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85 Years of GA to be Celebrated with ‘Parade of Airplanes’ over Washington

Here's what you need to know about the National Celebration of GA Flyover the National Mall on May 11.

AOPA president Mark Baker will lead the National Celebration of GA Flyover in his Beechcraft Staggerwing 17. [Credit: Chris Rose]

The history of general aviation will be on public display overhead in Washington, D.C., on May 11 as the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) hosts a “parade of airplanes” over the National Mall.

In 1939, Franklin Roosevelt was the first sitting president to recognize GA, according to AOPA president Mark Baker. This year also marks the 85th anniversary of AOPA, an organization created to support GA.

The National Celebration of GA Flyover will be broadcast live on AOPA’s YouTube channel.

with commentary from longtime “AOPA Live This Week” host Tom Haines and journalist Miles O’Brien. The pair will be on a rooftop providing commentary as aircraft fly overhead.

Haines noted that he’s spent a good bit of time researching the participant airplanes and was impressed to learn of their rich history.



Mike Ginter, AOPA vice president of airports and state advocacy, will serve as the air boss for the event. Ginter said that all the aircraft will be strategically launched from Frederick Municipal Airport (KFDK) in Maryland—the home of AOPA—beginning at 11:30 a.m. EST on May 11.

The aircraft will be expected to fly at 90 knots at an altitude of 1,000 feet, ensuring they are visible from the ground and online.

“The goal is to get aviation outside of the airport fence lines,” Ginter said.


AOPA flyover route map. [Courtesy: AOPA]
For those who won’t be in D.C., pilots are encouraged to organize watch parties at their airports.

Sixty aircraft, representing 20 different chapters of GA, are scheduled to participate. The aircraft and pilots, most of whom are the aircraft owners, were selected months ago.

Baker will be leading the parade, flying his Beechcraft Staggerwing 17, an aircraft synonymous with the golden age of aviation. The round-engine Staggerwing biplane was one of the first to feature an enclosed cockpit. In the 1930s, it was the choice for executive transport and air racers.


“It’s going to be a special time for AOPA and for general aviation,” Baker said. “What a sight it will be to see the history of general aviation flying over the National Mall, as GA has given this nation so much over the past many decades. AOPA is uniquely positioned to plan this complex event and execute it safely and professionally.”

Among the aircraft planned to appear are a WACO UPF-7, Douglas DC-3, a Grumman Albatross, one of the only two Beechcraft Starships still flying, a Robinson R44, and a Piper M700 Fury certified this year.

The flyover will also feature an appearance by the Titan Aerobatic Team.

Map of AOPA flyover in Washington, D.C.. [Courtesy: AOPA]

Parade Route

Washington has some of the most restricted airspace in the country. More than 11 agencies, including the FAA, air traffic control, TSA, and U.S. Secret Service are coordinating for the event, which will include flight in Prohibited Area P-56. The restricted airspace was created after 9/11.

The route takes the aircraft past the Lincoln Memorial, down Independence Avenue, and past the Washington Monument.

GA, By the Numbers

Parade aircraft were selected to showcase technological advancements in aviation and demonstrate the ways GA has improved its safety records over the years.


According to AOPA, the GA industry enjoys the safest record ever due to better aircraft, navigation systems, flight training, and better, more engaging ways to stay proficient. General aviation aircraft fly more than 26 million flight hours each year, including about 30 million takeoffs and landings.

AOPA officials said they hope the event will help spread the word that general aviation often comes from small towns with small aircraft manufacturing facilities, such as Yakima, Washington; Vacaville, California; and Vero Beach, Florida.

More information on the event, route, and planned aircraft can be found on AOPA’s GA Flyover campaign website.

Editor’s note: This story originally appeared on


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