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May 9, 2024 16 mins
The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) COO talks Saturday's National Celebration of General Aviation DC Flyover and more.
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Episode Transcript

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(00:00):
Good morning, Elliott. How areyou? I am doing great? Thank
you? How are you doing great? Hey? Can I ask you this
before we get into everything, likeas COO. I don't know that I've
ever talked to a COEO before.Do you just run everything out there?
Like? Are you in charge ofeverything? I have wonderful people who are
in charge of everything, and theytell me what they need from me,

(00:21):
so it kind of works the otherway around. Oh well, it's so
much for my desire to ever bea COO. All right, I'm out
on that. By the way,Elizabeth, I don't know if you know
this, but I have flown outof your headquarters. I sure do.
You went on a flight with oneof our flight instructors. Yeah, you
enjoyed it, right, Oh mygod, I loved it. It was

(00:43):
awesome. And he'll tell you.He'll tell you. This isn't me bragging.
Well. I did have to siton a booster seat to be able
to see above the like out thewindow, but I did pretty well,
Like when we got up in theair in terms of like holding the plane
steady and flying, I did prettywell. It was awesome. I had
the best time. I think youneed to come out and do some more

(01:03):
flight lessons and maybe get your pilot'scertificate. I would love to. I
would love to. All right,before we get to that, so you
guys have an event this weekend,And just based on what I was reading
about it and trying to picture itin my head, it sounds like the
event's going to be unbelievably awesome andit experience or visually that people won't ever

(01:26):
maybe ever get to see again.Yeah, yeah, that's true. We
are going to have a parade,an aerial parade of about sixty aircraft from
all different eras of flight, andthey're going to go right down the National
Mall, right over the Lincoln Memorial, right past the Washington Monument at about

(01:46):
one thousand feet. And you haven'tbeen able to do anything like that,
well really since nine to eleven.And so like when you say sixty different
sixty different aircraft will do it,I was reading that it's from like dating
back to the aircraft date back tolike the late thirties early forties for planes.

(02:07):
Yeah. Absolutely. In fact,the plane that's going to be leading
the whole thing is one that wasdesigned and flown in the early thirties and
it is called the beach stagger wings, so it's a beautiful biplane and instead
of lining up, the wings arekind of staggered. The bottom wing is
more forward than the top wing.So it's just a really unusual silhouette and

(02:29):
an absolutely beautiful airplane that's been flyingever since the thirties. And then like
I listen, I don't know.I'm not a plane nerd, right,
so I don't know like all thedifferent kinds of planes that there are,
but I know that there are plentyof people who are like just for like
a short rundown obviously not all sixty, but like, what are some of

(02:49):
the that sounds like a rare planethat I wouldn't see every day? Like
what else? What else is outthere where people will go like, holy
crap, I can't believe I'm seeingthat. Oh yeah, we have one
of the rarest planes still flying outthere, and it's called a beach Starship.
It's actually not that old. Itwas created in the eighties, but
it's a really unusual design. Firstof all, it was one of the

(03:12):
first all composite aircraft, so foryour airplane nerds out there, that was
kind of a big deal. Italso had advanced technology inside the cockpit,
and it is a pusher airplane,so the engines and the propellers are on
the back and they push it forwardinstead of pulling it through the air like
most planes you see. So there'sonly about three of those flying. There
were only fifty three that were evermade, so that one is going to

(03:37):
be a true rarity. But we'vegot other things too. We've got light
jets, a vtailed light jet thatonly holds four people. We'll be flying
down the mall with us. Thatis a serious jet. We've got public
service aircraft. So we have somethingcalled a fireboss at eight h two,

(03:57):
and what that is is it lookslike agricultural planes. You know, you
may have seen planes that spray cropsand things like that. Looks like that,
but it's on floats, so itcan land on a lake without stopping,
scoop up water, and then flyto drop it on fires. So
it's really a wide range of stuff. Yeah, really cool stuff. We've

(04:18):
got helicopters. So whatever you enjoyas a pilot or as just someone who
loves airplanes, you're going to seeit represented in this group of planes.
It really is designed to tell thewhole story of General Aviation for the last
eighty five years, and we're celebratingour eighty fifth birthday too, right,

(04:40):
Yeah, No, I was goingto say, I feel like I saw
something where they was talking about notonly being the your eighty fifth birthday,
but isn't it also like is itGeneral Aviation Month or day or like it
commemorates a couple of things. Yeah, so it's celebrating our birthday, but
it's really commemorating the tell you thatGA aircraft have brought to this country through

(05:02):
the years. And we've had alot of governors, state legislatures, and
communities jumped on supporting this effort becausethey know how important GA is and so
there's been lots of proclamations around thisevent and for the day. Hey,
Elizabeth, can I ask you?I want to go back to some that
you said. You said that they'regoing to be one thousand feet off the

