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Business Aviators Take the Georgia Air Challenge

July 11, 2011

NBAA Flight Plan podcast about the Georgia Air Challenge

Like a lot of pilots, Steve Champness recently realized he hadn’t been flying much lately.

“I’ve been working twice as hard for the past couple of years because of the economy, so I haven’t been flying like I used to,” he said from behind the controls of a Cessna 172. That didn’t sit well with Champness, president of the Atlanta Aero Club and a sales representative for NBAA Member Trade-a-Plane.

After that, he said, another realization followed quickly: if he wasn’t flying, there was a good chance many of Georgia’s 20,000 pilots were also staying away from the airport.

Champness underwent the required medical exam and logged some time with an instructor, refreshing his skills and making sure he surpassed the minimum number of take-offs and landings to regain currency.

Then, he lined up a remarkable list of sponsors and issued the Georgia Air Challenge. During the month of July, pilots who log at least three hours flying to three or more Georgia airports can register for a drawing to be held August 15th. The winners will receive prizes that include a multi-engine rating and specially discounted financing on the purchase of a new aircraft.

Champness said the Georgia Air Challenge is aimed at all pilots – especially those who fly for business.

“Aviation is still one of the tools you use to do your business efficiently and in the most expeditious manner,” he said. Motioning around the cockpit as he flew at 3,500 feet above the suburbs north of Atlanta, Champness pointed out, “In a light aircraft like this, you have a 200 or 300 mile range. You go visit two or three customers in that day and you’re home at night. There are so many applications where the American economy relies on aviation.”

Georgia is one of several states where events like the Air Challenge are taking off. In Kentucky, Missionaire and Tompkinsville Aviation are sponsoring a similar challenge which culminates in a fly-in and picnic at the Tompkinsville-Monroe County Airport on July 30th.

Virginia and Maryland sponsor programs which encourage pilots to fly to airports within their respective borders.

“We want pilots to remember why they learned to fly and to use those skills they invested so much time and money in acquiring. Once I got back into the air, I was excited about flying again,” Champness said after lining up his approach for landing. He said he’s betting other pilots will remember the thrill and the utilitarian nature of flying once they take him up on his challenge.