AOPA Summit - Bringing Every GA Pilot in the
Country Into the Conversation About GA's Future.

12:14 PM

Every year as AOPA's Annual Convention approaches, I get a little nostalgic about what could have been had my career went down another path. These days, I am content in owning a healthy advertising agency that specializes in promoting aviation businesses, but had the stars lined up differently back in 1998, I might be typing this from Frederick, Maryland:
From the very first time I learned about AOPA, I knew I had to work for this fine organization. I attended my first "Expo" in Palm Springs and was blown away by the way everything seemed to be in its place, how everything was displayed, how together this group of aviators seemed to be. On that trip, I made an personal plan to head off to AOPA headquarters some day and sleep on their doorstep until they hired me to do anything. I'd park the cars (no, they do not really have valet parking), then maybe bus tables in the cafeteria. I'd use my gift of gab to talk my way into a job in the production office of AOPA Pilot, and soon they would notice my skill set - a combination of journalism, printing, photography, design all delivered with a large dose of honesty and high ethics. Over the years I would work my way up through AOPA's ranks to be in their management, and instead of being just a happy pilot attending their convention, I would be one of the movers/shakers putting the party on. I would do this because AOPA makes a big difference in every pilot's life, and it would be fantastic to be a part of that effort.
Of course, this plan never developed past the "great intentions" stage, and as I sit here 11 years later, I generally have no regrets. But as this year's AOPA convention comes together, I am again feeling like it would have been the best job in all of aviation to be on the team that leads GA into our future.

This year, AOPA's "Expo" has been re-branded as AOPA Aviation Summit and as a marketing person, I think this move is brilliant. There has never been a more contentious time in GA than right now, and changing the scope and focus of AOPA's convention is the right thing at the right time.

I asked Tom Haines – AOPA Pilot Editor and himself a GA pilot – about the rebranding of "Expo" to "Summit" and his response was quite informative:
"The decision to reposition the already successful AOPA Expo to AOPA Aviation Summit was [AOPA President] Craig Fuller's. The change represents his vision of how AOPA should play a key role in bringing together all affected parties--federal agencies, manufacturers, regulators, and, of course, pilots--to chart a successful course for general aviation. As the word "summit" implies, AOPA Summit will be a place where decision makers and influencers come together to discuss the future. Rather than position the show as the last event of the year, we would like it to be seen as the first event of the upcoming year--a place to look at the landscape ahead. The general sessions each day will focus on the future. Thursday kicks off with Craig interviewing leaders of each of the major aviation groups. I follow with interviews with several major airframe and engine manufacturers to get their vision of GA of the future. Friday Craig hosts a panel of authorities on NextGen while I talk to manufacturers about advanced avionics and flight control systems necessary for NextGen."
Of course, we all know that AOPA Summit - and the "Expos" that came before it - are as much about fun, camaraderie and education, and this year's event will not disappoint, says Haines:
"On Saturday of Summit, I [Haines] host a session with motivational speaker Jessica Cox. Jessica, who was born without arms, is a phenomenal person who, among every day challenges, learned to fly an LSA. She is highly inspirational and will lead us to a discussion with Remos about how LSAs can be a factor in changing the way nonpilots experience aviation for the first time--hopefully leading to a higher success rate among student pilots. Of course, it's not all about envisioning the future, it's about having fun and learning too--as the AOPA convention has always been. Rather than talking-head seminars, we will have dozens of forums where experts come together on panels to share their thoughts on everything from runway safety to buying an airplane. The exhibit hall will showcase hundreds of new products. At the center of the exhibit hall is the new "AOPA Live at Center Stage" television studio. There Craig, I, and several other editors will interview industry leaders. The interviews will be shown on large screens throughout the hall and later available on AOPA Online for download.

Out at the airport, the former "aircraft static display," is now AirportFest. Instead of just typical GA aircraft, it will also feature seaplanes, hot air balloons, military airplanes, classic and antique airplanes, warbirds, and more. Among the featured airplanes is the Lockheed Electra used in the filming of the movie "Amelia," which debuts a week before Summit. One area will feature a gathering of airplanes from 1939 and 1940, in celebration of AOPA's 70th anniversary this year. The social events will be more entertaining than ever, including a concert by recording artist John Oates (of Hall & Oates). John is a pilot who frequently uses GA for travel."
If there was ever a year to attend this wonderful AOPA annual event, this is the year. Summit is being held in Tampa November 5-7, and all the details can be found here.

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