begin this month, according to the company, and a backlog of demand already has the assembly line humming. Also at Expo, AOPA members who didn't attend NBAA the week before got to hear the first words on Honeywell's upcoming Apex integrated avionics system launched at New Orleans.

Elsewhere on the Expo exhibit floor, the innovators from Oregon were showing off the newest capabilities of the UPS Aviation Technologies'/ MX20 multifunction display — functions that don't require another UPSAT unit to exploit. Among the welcome advances are an accurate depiction of Jeppesen approach plates overlaid on the aircraft tracking function — complete with strips that show the descent profile, altitude and circling minima, and the missed-approach procedure.

Although the demonstration unit worked off a UPSAT GX60 IFR GPS, the features work regardless of the GPS feeding the display. And, according to company sources, there are even more features in the works that should be debuting no later than the Aircraft Electronics Association convention next May.

Echo Flight: Orbcom Bankruptcy No Sweat For Datalink Service

If you'd been counting on adding an Echo Flight datalink feed to your airplane, but were concerned about the September Chapter 11 bankruptcy-protection filing of its satellite provider, OrbCom, there's no need to sweat, according to Echo Flight president Robert Kalberer. "OrbCom has a plan in the works, its business is getting better, and they're going to come out of this relatively soon," Kalberer told AVweb at Expo 2000.

A combination of new clients for its low-Earth-orbit satellite system, cost reductions and changes in its business focus should secure the LEO system for years to come, much to the relief of Echo Flight customers awaiting the hardware to feed their multifunction displays weather and messaging services. "The line's not getting shorter," Kalberer said.

Gilt By Association: New Faces Hope For Gold From Expo Crowd

Aviation conventions are time-proven places to launch new products and potential gold mines for the launchers, as you've probably noticed from our reports over the years, and AOPA Expo is never an exception to that rule, from the big stuff to the small and, sometimes, esoteric. With that in mind, here's a bit of product potpourri for your consideration.

Airborne Weather In The Palm Of Your Hand From DigiWX

Datalink aside, the DigiWx broadcast system gives a small airport weather reporting capabilities that can move from plane to plane and that fits in the palm of your hand. Based on a low-power FM transmitter, the DigiWx is a solar-powered air-data-gathering tower that broadcasts wind speed, direction, crosswind component, temperature, humidity and barometric pressure to a palm-size receiver with its own liquid-crystal display. With the runway orientation plugged in, you can see a graphic depiction of the wind direction relative to the runway, as well as the other data listed above — while on the ground or aloft, up to about 10 miles. The system costs $6,950, with one receiver; additional receivers go for $595 for this VFR-only system. The maker, Belfort Instrument Co., is based in Baltimore. Check them out at www.digiwx.com, of course.

Entertaining In The Malibu Or Mirage

Phoenix-based Cutter Aviation showed of its corporate-style entertainment center recently STC'd for the Piper Malibu and Mirage. You lose one seat, but gain access to music, video and DVD entertainment equipment, as well as a 12-inch color video monitor for the visual gear. Prices start at $13,500 for the cabinet installation, alone; the monitor adds $5,000. The weight gain for the cabinet alone is a svelte 22 pounds — plus the weight of any optional gear installed.

Navigation In The Palm Of Your Hand

This a growing segment of the electronics mania that's swept through general aviation in recent years, and it's one that lets all those palm-size PDAs do double duty — keeping lists, swapping email, making appointments and navigating by GPS. One of the players displaying this new technology was Boston-based TeleType and its TeleType GPS hardware and software. This system works of a combination GPS engine-and-antenna unit mated to a standard card that plugs into the PDA. Open the software and get touch-screen navigation control of your VFR GPS and moving-map display.

Portable collision avoidance at hand

With 18 midair collisions last year and some high-profile meetings of the metal this year, avoiding things that go crunch in the sky remains a priority for us all — but one expensive to enhance, equipment-wise. Now pilots not blessed with the five-figure budgets needed to equip their wings with stand-alone collision-avoidance gear or the hardware needed for the new Traffic Information Service were making for crowds around the exhibit of SureCheck Aviation, where the star of the display was the new $495 TPAS — or Traffic Proximity Alert System.