(05:25):
ground, if I'm not mistaken.Isn't isn't the Washington Monument like seven hundred
and something feet So it'll be likethat. I feel like that's really low
to see planes like flying overhead.Oh yeah, really low, especially downtown
DC because this is some of themost restricted airspace in the world. You

(05:46):
just can't do this. You can'tfly down through that airspace so close to
the Capitol and the White House andall the monuments. So it took a
lot of help to be able todo that so that people can see these
airplanes flying. How I was justgoing to say, what kind of a
cluster was it to get permission tobe able to fly that low right by

(06:12):
I mean you're right right by theWhite and I mean I know it's restricted
to begin with, but you're rightby the freaking White House. Yeah.
Well, you know, we weactually had help from Congress. We have
had help from eleven different agencies thathave involved in this. So tsa secret
service, you know, and we'reeven going to have secret Service agents in

(06:33):
some of the airplanes to make sure, you know, we do exactly what
we said we're going to do.So it did. It's been over a
year in the planning, and ittook a whole lot of different people to
pull it together. So we're verygrateful that we're going to be able to
do this. True or false.National Airport is shutting down for an hour
to allow this to take place.That is true. That is true.

(06:56):
So again, very very grateful tobe able to do this. We're like
that we've had so much support,and I think a lot of people don't
realize how much general aviation does forthis country, everything from you know,
public relief efforts, emergency and disasterrelief, things like firefighting, as well
as things that you might expect liketransportation and corporate aviation and really any kind

(07:19):
of flying that isn't the military rightor the scheduled airlines. So your cargo
packages, for example, are typicallyflying GA. That's how they get to
your door so fast. Hey,so everything will leave out of Frederick.
Everything's leaving from AOPA and then willmake it make its way down for for
people that are like I want tobe over, I want to be at

(07:42):
the mall to watch this, Andlike I said, it's scheduled for it's
scheduled for Saturday if the weather.If the weather's bad, then then I
know that Sunday is kind of therain over day or the holdover day,
Like what is the what what isthe scheduled time? I'm assuming with that
many agencies involved than the shutting downof an airport, it's not we'll get
there when we get there. Definitelynot, definitely not. We our first

(08:07):
aircraft are going to be over themall just after noon on Saturday or on
Sunday if the weather's bad Saturday,and it is a very regimented, very
carefully choreograph event, so everything willproceed on schedule no matter what. So
if you wanted to see it,head down to the mall or that area

(08:28):
around just before noon to take alook. They'll be coming over at noon.
And I would also encourage people tocheck out our YouTube channel at Aoka.
We are going to be live streamingit and we're going to have commentary
so you can learn about all theairplanes as they come by. And you
know, Elizabeth, the other thingI pointed out earlier when I was talking
about you being on and what theevent was this weekend, it's absolutely free

(08:50):
because you can't charge me to lookup in the sky. Yes, that
is true. It is totally free. And we're all about having people a
chance to learn more about aviation andenjoy it. So we do a lot
of things for free, like wehave a free high school program. More
than seventy thousand kids are getting highschool and even college credit for learning about

(09:11):
aviation, and we give it tothem and their schools totally free. So
we're all about free. We justwant you to come out and enjoy what
we hope will be a beautiful day, and we know our beautiful airplanes.
Hey, by the way, isthat youth the youth program that you guys
have is seventy thousand. I feellike that's a really big number. Yeah,

(09:31):
it is a big number right nowin the current school semester that's just
coming to an end for a lotof kids. We've got twenty three thousand
kids in forty seven states and herein DC that are all using the program
and getting it free. And mostof them who graduate from the program say
they're going to go on and gointo aviation careers. And we really need

(09:52):
that because we've had a real shortageof technicians and pilots and other great careers.
So these kids up great opportunities.You know, I was just going
to ask you in the you knows, as you guys move into your eighty
fifth anniversary, are we are wein a good place in terms of like,
do we have a shortage, dowe need more pilots? You know,

(10:13):
we do need more pilots because althoughthere have been some things that have
flowed down. Pilot hiring at themoment, right, we always need more
pilots, and pilots have a mandatoryretirement age, and so a lot of
people are going to be retiring inthe next few years. And we also
have a real growing need for transportationbecause, as I said, pilots do

(10:35):
everything from carried passengers to carry youryou know, Amazon Prime package to you
today. So we need people todo that, and that kind of transportation
need is not going away. Sowe're going to need more pilots for a
long time. But we also needall the people who work on airplanes,
who design airplanes, who repair airplanes. So it's not just you know,

(10:56):
the pilots are upfront and they're visible, but there are a whole lot of
careers and a whole lot of needsthat go along with that. You know
that. What's kind of cool.My son's in college and he has a
buddy that goes to Arizona State andhe's got his pilot's license, and like
he went through he started, hestarted when he was in high school,
and he takes aviation at Arizona Stateand has his pilot's license and everything.

