Twenty RAF volunteers spent August 19 networking and learning ways to further the RAF mission at the “Midwest” RAF Mini Educational Conference (RMEC) hosted by JA Air Center in Aurora, Illinois. Guest speakers included state aviation officials, adding what RAF Michigan Liaison Brad Frederick called, “their great and enlightening input and perspective.”

RAF President Alan Metzler summarized completed projects, those in progress and those envisioned so far. The RAF map illustrates how they are spread throughout the country. The RAF roster now tops 8,500 names. 

Each RMEC is geared to regional concerns, and participants found RAF Illinois Liaison Mike Purpura’s section, “Collaboration gets more pilots in the air” very enlightening. Panelists included aeronautics officials from Minnesota and Illinois. Although each state deals with aviation differently, Cassandra Isackson, Minnesota’s Director of Aeronautics pointed out a universal concern, that less money is available from federal sources, and “Every airport needs someone who loves it, and the RAF organization is more effective than individuals trying to influence decision-making.” Panelists pointed out that many airports are city-owned who see their role to manage tenants, not aviation. “You need to see things from their perspective and represent aviation from that viewpoint,” Cassandra added. 

The Chamber of Commerce appreciates that an active airport brings more business to the community. Mike Purpura capitalized on this and perhaps opened some eyes as to opportunities in the midwest states, with his Migratory Bird Fly-In in March. Bob Martin, of the Mason County Airport Authority got a chuckle when he said his role was initially a rescue mission – fix the toilet and such. “Mike Purpura visited and saw the opportunities at Havana airport and encouraged us to start holding events,” he said. Astronomy night in June brought 200 people and was “a big success” so they are planning more.“Exploit an asset that they are already paying for,” he said.

Brad Frederick related his experience building an airstrip. “Get involved, show up and become part of the community,” he said. Brad is now a member of Michigan’s Dep’t of Natural Resources Island’s committee and GA committee, and is its voice for aviation.

The group explored what attributes make a “recreational” airstrip and what makes it a worthwhile project. Alan responded that the RAF is preparing a scorecard hierarchy of airstrip attributes. 

Naturally, this organization runs on donations, and Bill McGlynn, RAF Director/Secretary and Greg DeJong, a Certified Financial Planner presented information on the many ways donors can give while maximizing the legal advantages.

RAF Minnesota Liaison Kurt Pennuto thanked the RAF on his evaluation, adding  “I feel truly blessed to be in such great company! Knowing I have your support as I work to uphold the RAF mission is an awesome feeling!”

The RAF wishes to thank JA Air Center for hosting the event. The final RMEC is scheduled October 20-22 in Reedsville, PA (KRVL).

Submitted on August 25, 2017.

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