AOPA Defines What 'March Madness' Means to Aviators

10:16 AM

By Dan Pimentel,
Airplanista Blog Editor

I have made the point over the years that my dream job was doing just about anything as an employee of AOPA. Had I lived within driving distance of their HQ in Frederick, MD, I can assure you that by now I would have talked my way into a groovy, “all GA, all the time” job down the hall from AOPA Pilot Editor Tom Haines.

The quality of work that AOPA does on behalf of general aviation pilots is exceptional because they hire the right people. Can you even imagine being part of a staff that is allowed to talk airplanes on the job throughout their business day...and get paid for it!

And when that many members of our aviation family gather to do lots of professional-grade hangar flying, sometimes the ideas that sprout wings and fly are as fun as they are innovative. One such project is their new Favorite Aircraft Challenge, a bracket-style contest based on an NCAA-style tournament where you, the AOPA member, gets to vote for your favorite flying machines.

In the coming days, I will continually update this story with my comments on the results, and some predictions as we push closer to the “Championship” voting on April 1 & 2. I will also present some of the backstory behind this brilliant concept, and take you inside the process at AOPA HQ to see how a simple idea became a very fun project.

Let's begin with a recap of the round 1 voting as of 9A on 3/14:

Voting has concluded in this round, with #1 seed the P-51 Mustang easily dispatching its first opponent, the Glasair III. Sure, the Glasair is a very nice airplane, but this was David versus Goliath. Another easy win was the #4 seed King Air taking down the Flight Design CTLS. The #3 seed, the venerable Cessna 172 Skyhawk, moved on with a win over the Legend Cub, and the Maule M-5 pulled out an upset by taking down the Piper PA-46 Malibu. Another contest pitted the Swiss wonder, #7 seeded Pilatus PC-12 against an opponent from the rotorhead brethren, the Bell 206, with the Pilatus scoring a decisive win. And last, the #2 seed F4U Corsair was an easy victor over the Aerostar, even with Coach Bob Hoover on the Aerostar bench.
ROUND 2 EAST REGIONAL PREDICTIONS: This sets up some interesting contests in the East's Round 2, when the P-51 is expected to chew up and spit out the Aeronca Champ, and the King Air pushing hard to overcome the popular Robinson R-22. The Cessna 172 will advance against the Maule M-5, but as a prognosticator, I had a tough time calling the results of the Round 2 battle between the Pilatus PC-12 and F4U Corsair. The warbird vote certainly will arrive for this contest, but the speed, economics and useability of the PC-12 might garner a wave of votes from the bizav crowd. In a tight one, I predict the Pilatus comes from behind late in the game to win at the free throw line. Voting in Round 2 is slated for March 19 – 22.
ROUND 1 RESULTS –  SOUTHEAST REGIONALS: The results of this round were on average fairly predictable, with few surprises. While we pilots all love Burt Rutan's designs such as his Long-EZ, the #16 seed pusher did not stand a chance and went down hard against the top-seeded Piper J3 Cub. Pilots chose the agile Pitts Special over the very agile Extra 200/300, and when it competed against the resurrected Eclipse 500, the #5 seed Husky A-1C won easily by a 2-to-1 margin. The small but swift Mooney M20 beat out the rather unknown Quest Kodiak by a healthy margin, and the Globe Swift never stood a chance against the venerable #3 seed Waco UPF-7. In another rout, the style and grace of the Beech Staggerwing easily put away the Beechcraft Baron, and the #7 seed Piper PA-24 Comanche was upset by the light twin Cessna 310. And in closing this regional round, the battle between the Stearman PT-17 and Grumman Widgeon was closer than anyone expected, with the Stearman staying on top from the half to claim the win.
ROUND 2 EAST REGIONAL PREDICTIONS: The excitement of this regional's second round is growing, due in part to the Piper J3 versus Pitts Special contest. The Pitts will come into this one ready to play, but will be no match for the legendary reputation of the J3, which advances with the W. With the Husky A-1C going up against the Mooney M20, I expect the versatility of the Husky to slide by to advance in a close one. In a “classic” match-up of two biplanes, the Waco UPF-7 and Beech Staggerwing square off, with the Beech pulling off the upset of this regional round. Last, it will not even be close when the Stearman PT-17 knocks the Cessna 310 from the competition.
Coming up next, results of the first round action in the West and Southwest Regionals, and based on what happens there, my predictions for Round 2 of these contests.

Remember to get involved in the fun by clicking here to start voting.

Read part 2 (round 1 of Southwest Regionals and round 2 SW predictions) here

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