(11:22):
So when friends go to visit him, you know, like that he grew
up with. He'll put him ina plane and they'll just go fly around
and go somewhere. He'll go like, hey, do you want to go
to I don't know where they goto, but you want to go so
and so for lunch? And ifyou met Stove, you'd be a little
bit like this seems odd. Butyeah, he gets in a plane,
it just flies him somewhere to goget lunch. It's crazy, it's awesome.

(11:43):
You know, this is maybe theonly country in the world where you
can really do that. You canreally just hop in a plane and fly
to lunch. And it's way moreaccessible than people think. It's a lot
more available than people realize. Soyeah, and actually believe it or not.
We know kids who get their pilot'slicense before they get their driver's license.

(12:05):
You can do it as a teenager. Hey, Elizabeth, let me
ask you this before I before Ilet you go. Number one, you
are a pilot, correct? Iam a pilot? Yes? You bet?
Is this true that less than tenpercent of pilots are women? Yes,
it is true. You know Istarted flying. I'm going to give

(12:26):
away my age here. But wayback in the late nineties, and at
that time, only about five percentof pilots were women. Now, travel
all these decades later and it's stillonly about seven or eight percent, depending
on who you ask. So it'snot too many women out there doing it.
We need more. I was gonnado it. Do we know why?

(12:48):
Like, is it just it's soforever been quote a man's job that
it's like, oh, it doesn'teven cross their mind, Like it just
seems odd that it hasn't grown.Yeah, you know, that's definitely part
of it. You've heard people sayif you can see it, you can
be it. And when there aren'tvery many and you don't see them and

(13:09):
there's still kind of a novelty,it's harder for young women to sort of
see themselves there and realize that it'san option for them. And we do
tend to screen women out of alot of science and STEM type careers,
not intentionally, but it sort ofhappens in the way we're raised. It's
starting to change. Twenty three percentof the students in our high school program

(13:33):
are young women. Oh good,and that includes pilots and other kinds of
aviation fields. So I think we'regoing to see it start to change.
We got to get to them earlier. Another true or false? You're also
a hang glider pilot. What isthat? That's true? Yeah? Wow,
you reached way back to find that. Yeah. Well, a hang

(13:54):
glider is basically tubes and fabric wing, and you can get towed by an
airplane up to altitude and obviously youhave no engine, so you release from
that airplane and you glide like aglider and you catch lifts from warming columns
of air, and then you canfly yourself to a field or an airport

(14:16):
and land. You can also jumpoff a cliff with one. You may
have seen that. Oh, youcan run yourself right off the edge of
a cliff with one, now Iwill. I have seen that, And
I've also seen where they go rightoff the cliff and the thing just kind
of I guess it doesn't hit thathot column of air and that it's just
whoa, there they go. Well, these are nice because unlike a parachute,

(14:37):
this is a rigid wing, soit can catch whatever air there is.
So just the act of falling offa cliff is enough to keep you
aloft. As long as you flystraight and level, you're not gonna You're
not gonna go down hard now asCoo. Are you flying anything on Saturday
or where? How are you takingin the parade. I am going to

(15:00):
be in one of my colleagues airplanesfor the flight, Assessna one seventy,
which is a great training aircraft.It's a tailwheel, so it's an older
design, but it's an absolutely fantasticairplane. So my colleague and I are
going to be flying along in that. Dude, how stoked are you for
that? Like, I'm sure youget a bunch of cool perks, but

(15:22):
to be able to fly in thatthing, that must be freaking awesome.
It's unbelievable. I mean, it'sa view, like you said, people
will never have again, and it'scertainly of you. I've never had,
so I can't wait to do itand see all these aircraft and just even
getting ready for it, to seeall these aircraft lined up on the ground
getting ready to take off. It'sgoing to be pretty amazing. Hey,

(15:43):
so real quick, just so justso people know. And again, I
think the event is awesome. Theis there? Like if let's pretend that
Saturday rolls around and I get upand I'm a little bit iffy, like,
is it gonna happen? Is itnot? Where my Where am I
checking that? Yeah? Go tothe AOPA website AOPA dot org and if

(16:06):
it's going to be canceled or rescheduled, we will have it posted prominently there
for you. Excellent, Elizabeth,congratulations. I can't wait to see it.
I think just the sound of itis awesome to me. Thanks so
much, Elliott. We are reallyexcited. And I don't think you can
let your son and his buddy out, do you. I think you need
to get your pilot's certificate and beable to fly your buddies to lunch yourself.

(16:27):
Could you imagine? By the way, I know one person who would
never get on a plane with me, and her name is Diane. Nope,
zero chance.
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