AOPA Snips and Bits

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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.

Comments (18)

my husband and I attended the San Jose AOPA convention last year. We own a Grumman Tiger and were at a periphery meeting at a hotel next door to the convention hall. three people from some African counrty caame in and interrupted opur meeting, could hardly speak english, and were persistent in talkin gto anyone they could about whatever. Maybe they were trying to get an airplane donation. We resent our meetings being interrupted like this. The DR booth should not have been allowed in Tampa, anymore than the Mexican pilots association, as far as we are concerned.

Posted by: RUTH PRESTON | November 8, 2009 8:51 AM    Report this comment

Please leave Ruth Preston's comment up as long as possible. It is a rare triumph of xenophobia and non sequitur illogic. I found both the DR and Bahamian booths and staff to be remarkably friendly and knowledgeable... and easy on the eyes. There could be no more appropriate offerings at a Florida AOPA meet (yeah, "Summit" was pure marketing BS) where so many of us were interested in potential offshore long weekend jaunts. The Bahamas folks happily agreed to propose legislation to change the regs to allow sport pilot and LSA visits in future. They are well within 1 hour day VFR range with excellent flight following. "Should not have been allowed"? Lighten up, Ruth. Those "Africans" you so despised were evangelists not government reps anyway. Congrats and thanks again to DomRepub (2cents: stay the hell out of corrupt Haiti next door) and Bahamas.

Posted by: Ignatz Wyejudodat | November 9, 2009 8:35 AM    Report this comment

Almost missed the show which was only an hour away from me. This year I knew there was a Summit but didn't really catch the point of the event until one week ago when I got a postcard describing it as the expo, but with another name! I thought it was a new event and all it was going to be was a symposium or seminars. I haven't been active in GA for 2 years since the recession caught up me. I don't even read the magazine some months. So I have to admit I've been out of it, thanks to AvWeb for keeping me somewhat in the loop. Change the name back to Expo or something else because Summit, it was not. I'm sorry to say of the eight I've been to(15 year member), this was the smallest and slowest Expo I can remember. Didn't get the airportfest name, to me it was the static display. Thought there would be some carnival rides or simulators. Over all just about what I expected from a 2009 trade show, all the other industries are about the same in scaling back size, time, and SWAG.(Stuff We All Get). Tampa is still a great location for the expo with Peter O'Knight as a perfect airport for the static display. Next year Long Beach, again. How about somewhere different on the west coast? As for the Dominicans and the Africans. That's what GA is all about! Those types of reps and vendors have been at the expo for the 15 years I've attended. There should be more! This is one of the few times every year when the GA community can get together and show the public what GA is really about!

Posted by: Edwin Martinez | November 9, 2009 12:38 PM    Report this comment

This was my second Expo, er... Summit, the last being in Tampa in 2005. Aside from the fact that I'd like AOPA to revert to the Expo name, the event was a class act and well run. Made me proud to be an AOPA member. After 34 years of membership I should try to get to more of them!

Indeed, the exhibitor numbers were down from, no surprise there, but what I came to see was on display. I also had no issue with the DR booth, especially the hand-rolled cigars they were making there!

I even saw the esteemed Mr. Bertorelli rushing down an aisle, video camera in hand!

Overall, we had a wonderful time, and my compliments go to the AOPA staff, the fine folks at TPF, who made our arrival and departure painless, and all others who made this a very special event.

Posted by: LOUIS BETTI | November 9, 2009 12:59 PM    Report this comment

I really don't want to attend an "aviation summit," It sounds like a bunch of speechifying and grand but unrealistic proposals and announcements that have little to d with me.

I do want to go to a fun event that celebrates aviation, lets me look at the new stuff, learn a few things I can apply to my flying, buy some goodies, and hang out with similarly bent people. That's not a "summit," and please don't call it that.

Even the dorky AirVenture name is better.

Even though I live on the other coast near next year's site in Long Beach, I also think the AOPA has to hold a few convention in the middle of the country (I think Wichita could be fabulous!) when GA is even more vital than the coasts.

Posted by: Art Friedman | November 9, 2009 1:20 PM    Report this comment

On behalf of the staff and volunteers at Atlas and TPF, we thank EVERYONE for coming! Our team is a little weary but had a blast taking care of the attendees. We sincerely hope your stay was smooth, fun and memorable.

Posted by: Deric Dymerski | November 9, 2009 2:28 PM    Report this comment

This was our first time exhibiting at the AOPA Summit (nee Expo), and the Tampa facilities were great. It was interesting being one of the few Experimental exhibitors there. We went to mostly to support all of our LSA customers, but found that a very high percentage of pilots flying Bonanzas are also flying RVs. And we had fun showing everyone else how much avionics should really cost!

Posted by: ROBERT HAMILTON | November 9, 2009 2:28 PM    Report this comment

I should have explained, I'm with Dynon Avionics.

Posted by: ROBERT HAMILTON | November 9, 2009 2:30 PM    Report this comment

NOT a summit, hardly an Expo even; $35 to get in the door was rape; disappointed that many favorite vendors like WSI Weather and EDM were not there; my group did the entire exhibition hall in under an hour... especially disappointed that many vendors looked bored out of their skulls and ready to knock down their displays and haul ass by noon saturday...

rename and redo this event or cancel it.

