Thunderstorms followed by steady rain did little to reduce attendance or dampen spirits at the final Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) Regional Fly-in of the year in Tullahoma, Tennessee, Oct. 9-10.
Although Friday’s weather was beautiful VFR, a late-day storm front hit with a vengeance and low conditions continued throughout the region until mid-day Saturday.
Many fly-in campers arrived under blue skies on Friday afternoon only to face rough conditions that night.
“Our tent flooded and we ended up trying to sleep sitting up in our 172,” said newly-minted pilot Joe Avary of nearby Franklin, Tennessee. However, he and his wife, Carmen, were still smiling the next day and glad to be at the fly-in.
Saturday’s low conditions, plus IFR air and ground holds of up to an hour, led many pilots to drive to the event, which drew more than 2,500 aviation enthusiasts to the campus of the beautiful Beechcraft Heritage Museum at Tullahoma Airport (KTHA). The facility, which hosts the annual Beech Party, is ideally set up for a fly-in.
Despite the weather, more than 330 aircraft made it to the show. The good attendance numbers confirmed that the region around Tennessee has more AOPA members than any other part of the country, according to association officials.
Following AOPA’s proven regional fly-in schedule of a Friday night hangar party followed by a pancake breakfast on Saturday and lunch supplied by a variety of food trucks, attendees were also offered a full day of seminars and exhibits.
Among the well-attended events at Tullahoma were the Rusty Pilot Seminar and Rod Machado’s always-popular “laugh and learn” presentation (pictured below).
Fly-in volunteer Ed Loxterkamp of Lebanon, Ohio may hold some sort of record for flying his 1970 Piper Arrow to all the AOPA regional events in 2015, even the one in Salinas, California. In addition, he also flew to AirVenture and SUN ’n FUN. Loxterkamp’s Tullahoma campsite featured a banner illustrating his aerial travels this year, which covered 10,905 nm. Flying solo much of the time, Loxterkamp landed in a total of 26 states and logged just over 100 flight hours.
AOPA president Mark Baker, clad in blue jeans and boots, circulated throughout the crowd during the day and concluded the event with a Town Hall meeting, where he updated the crowd on the current status of the Pilot’s Bill of Rights 2 and its proposed changes to the Third Class Medical.
“I want to get this done so we can move on to other things,” he said.
With 12 regional events behind them, AOPA obviously knows how to put on a fly-in. A staff of more than 60 traveled to Tullahoma from AOPA headquarters in Frederick, Maryland, and it was impressive to see them multi-task and work as a team to pull the event together.
As he pitched in to help his staff clean up after the event, Baker was complimented on the team effort and he responded, “I grew up in retail and everybody works.”
Four AOPA regional events are scheduled for 2016:
- May 21: Beaufort, N.C. (KMRH);
- Aug. 20: Bremerton, Wash. (KPWT);
- Sept. 17: Battle Creek, Mich. (KBTL);
- Oct. 1: Prescott, Ariz. (KPRC).