Similar to other collision-avoidance devises, the TPAS system listens for and deciphers the transponder output of other aircraft in two modes: en route and terminal. When in the en route mode, TPAS alerts the pilot to aircraft as far away as five miles. In the terminal mode, the highest alert level is triggered by aircraft within 2,000 feet. TPAS does not give altitude information or resolution information like those five-figure systems available from other vendors. But it is portable, can run off ship's power or six AA cells, and will even show when the plane is within range of ground radar. Check out SureCheck at www.surecheckaviation.com.

Don't Want To Ride A Motorcycle? H-D Will Help You Fly, Too

Yessir, Harley-Davidson Financial Services has weighed in to the growing field of aircraft finance, through its partnership with Dorr Aviation Inc. Loans are available for terms to 20 years, new or used; for warbirds; and for aircraft older than 20 years. Rates go as low as the New York-posted prime rate for loans above $200,000. So if you don't want a pickle, and don't want to ride a motorcycle, you may still qualify for your own Harley wings. Harley-Davidson finance is in Chicago, Dorr Aviation is in Marlboro, Massachusetts.

Meanwhile, Back At The Ranch, AOPA's On A Roll

Uncle Phil went for some laughs on AOPA Expo's opening day by putting ASF headman Bruce Landsberg through the rigors of a quiz show ala Who Wants to Be a Millionaire. No, there wasn't a million at stake, but there were four checks for $50,000 each to underwrite another year's worth of production for the Project V (for "video") program launched last year. With each check equal to the costs of sending videos to about 13,000 pilots, a lot more aviators will get tapes in the mail than last year.

And that will help ASF, which has arguably been a major influence in the dramatic drop in aviation accidents, both fatal and non-fatal, to another record low this year — something Jane Garvey lauded in her opening remarks.

But Landsberg just can't leave things going well — he's after making them even better, a hallmark of his nine-year tenure at the foundation. The newest twist: teaming the Air Safety Foundation with Jeppesen to launch the new ASF-Jeppesen CFI Renewal Online program to meet the FAA's requirements for Flight Instructor Refresher training. The $149 tab even includes filing of all the validation paperwork with the FAA.

More Credit Due: AOPA Rebate Program Increased

If you use your AOPA credit card like I do, you probably enjoy getting those 3 percent rebates back from MBNA America Bank — the institution that covers the rebate costs. Well, your rebates will grow in proportion, AOPA announced at Expo 2000, to 5 percent starting January 1. AOPA was already looking into ways to enhance the rebate program back around Sun ‘n Fun in April, and we know first hand that much of the feedback AOPA received was that more money never hurts.

Since the program's launch in 1997, MBNA has returned to AOPA members more than $4 million worth of rebates, with the average monthly return equal to AOPA's annual dues. With more than 4,500 participating FBOs, maintenance shops and other suppliers participating, members qualify for rebates on everything from gas and oil purchases to avionics and equipment upgrades.

Free At Last? NOS Charts Available From AOPA On-Line

Don't let the New Year creep up on you without checking the ink or ribbon in your printer: Something free is coming your way. Starting January 1, AOPA members will be able to print out on their computer free NOS approach plates, STARs, SIDs (now called Departure Procedures or DPs,) and change notices for all 9,400 published procedures. The plates will be linked to the association's on-line airport directory and available in Adobe's PDF format, so you can print them out scaled to a size you can read and on paper that will stand up to rough handling, if you choose. The update cycle will run every 56 days, same as the NOS charts you buy at the pilot shop or from the guvmint. Most importantly, they will be legal in the cockpit, just like the ones you're using now.

In a nod to the ever-present digital culture of today, AOPA is also formatting the online Airport Directory so pilots can download airport data and diagrams to a notebook computer or PDA — without printing them at all. You can already print out airport diagrams and information in a kneeboard-size format to carry with you, in case you're not interested in adding more electronics gear to your flight bag.

The End Is Here

Why does there always seem to be more to report and less time to report it in? Perhaps it's just another one of those positive signs of the times for general aviation. We'd like to think so, at least, and with the fun and camaraderie of another AOPA Expo fresh in our minds, it's easy to be optimistic that next year will be even better.

If you didn't make it to Long Beach this year, don't stress. Next year's AOPA Expo is just a bit more than 11 months away: In Fort Lauderdale, Florida, next November 8-10. Be sure and stop by and say "Hi" when you're there.

DON'T MISS THIS:

Be sure to check out AVweb's image gallery of AOPA EXPO 2000!