How to protect your airport… and other things I learned at AOPA Expo

Are THEY trying to close your airport? THEY must get around and be great in numbers because during AOPA Expo in Palm Springs last month I heard all about the ubiquitous THEY who are trying to close airports in several states. The first thing I asked when greeted with this statement was “Which they is that?”

Is there a bona fide threat like a developer making bids on the land, a city council person who has contacted the FAA about having the airport released from obligations, or is the threat the product of pilot gossip?

If you are going to combat this threat you need to know who your adversary is. Before you contact the press to get the word out and attract support for your cause, make sure you have all the facts, including the names of “they.”

TALK IT UP

Who should you be talking to – other than the press — when your airport is facing an issue? That’s the big question. Events like AOPA Expo or regional fly-ins are great places for building a list of contacts who can help you when your airport is threatened.

Most states have a pilots’ association. These grass roots groups are good places to network. Very often issues at other airports are the same or very similar to what your home field is facing. You can learn from the experiences of others. When you need to contact an elected official, they may have done all the legwork already and have the names and phone numbers you need. They also may have contact information for members of the general media who are aviation savvy and willing to listen to what you have to say.

There are lots of aviation organizations out there, and many of them were out in force at Expo. Some, like AOPA, are advocacy groups. Others, like type clubs, cater to a particular aircraft model and the joys and challenges of owning that aircraft. Some sponsor activities and community service, such as Angel Flight, the Flying Rotarians and the Civil Air Patrol. These provide opportunities to give back to the community through flying and can provide more contacts in the event an issue arises at your airport.

ONE-STOP SHOPPING

If you were in the market for avionics or an airplane, Expo was the place to be. For the avionics shopper, it was the aviation version of Wal-Mart.

For those in the market for aircraft, outside the convention hall, where the aircraft were parked on the street, was the place to be.

Shoppers had models from Cessna, Cirrus, Columbia, Piper, Mooney, Diamond, Liberty and more within walking distance of each other. Many a visitor spent an afternoon getting in and out of aircraft, checking out this cockpit, that cockpit.

Glass panels stole the show. A few years ago I heard that glass was the wave of the future and Expo 2006 certainly proved it.

FAMILIAR TERRITORY

I spent a lot of time at the Cessna displays. I wanted a good look at the Next Generation Piston and the Cessna LSA — especially the latter.

The last time I saw it was at EAA AirVenture when it was up on a pedestal and you could not see inside. At Expo it was on the ground and the doors were locked, but you could still look in the window. I noticed that the Hobbs meter indicated the aircraft had all of 27.5 hours on it.

I had never been so close to such a new airplane before. I noted that it was parked close to a Caravan as if it was too little to be away from its mother.

LIGHT SPORT, TIGHT SPORT

The Light Sport Aircraft manufacturers and distributors had a space of their own on one side of the convention center, where the LSAs were packed in like college kids sharing a room on spring break. You had to be careful when walking through the displays. A few of the vendors carefully put colored tape, Christmas garland or some other highly visible device on their aircraft to prevent people from accidentally walking into wings or tails.

The LSAs on display ranged from high-wing composite and metal models such as the Remos G-3 to low-wing designs like the Evektor and those that are very similar to the legacy aircraft, such as the Legend Cub and Luscombe Silvaire. Then there was the red and black swoop-tailed Nexaer that reminds me of something that Star Trek Voyager’s Capt. Janeway borrowed from Species 8472 to defeat the Borg.

On the subject of Star Trek-inspired design, the Cirrus has always looked to me like something that Gene Roddenberry dreamed up, so when Cirrus Design brought out an SR22 in Sterling silver, I had the urge to hold up my hand in the Vulcan salute. I wonder how many models the United Federation of Planets has ordered for Star Fleet Academy?

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