Creating America’s Seaplane City

Drew Steketee was president of BE A PILOT, senior vp-communications for AOPA and executive director of the Partnership for Improved Air Travel. He also headed PR and media relations for Beech, GAMA and the Airport Operators Council International.

How many times do you hear of local government backing General Aviation? Or using GA to boost city renewal and business development? Not much these days, unless you’re around Tavares, Fla.

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Dedications & Reunions

Drew Steketee was president of BE A PILOT, senior vp-communications for AOPA and executive director of the Partnership for Improved Air Travel. He also headed PR and media relations for Beech, the General Aviation Manufacturers Association (GAMA) and the Airport Operators Council International.

I just learned that the city of Boise has named an airport road “Ed Stimpson Way” in honor of my (late) old boss, former GAMA president and U.S. ambassador to ICAO. I also just got the invite to my 40th college reunion — oh, geez! Both remind me of Ed, and that there was an Ed Stimpson “way” long before it was a street name in his adopted Idaho.

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Launched on the same day…

Drew Steketee was president of BE A PILOT, senior vp-communications for AOPA and executive director of the Partnership for Improved Air Travel. He also headed PR and media relations for Beech, GAMA and the Airport Operators Council International.

Some of my era’s inspiration for strong participation in GA came from military aviation. Adding to the glow of “aviation as WWII hero” were the military’s well-publicized, science fiction-like leaps in post-war technology. Turning 62 this month (along with me) is a major milestone of that period: the first non-stop flight around the world.

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Where have the good men gone?

Drew Steketee was president of BE A PILOT, senior vp-communications for AOPA and executive director of the Partnership for Improved Air Travel. He also headed PR and media relations for Beech, GAMA and the Airport Operators Council International.

An essay by this title recently smoked the pages of The Wall Street Journal, generating the most comments in WSJ’s online history. It was actually about “20-something’s” social and gender issues, but this and other recent news highlights demographic shifts affecting GA’s traditional market — guys!

As you know, General Aviation has always been predominantly male. The industry took some comfort when, during the 1976-79 TAKEOFF! campaign under Karen Coyle (Tripp), the female pilot population doubled to 6%. I don’t know that it has budged since, although the LSA flight school at Orlando-Apopka Airport in Florida now reports a 12% female student base. (Are the smaller, lighter LSAs the answer?) For most of GA, the easier marketing target has been (and remains) men.

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Back to the reservation

SpruceCreek

Drew Steketee was president of BE A PILOT, senior vp-communications for AOPA and executive director of the Partnership for Improved Air Travel. He also headed PR and media relations for Beech, GAMA and the Airport Operators Council International.

Sun ‘n Fun is coming, so GA now focuses on Florida. I’ve been eyeing residential airparks there. The biggest of them all: Spruce Creek Fly-In, seven miles southwest of Daytona Beach. Is it still the classic of the genre? Is it the place to turn inward and so re-create the “critical mass” of the GA we remember?

As GA shrinks, I always thought “true believers” would “retreat to the reservation.” [Read more...]

Florida’s Seaplane Mecca

Drew Steketee was president of BE A PILOT, senior vp-communications for AOPA and executive director of the Partnership for Improved Air Travel. He also headed PR and media relations for Beech, GAMA and the Airport Operators Council International.

Things seem to be rolling now for Tavares, Florida, to actually become the “Seaplane City” of its dreams. The city’s innovative waterfront redevelopment combines urban renewal with a niche aviation business perfect for the big lakes of north central Florida.

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GA and the middle class: The Great Divergence

Drew Steketee was president of BE A PILOT, senior vp-communications for AOPA and executive director of the Partnership for Improved Air Travel. He also headed PR and media relations for Beech, GAMA and the Airport Operators Council International.

My General Aviation is for everyone — or at least for a lot of people of varying wealth and incomes. What inspired me in the 1960s was that firemen, farmers and school teachers in my town were flying. What a wonderful American story. But now?

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In a new era, will public support be there?

Drew Steketee was president of BE A PILOT, senior vp-communications for AOPA and executive director of the Partnership for Improved Air Travel. He also headed PR and media relations for Beech, GAMA and the Airport Operators Council International.

Recently, the regional authority for long-beleaguered Queen City Airport outside Allentown, Pennsylvania, committed to fixing problematic underground fuel storage tanks but refused to say that investment guaranteed the airport’s long term survival.

Despite being named FAA Eastern Region GA Airport of the Year in 2006, this large, close-to-downtown reliever for airline hub Lehigh Valley International Airport (ABE) has been threatened before. It’s a familiar story.

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Boom years ahead for GA?

DSC_0414

Drew Steketee was president of BE A PILOT, senior vp-communications for AOPA and executive director of the Partnership for Improved Air Travel. He also headed PR and media relations for Beech, GAMA and the Airport Operators Council International.

I still think most people underestimate the role of World War II in the modern growth of General Aviation. After all, 2011 marks 65 years since 1946 when the world was new again and all things were possible for Americans. At 65, has GA now reached retirement age or are there new “Boom Years” ahead?

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GPS Direct?

Drew Steketee was president of BE A PILOT, senior vp-communications for AOPA and executive director of the Partnership for Improved Air Travel. He also headed PR and media relations for Beech, GAMA and the Airport Operators Council International.

Again, consumer electronics will be king this holiday shopping season, driven by vast leaps in features and capabilities at ever-decreasing cost. Priced flat-screen TVs lately? No wonder the most widespread progress in General Aviation after 1980 was in avionics.

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