Posted by: Jim Epting | November 9, 2009 2:45 PM    Report this comment

When I first joined AOPA in the early 80's it was an advocate for GA. By the time they left me in the late 80's it had become a whining reactive PR org. Its' focus turned inward with money collection its' main concern. While shuffling and promoting management into higher pay scales it jumped in bed with the FAA and we watch most of the gains from earlier years lost forever. It is what it is. PR swings. No?

Posted by: Larry Fries | November 9, 2009 4:08 PM    Report this comment

I am not surprised at igantz's comment.
So typical

Posted by: RUTH PRESTON | November 9, 2009 6:39 PM    Report this comment

I did not go to the "Summit". Too far, too pretentious,same exhibitors as any other GA show, only fewer of them I expect. After Patty's performance at OSH, why would AOPA feature her? Their updates of aircraft that rest of us fly that have become their past sweepstakes aircraft used to be interesting. A used LSA for 2010? Give me a break!

I did watch some of the delayed "live" video. I don't know if Craig Fuller dreamed up the Summit name, but it suited his delusions of grandeur as typified by his interview with John Sammon of the TSA. AOPA's and Fuller's pandering to the DHS/TSA/CPB crowd is simply inappropriate. Instead of the softball, warm & fuzzy cozying up to the TSA, how about a few hard-ball questions as to how the TSA and others justify their bogus risk assessment of GA that is trotted out to justify more regs, restrictions, empire-building and all the rest of the draconian measures that they dream up. Ever notice how hard it is for the membership to provide feedback with the AOPA and their cronies? There are simply no obvious avenues for that. So as someone said, they call at 6:30pm to collect money, but for what?

I should be getting my 20 year pin in not too long, but I'm starting to seriously consider my membership as worthless and voting with my feet.

Posted by: David MacRae | November 9, 2009 9:50 PM    Report this comment

This was our third Expo ("Summit" turned us off and almost kept us from coming - "Expo" is a better and less pretentious name IMHO). Our first was in 1974 in Ft Lauderdale, where they introduced a rudimentary form of what has become DUAT/DUATS. We next attended the Expo in Tampa in 2005 following our return to aviation after a multi-decade absence. We were somewhat overwhelmed, not only from the scope, but from the many changes that had taken place since we were last active. We just returned from this year's "Summit" and found it somewhat less exciting than the 2005 Expo, though there were more airplanes on exhibit at TPF. There were fewer exhibitors in the convention center and fewer forums, but we still found it, on the whole, worthwhile. I really don't care for the political show and tell, but it does seem to have become part and parcel of what now drives these things. Not my cup of tea.

Posted by: JOHN HUGHES | November 10, 2009 12:24 AM    Report this comment

Hello David McRae,
It makes me sick that Craig Fuller pandered to the tsa, who I personally think should be abolished. If the government wants to stop wasting money, this is one place they can start. Perhaps then we may get a few of our constitutional rights much money did it cost the taxpayers for tsa to change the color of their shirts from white to blue? (I thought it should have been brown, if they had to do it)

Also I have tried to e-mail Craig Fuller.I have not yet been able to reach him. He seems to be so unavailabe, compared to Phil Boyer, who I not only was able to e-mail and interact with, but whom I have been able to talk to on the phone. I miss him, but he is havin ga good time in retirement, whoich he deserves.

If AOPA officials really want to increase aviation ranks, they should try to get lots of tv spots and aviationinterviews/shows on REGULAR tv, not small interviews and 30 minutes documentaries at 5 AM or 11:30 PM at night, which I have seen, but only rarely in the past.

Posted by: RUTH PRESTON | November 10, 2009 7:17 AM    Report this comment

Well I didn't go this year because the whole "Summit" thing lead me at first to believe it was a summit. Since they cancelled the open house I first thought the " Expo" was out the door as well. The new administration at AOPA seems to be developing a real disconnect with the membership. Maybe they should inspect the bath water a little more closely before throughing it out in the future (Expo).

Posted by: JAMES MILLER | November 10, 2009 7:33 AM    Report this comment

I want to echo Art's comments about AOPA holding their expo/summit/whatever in some area other than the coasts. I live smack in the middle of the country...California and Florida are major trips. I know why AOPA wants to hold the event in places that have tourist draws, but there are some good places in the middle of the country too. How about San Antonio or Corpus Christi? Denver? Even going back to Vegas would make it more accessible to those of us who don't live on the coast.

Posted by: Chris McLellan | November 10, 2009 10:09 AM    Report this comment


this isn't the cold war, unless you consider the TSA, FAA, and HLSA ....., well you get the idea!!!

Posted by: PETER LAUTENSACK | November 10, 2009 11:17 AM    Report this comment

Thanks for joining the fray, Craig. Always welcome.

>>Not sure why you elected to spark a debate over names

That one's easy. Blogger job description: Not to gush, to do or die, but to ponder and wonder why. I figure the name change is part of the passing parade and thus fair game.

Posted by: Paul Bertorelli | November 12, 2009 11:31 AM    Report this comment

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