The Sebring Airport Authority (SAA) and the City of Sebring in Florida — home to the U.S. Sport Aviation Expo — were recently hosts to Chinese delegates from the Aero Sport Association (ASA) in Anyang City, Henan Province in the People’s Republic of China.
The purpose of the meeting was to develop the relationship between the two countries’ aviation industries and the cities of Sebring and Anyang, according to Sebring city officials. Anyang has established relationships with only 28 other cities worldwide.
At the end of the historic event, Mayor of Anyang City Shu Dong and SAA Executive Director Mike Willingham signed a Letter of Intent forming a cooperation platform between the two cities and light sport aviation/general aviation. The letter stated the desire to strengthen this relationship in the coming years and included intent for exchange of ideas and economic growth with regards to light sport aviation, general aviation, education, culture, and trade.
Shu Dong stated that he would like to see “strong collaboration” with Sebring in the areas of culture, education, and economic trade, as well as a strong working city-to-city relationship that included young adults and teens.
He added that he sees the Anyang-Sebring relationship as yet another step towards unity and as a model for relations between China and America.SAA Executive Director Mike Willingham, Highlands County Commissioner Jack Richie, Sebring Mayor John Shoop, City Councilman Lenard B. Carlisle, Jr., HCEDC Coordinator Taylor Benson, and Mark Andrews, SAA Board of Directors Chair, were present to greet the Chinese representatives.
Three Sebring tenants made presentations about their company, product, and relationship with the Sebring Airport: Lockwood Aviation (AirCam), Chris Lord with Pictaio/ELA (GyroPlane), and Shannon Yeager with Tecnam.
Phil Lockwood with Lockwood Aviation spoke about the sport aviation industry and growth. Mike Willingham spoke about his participation last year at the Aviation Symposium in China, as well as on other topics relating to both cities’ desire to build on their relationship in the future.
Wayne Estes, president and general manager of the Sebring International Raceway, was also present for the Chinese delegation’s arrival.
Shoop invited the Chinese delegates to return anytime to the City of Sebring. He presented the Mayor of Anyang City the Key to the City. The Mayor of Anyang City presented Shoop with an Anyang City traditional embroidered scroll representing honesty, perseverance and good relations, along with a blessing for the city’s development.
The Anyang Mayor told his audience that he was “awestruck” by the General Aviation (GA) growth in Sebring, and he was eagerly expecting to co-develop GA growth in Anyang City as well. Currently Anyang City is the “GA capital of China.” Last year they were the demonstration city for GA development.
Anyang City has a strong history in the GA industry as it is home to the GA Institute established in the 1950s. The Institute has produced many pilots nationally and internationally. Its three colleges offer career development in many fields of study, and Anyang has educated 12 different entrepreneurs in GA.
One graduate was the first to acquire certification for the 6S Helicopter, subsequently obtaining a license to train helicopter pilots. This individual was also one of the first in China to be trained on helicopter maintenance.