For airshows and other aviation events, local is the way to go

If you hold off attending local aviation fly-ins, conferences and airshows so you can attend one of the “big ones,” like AirVenture or Sun ’n Fun, you are missing out. I’m back from the March 1-3 Montana Aviation Conference in Bozeman. This was the 28th conference and I can tell you it was wonderful.

For starters, just under 50 companies showed up to exhibit, so getting around to speak with everyone over the three days is easy to do.

The challenge, if you can call it that, was to choose from a robust speaker/program schedule.

Addison and Wendy Pemberton were on hand for the opening day luncheon. Addison ran us through a flurry of slides and stories about his 18-year (and well documented) search for his Boeing Model 40C (pictured below). We even learned that Wendy was the first person “to puke” in the cabin. Fortunately, she did so into her purse. She took full credit with a hearty hand wave to everyone’s laughter.

Opening day wraps up, or just gets going, when the bars are rolled into the exhibit hall and drinks start to flow around 5 p.m. The volume of conversation ratcheted up and everyone “loosened up a bit.”

Friday started bright and early for the Montana Community Airport Association with a membership meeting from 6 a.m.-8 a.m. (which I didn’t attend, by the way). Mechanics started their refresher and IA renewal sessions at 7 a.m.

Ryan Zinke, a third generation Montana native and current state senator, discussed “Unmanned Aircraft Systems (UAS) Facts and Fiction” to a packed but cautious room.

On Saturday, Kevin Danz hosted two sessions titled, “I fly an iPad.” The early session I attended was standing-room only. I must admit, I got a kick out of seeing all the “old guys” in the room keeping up (or trying to) with Danz. The number of attendees who owned iPhones and iPads in the room was amazing.

Ben Sclair (in his General Aviation News pink shirt) receives his exhibitor award for 12 years of exhibiting with the Montana Aviation Conference from Breezy Burlison of City Service Valcon/Phillips 66 Aviation, sponsor of the awards night.

The Montana Pilots Association also used the opportunity to gather members for a meeting. In fact, no time or space goes unused. For example, Saturday’s brown bag lunch and door prize announcements used every bit of table and floor space in the exhibit hall. If you went home empty handed, you must not have turned in your ticket. I won a pink (how appropriate) SuperAWOS hat.

As the exhibit hall was being torn down, I attended “The Recreational Aviation Foundation (RAF) — Where We Are Today” session hosted by Founding Director Chuck Jarecki and President John McKenna. Suffice it to say, the RAF has seen many successes in broadening the appeal of, and participation in, recreational flying.

General Aviation News has participated in 12 of the 28 conferences, and I look forward to our 13th next year in Butte, Feb. 28-March 2.

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  1. Rod Beck says

    Agree! Many local/regional airshows – here on the east coast – the Atlantic Flyer, the east coast counterpart (almost!) list perhaps a 100+ annually. Very good point Ben!

  2. says

    Good bit on local airshows, Ben. From my perspective of helping sellers of aircraft, the smaller shows often provide as much or more sales as the “beg ones.” Small is huge! –Dan Johnson/LAMA (Really, though? You will now wear a pink hat, too!?! Arggh!)

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