Sport aviators host their own traveling event.
Boat and RV shows are in full swing during the winter months when use of these toys is low. It proves to be a popular time for sportsmen to look at gear for the upcoming season. Flying should be no different.
Yet most of the major aviation trade events are held in conjunction with airshows. Needing good weather, these gatherings are clustered throughout the late spring, summer and early fall. If successful, they get established in one location that requires everyone to travel to them.
If we are to attract new people into aviation, maybe we need to go to where they are rather than demanding that they come to us.
Attracting the general public is worthy, but such a traveling event can also motivate local pilots. The truth is, popular as airshows are, most pilots don’t get to them. Attending more than one or two airshows a year is time-consuming and expensive.
One suggestion is to take a traveling show to 20 top U.S. metropolitan areas over a period of years. You could reach a large percentage of the American population and give them an easier chance to check out sport aviation. Many regional pilots could attend.
According to a news release from the Central Indiana Soaring Society, “The Air Sports Expo and Soaring Convention is the annual international exposition and convention for the Soaring Society of America, the U.S. Hang Gliding Association, U.S. Ultralight Association, Balloon Federation of America, Academy of Model Aeronautics, and International Aerobatics Club.”
Through next year as in the past, the Air Sports Expo will hosted by the Soaring Society of America’s (SSA) or one of its local sailplane clubs. But for the last few years, this has been the annual convention to which the other aviation groups have been invited. The Expo resulted from a meeting in 1992 of a group called the Air Sports Council. They formed the idea of joining ranks to promote air sports, and SSA graciously offered its venue. Now, after a few years of the combined effort, the 2001 edition is the next to last to be hosted by SSA or one of its clubs.
Recent leadership changes at two of the major participating organizations-the U.S. Hang Gliding Association (USHGA) and the U.S. Ultralight Association (USUA)-come as Air Sports Expo restructuring is being considered.
USHGA’s executive director, Phil Bachman, has stepped down. He lined up effective local media support two years ago at the Knoxville, Tennessee, Air Sport Expo. And USUA founder John Ballantyne is moving into the position of analyst to be relieved as USUA president by Scott Severen, a longtime board member and former CEO of TEAM Aircraft.
Rotating local sponsors for a national event such as Air Sports Expo is always a challenge. Moving management responsibility from a single sponsor (SSA) to a council formed by several organizations should be even more interesting to watch in the coming years.
For 2003 and beyond, the Air Sports Council will take the lead. The Air Sports Council is made up of each participating group including SSA, which may continue to offer counsel, especially at first. Over time each group may rise to fill various needs. New leaders like Severen and those from other associations will have a chance to shine.
Air Sports Expo offers a chance to see it all. The types of aircraft types includes:
-Sailplanes and motorgliders.
-Hang gliders and powered hang gliders.
-Ultralights and powered parachutes.
-Hot air balloons.
-Model Aircraft (R/C and more).
You might see all of these at major airshows, but they tend to be lost in the swarm of other activities. The main attractions are other aircraft types including jets, warbirds, fast glass, vintage restorations and even corporate aircraft. Among the vast displays of events like EAA’s Sun *’n Fun and AirVenture, it is work to find the groups listed above.
By contrast, at Indianapolis this year, visitors were able to examine beautiful sailplanes with 85-foot wingspans. They could sit in ultralights and hang from harnesses and experience a virtual flight in a hang glider. Kids could build, fly and take home model aircraft. Gleaming aerobatic aircraft were available for close inspection.
While non-pilots strolled around dozens of displays featuring all manner of aircraft, accessories, and training, current pilots attended seminars of many descriptions.
Some of the organizations (SSA, USHGA and USUA) held meetings of their directors during the Air Sports Expo. Regional members of these organizations met and discussed the upcoming flying season while checking out the latest in flying gear.
The future seems bright for the country’s only traveling airshow for sport aviators. If the new leadership coming to these clubs rises to the occasion, the Air Sports Expo may become an important way to promote aviation on a national level. Expo may never rival the drawing power of the major outdoor, one-location airshows, but the time has come for sport aviators to work toward hosting their own event. If taking it to the people succeeds, new pilots may enter these air sports and fuel the growth of aviation.
Sport aviators host their own traveling event.