AOPA Summit: Happening in Hartford - Airplanista Aviation Magazine Feature Story:

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This aviation magazine article was originally published in the October, 2011 issue of Airplanista Magazine. You can view the original story in our digital aviation magazine here.

Line Pilot Pat Flannigan lands at AOPA’s annual expo to sample the latest in toys, slick avionics, and new flying machines. In between booth hopping and dodging rain clouds at the static displays, he was involved in spirited conversation about user fees, which in this venue was identified as public enemy #1 for GA.

By Pat Flannigan,

Aviation professionals, insiders and pilots converged on downtown Hartford Connecticut for three days of airplanes, technology and fun. AOPA put on a great show with planes and products on display, hours of educational seminars and a slew of great social events.

A big topic of discussion amongst pilots was the new threat of user fees present in President Obama’s deficit reduction plan. The plan calls for a $100 surcharge per flight for any turboprop or private jet operating in the air traffic control system. AOPA President Craig Fuller and EAA President Rod Hightower promised a united front against user fees and indicated that discussion was already underway with the FAA and congressional representatives.

Another big news item was the announcement of a cooperative effort to eliminate FAA medical certificates for non commercial aviation. AOPA and the EAA are petitioning the FAA for a waiver that will allow recreational and private pilots to operate a civil aircraft with a driver’s license in lieu of a third class medical. The proposal will require pilots to attend some form of medical self-certification training and builds upon a perfect seven year safety record under the sport pilot rule which does not require a medical exam.

Cuba Gooding Jr. made an appearance to promote his new film, Red Tails, an action film by George Lucas about the first African-American fighter squadron. Lucasfilm set up a screening room near a Commemorative Air Force P-51C and gave AOPA members a first look at the trailer for Red Tails. The film is slated to be released January 20.

One of the best things about Summit are the many talks by industry legends and this year was no different. Encouraging pilots not to rush was a common theme across the seminar floor from Michael Goulian’s discussion on establishing a safety-culture to John and Martha King’s cautionary tales of unwanted adventure.

All eyes were on the iPad this year as evidenced by the overwhelming interest in the hour-long seminar, iPad’s in the Cockpit, by Ian Twombly and John Zimmerman. Over 400 people attended the talk which demonstrated the many uses of iPads from preflight planning to inflight use, including an inside look at how Alaska Airlines organizes their manuals and charts.

iPads were a big hit on the show floor too, most notably around the Aspen Avionics booth. Aspen has made a bold step towards the future by fully integrating the panel with mobile devices. The new technology, called Connected Panel, allows pilots to check weather and build flight plans at home and with the touch of a button, sync them with the airplane.

Despite some rainy weather, there was plenty of foot-traffic at AirportFest, a static aircraft display at the nearby Brainard Airport. Cessna had the biggest showing, featuring almost their entire product line, from the Skycatcher all the way to the one-year-old Citation CJ4.

But Liberty Sport Aviation took center stage when they unveiled the Bristell. The sleek all-metal airplane from the Czech Republic was the brainchild of Milan Bristela, who was involved in designing the Evektor Sportstar and Piper Sport. Bristell is powered by a 100 hp Rotax 912, has a range of 700 nautical miles and can carry a useful load of 617 pounds. The airplane looks sporty and features a spacious and comfortable cockpit.

As is always the case, next year’s AOPA Aviation Summit moves to the West Coast and will be held in Palm Springs, California, Oct. 11 through 13.

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