Monday, February 08, 2010
Sweepstakes to professional captains don't promote GA
Just found out via AvWeb that a FedEx captain was the winner of this year's AOPA sweepstakes plane, the "Let's Go Flying" Cirrus SR-22. Congrates to Mr. Graves (the winner) and his family!
That said, I think year's sweepstakes highlights a huge blind-spot in GA's thinking when it comes to getting the public more interested in flying. If you're not familiar with the AOPA (Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association) sweepstakes, if you enroll in the AOPA or renew your membership, you're automatically entered in a sweepstakes for an aircraft that AOPA selects each year. Usually AOPA takes a used aircraft and spends a year upgrading and renovating it to better-than-new condition. Last year AOPA took a different approach and accepted a donation of a relatively new Cirrus SR-22 from owner Lloyd Huck, who donated the Cirrus to the AOPA to promote awareness in aviation and increase the pilot population.
AOPA spent a year flying the Cirrus to aviation trade shows, and even to a couple of non-aviation shows as well as part of a tour titled "Let's Go Flying" in order to promote GA. I don't know how many new pilots or members the signed up, but I can be sure of one thing. I bet more than a few are disappointed that the brand new Cirrus they envisioned they would one day fly ended up in the hands of a FedEx captain who already owned a Cessna 180.
Now I know, the sweepstakes is open to any member and I trust the AOPA does a random, blind drawing to determine a fair winner. But if you have the sweepstakes in order to bring in new pilots into GA, you need to think about the message you're going to send when the winner turns out to be someone who is ALREADY a professional pilot and airplane owner.
I'm a loyal, long-time member of the AOPA. If you're a pilot and you don't belong to either the AOPA or the EAA, then you're missing out on some great benefits and opportunities for increased training. Plus, while user fees have been defeated this year, its a constant battle GA will have to continue to fight in the years to come as we have to justify the importance of public dollars to the non-flying public year after year. Organizations like AOPA, NBAA, and EAA are our most important defenders of our privilege to fly.
But if the AOPA is really serious about getting new pilots, they need to think really hard about these kinds of contests. The next sweepstakes plane is a REMOS, a really fun, capable light sport aircraft. Its a great aircraft to introduce someone to flying, or a great first-time aircraft for someone making the transition from renting to owning. It would be a shame next year to see it go to a Bonanza owner whose been flying for thirty years.
Oh, btw the full article on AOPA's website is here, it's a pretty funny story about how they surprised the winner.