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EAA, Members Kick Off Flying Season At Lakeland


EAA volunteers issuing sport pilot student certificates in EAA's Member Village.

EAA members entering Sun 'N Fun at the EAA entryway.

EAA's Win Me Husky was a popular attraction at the EAA Member Village at Sun 'N Fun.

April 13, 2006 — EAA members, staff, and volunteers experienced a great spring kick-off to the flying season at the Sun 'n Fun Fly-In at Lakeland, Florida, April 4-10. EAA held what amounted to an event within the event, featuring its popular Member Village, a wide variety of EAA-led forums and workshops, sport pilot/light-sport aircraft activities, new member benefit announcements, and more.

EAA's Member Village provided a one-stop shop for EAAers to renew memberships and friendships, plus learn more about the many programs and services offered by the association. Representatives from EAA membership services, along with member volunteers, helped people join or renew, and answered their questions. The "Win Me" Husky generated very strong interest as thousands of people took the opportunity to enter the EAA Aircraft Sweepstakes.

Speaking of airplanes, EAAers also got a close-up look at the Diamond DA40 parked at the main entrance. A two-year lease on the airplane will be awarded to an EAA member in the 2006 EAA Membership Sweepstakes.

EAAers visited the Village in great numbers to speak with representatives from Falcon Insurance regarding the EAA Aircraft Insurance Plan. Following an announcement Thursday by EAA President Tom Poberezny during his annual press briefing, members flocked to the EAA Member Village to learn more about the newest member benefit, the EAA Aircraft Financing Program with Airfleet Capital Inc. This is the most comprehensive aircraft-loan offering in the industry, making the dream of aircraft ownership more attainable for EAA members.

"I am always overwhelmed with the number of members we get to meet at Lakeland," said EAA Director of Membership Marketing Katrina Bradshaw. "There is always something new to see and great new stories to share."

EAA members again had the opportunity to receive free sport pilot student pilot certificates. More than 150 certificates were issued throughout the week. A series of EAA-led forums and workshops were very well attended throughout the fly in, led by the daily sport pilot/light-sport aircraft sessions. Dozens of LSA manufacturers displayed their newly certificated aircraft in a new, centrally located exhibit area created by Sun 'n Fun.

"There continues to be a tremendous amount of interest in sport pilot and light-sport aircraft," said Charlie Becker, EAA's sport pilot program manager. "And that interest is coming from both existing pilots and those wanting to enter aviation as sport pilots. Plus the instructional community is increasingly interested in adding sport pilot to their offerings. Overall, we're very pleased at the response."

Other Sun 'n Fun highlights:

  • EAA's Chapter Barbecue on Thursday evening drew nearly 350 EAA chapter leaders from throughout the association.
  • EAA's Homebuilt Aircraft Council discussed the continuing evolution of LSAs as well as ensuring the integrity of the 51 percent rule amidst the growing number of builder education centers.
  • EAA's Ultralight Council reported numerous opportunities to interact with EAA members and industry representatives in the ultralight area known as Paradise City.
  • EAA welcomed Congressman Sam Graves (R-MO), who attended the EAA staff pizza party on Saturday evening and met with EAA government relations officials.
  • During her "Meet the Administrator" session, FAA Administrator Marion Blakey singled out EAA and EAA President Tom Poberezny for the organization's work in the past year to advance the sport pilot and light-sport aircraft community. "We cannot thank you and EAA enough for all the work you have done," Blakey said. "Your efforts have been the driving force behind the [sport pilot] rule and its implementation."
  • EAA's Amateur-Built Aircraft Certification Kit was a huge success, selling out before week's end. The previously introduced E-LSA conversion kits were also very popular, Becker said.
  • Tom Poberezny's Thursday morning news conference also included an announcement that the Ford Motor Company would sponsor an appearance by pop icons The Beach Boys on opening day of EAA AirVenture Oshkosh, July 24.

For a complete list of awards, visit the Sun 'n Fun website.

SNF President Pleased with 2006 Fly-In
Sun 'n Fun President John Burton looked back on the week that was. "Everything went extremely well. It was one of the safest, if not the safest fly-ins we've ever had," he said. That despite two incidents that could have been worse.

The hot undercarriage of a sports car ignited dry grass in the parking area, resulting in damage to several other vehicles. Also, a display aircraft broke free of its tiedowns and shot across a main roadway during high-traffic time, but no injuries resulted from either incident.

"We're very grateful these incidents were handled expertly by the volunteers and professionals on hand," he said.

Final attendance numbers were not yet tabulated, but Burton said it looked to be very close to 2005. "We started slow compared to last year, but we caught up at the end of the week. We've had as many aircraft as I've seen here. And the campground was full."

Burton said the week's highlights were led by an appearance of two F-22 Raptors, the first civilian air show appearance and flight demonstration of the latest generation fighter jets; the 25th anniversary celebration of the first shuttle launch; the 20th anniversary of the Voyager world flight featuring Dick Rutan and several volunteers from that accomplishment; and dedications of the new Buehler Restoration Skills and Cessna centers.

Burton also noted a memorial celebration in honor of Curtis Pitts that included his family members and opening of the new southeast exhibit area, which was largely occupied by light-sport aircraft manufacturers.

"We were very pleased to welcome EAA members from across the country and throughout the world, and the EAA Member Village served as a gathering place," he said. "We also are very grateful to our more than 2,600 volunteers without whom we could not put on an event like this. They are the heart and soul of the fly in."

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