The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association’s Aviation Summit, which kicks off today in Long Beach, Calif., features three keynote sessions that will examine what lies ahead for general aviation. The sessions will be streamed online for those who couldn’t attend the show.
On Thursday – Veterans Day – the topic is Preserving our Future. The keynote opens with a tribute to those who have served to preserve the freedoms of the nation. Then Mark Benson, chairman of the research firm APCO Insight, joins Craig Fuller on the AOPA Live stage to discuss one of the most critical challenges facing general aviation: The decades-long decline in the pilot population and one of the leading contributing factors – a staggering 60-80% drop-out rate among student pilots.
“As the first step in what we expect to be a multi-year effort to help more student pilots earn their certificates, we asked Mark and his people to survey student pilots, lapsed student pilots, flight instructors, and flight school operators to identify the stumbling blocks along the way to a certificate,” said Fuller. “While many of us may have our suspicions about the reasons student pilots drop out, no one has ever done the statistical research. That’s why APCO Insight’s work is such a vital first step in the Flight Training Student Retention Initiative.”
On Friday, the keynote will address The Future of Flight. Fuller will be joined on stage by Stephen Attenborough, commercial director for Virgin Galactic, a company well on its way toward offering the first tourist flights into suborbital space. It will use SpaceShipTwo, the Burt Rutan-designed successor to SpaceShipOne, the first private manned spacecraft to successful reach space and return.
Then he’ll speak with Anna Mracek Dietrich, the chief operating officer and co-founder of Terrafugia, creators of the Transition roadable aircraft – known to the general public as a “flying car” – which flew successfully for the first time last year.
Fuller will also be joined by Kirk Hawkins, founder and chief executive officer of ICON Aircraft. Hawkins has said he is vitally interested in the decline in the pilot population and sees exciting, affordable light sport aircraft as a key to getting more people interested in learning to fly.
Saturday, the AOPA Aviation Summit looks even farther down the road, when futurist John Andersen, founder of the Arlington Institute, joins Fuller to discuss GA in 2020. Petersen, a fellow pilot, is considered by many to be one of the most informed futurists in the world. He is best-known for writing and thinking about high impact surprises — wild cards — and the process of surprise anticipation.
“Knowing what lies ahead – the good and the challenging – is vital if general aviation is to thrive,” concluded Fuller.
If you couldn’t make it to Long Beach, you can see the keynote speeches online here.