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Just two months into his new job, AOPA President Mark Baker addressed an overflow crowd at AOPA Summit on Thursday morning, to lay out his vision for the future of the organization -- and also revealed a hint at the "real reason" that this Summit will be the last. In response to a question from the audience, Baker said switching from the annual meeting to a half-dozen regional fly-ins will create opportunities for AOPA to recruit new members. "There are still thousands of pilots who are not members of AOPA," he said. "These fly-ins will take our message out to where people fly." Baker also said changes to the third-class medical, which have wide support among aviators -- the EAA/AOPA proposal attracted more than 16,000 "overwhelmingly positive" comments -- so far are "not a priority" for the FAA, but he will continue to lobby for the changes. "I just won't let this die," he said. But the key to GA's future, in Baker's estimation, is making our local airports into friendlier, more welcoming places.

"I was one of those airport kids," says Baker, who discovered aviation at a local field. But today, too many of our GA airports are surrounded by barbed wire and fences. "Communities need access," he said. Picnic tables, playgrounds, and open-house events all can help to make GA airports into "a place for families to hang out on a Saturday afternoon … where the next generation can discover aviation." Baker also addressed a question about the recent issues with customs and border officials confronting GA pilots, saying that such encounters "seem to be slowing down." He added that it's important to continue to educate lawmakers in Washington about the importance of GA, and said members of the GA caucus "understand the economic value" of aviation. Baker also earned applause from the crowd when he confirmed that AOPA will bring back its Frederick fly-in for 2014, to celebrate the organization's 75th year.

Baker said AOPA also has been working with EAA, GAMA, NBAA, and other aviation groups to bring proposals to the FAA for changes that would save money without affecting services to pilots. He said changes in flight services could save $75 million a year, for example, and shutting down just half of the remaining VORs would save $55 million annually. Baker said the proposed changes to third-class medicals also could save the FAA up to $11 million. The advocacy groups hope that by working with FAA to save money on inefficient or redundant services, they can deflect FAA proposals to save money in ways that would be harmful to GA, such as closing contract towers. Baker also said AOPA will continue to work with EAA to promote aviation. EAA chairman Jack Pelton will be here this week, appearing together with Baker at a pancake breakfast on Saturday morning at the Airportfest at Meacham Field. AOPA also will expand its presence at some EAA events, including next year's AirVenture, Baker said.

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Just as it was announcing features of the 2014 models of the SR20 and SR22, Cirrus also reported this week that development and testing work on the SF50 single-engine jet is moving rapidly forward with the construction of three test aircraft that begin advance flight testing next year.

At AOPA Summit in Fort Worth, Texas, Cirrus CEO Pat Waddick told AVweb that Cirrus has over 500 deposits on the five-place jet, with the order book still building. The jet program is now proceeding full-tilt, with more than 200 people working on the aircraft in both Duluth, Minn., and Grand Forks, N.D. In addition to engineering and production details, Waddick says Cirrus is focusing on training service and support details “so the aircraft commercializes nicely.”

Waddick said Cirrus just completed assembly details on what will eventually be three flight test articles that will begin intensive testing during 2014. Those aircraft will be built using the same production equipment Cirrus hopes to use for production aircraft. First deliveries are scheduled in 2015. For more on the SF50 VisionJet, see today’s video report from AOPA Summit.

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At AOPA Summit, Cirrus CEO Pat Waddick gave AVweb a progress report on the company's SF50 single-engine personal jet.  The aircraft is on fast track development for delivery in 2015.

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Pilots now can access new enhanced pre-flight briefings online from Lockheed Martin Flight Services, and also can utilize a new easy open/close feature for their flight plans, the company announced on Thursday. Staffers at AOPA Summit introduced pilots to the new tools at their busy kiosk in the exhibit hall in downtown Fort Worth, Texas. "Next Generation Briefing uses graphics, automatic summarization, intelligent briefing text translation, and several other tools to provide pilots with their briefing information in the most useful format possible," said Jim Derr, director of Lockheed Martin Flight Services. The new products aim to make it quicker, easier, and more intuitive for pilots to access the flight-planning information they need.

The new flight briefings highlight information relevant to the pilot's planned route, while de-emphasizing unnecessary data. For example, weather along the route and at the time of the flight is emphasized, and Notams are sorted and filtered so pilots will see the ones most likely to affect their plans. "We consistently got feedback from pilots that briefings are too long and hard to understand," said Mike Glasgow, system architect. "The NextGen briefing is a set of tools and capabilities with the overall goal to make it easier and faster to use." Some of the new features are available now, Glasgow said, and more will be rolled out in the coming months. The new flight plan open/close feature, available now, will send pilots an email with a link they can click to open or close the flight plan. Lockheed Martin's flight-service features are available free online to pilots at

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Lockheed Martin Flight Service rolled out some new features this week to make online flight planning easier and more intuitive for pilots.  At AOPA Summit in Fort Worth, system architect Mike Glasgow explained the Next Generation services to AVweb's Mary Grady.

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At every show, we see ever more functionality and high-level features in tablet apps. At AOPA Summit this year in Fort Worth, we’ve uncovered some useful new features in three apps we examined: ForeFlight, WingX Pro and Jeppesen’s FliteDeck app. In today’s video tour of these products, you can get a look how the new features work from Tyson Weihs of ForFlight, Hilton Goldstein of WingX Pro and Weston Greene from Jeppesen.

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New airplanes sales may be a little soft, but we're seeing plenty of refurb work -- everything from new panels to fresh paint to full-up interiors. We would like to feature some of these airplanes in the pages of AVweb and spotlight the owners and shops doing the work. If you have photos of your restored aircraft -- single, twin or turbine -- send them to us at If we select your airplane as refurb of the month, we'll contact you for more information.
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AVweb is the world's premier independent aviation news resource, online since 1995. Our reporting, features, and newsletters are brought to you by:

Tom Bliss

Editorial Director, Aviation Publications
Paul Bertorelli

Russ Niles

Scott Simmons

Contributing Editors
Mary Grady
Glenn Pew

Avionics Editor
Larry Anglisano

Kevin Lane-Cummings
Paul Berge

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Karen Lund

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