Do you remember your first time? 😏
NO, not like that.
I’m talking about the first time you attended an NGPA event. The 2023 Winter Warm-Up Sponsored by United Airlines is almost here! And your Mama Bear thought it would be a great opportunity to talk about that a little bit. I hope you’re going, and I hope to see you there.
You see, Palm Springs is where I met NGPA. Stroll with me, won’t you, down my memory lane. I’m also going to throw in some tips for how to experience NGPA and Palm Springs.
Picture it: Palm Springs, October 2012 AOPA (Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association) was hosting its annual Summit – they used to have one big event each year, and as a longtime member of AOPA, I often attended. I see a booth marked NGPA (right next to Pilots for Christ!). It’s here where I met the fabulous Steve Walker and Dale Fiala, and it’s where they convinced me that I needed to return to PSP in January for NGPA’s Winter Warm-up.
(the photo I’ve included here isn’t great, but I was trying to be stealthy)
January 2013. I show up in PSP, knowing no one except Steve and Dale. And guess what – Steve was lucky enough to be attending President Obama’s second inauguration, so he wasn’t even there! No matter – I knew it would be OK. I’m actually kinda shy, believe it or not.
We were a small enough group that the meet & greet was at a private house – imagine! I met lots of great folks there, including Steven Moore, the Executive Director of NGPA. I instantly knew I had a new, fierce, friend. Steven took me right into the fold and looked out for me all weekend.
Steven’s passion and his spirit drove many of us to get involved. It would take a whole ‘nother article to describe Steven and his works. As you know, he tragically left us in October 2014, and we have a scholarship in his honor. Sadly, Dale is also gone now, an early victim of Covid. Their impact is still being felt throughout NGPA, and we should all strive to carry on their legacies of welcome and challenge.
Tip: Cherish those moments with each other.
The weekend was much more low-key that what we know today. I’ve already mentioned how there were fewer than 200 people, total, for the weekend. And notice that I didn’t say anything about sponsors. We’re fortunate now to have TREMENDOUS support from our sponsors – but a mere 10 years ago, we didn’t have any of that. “Sisters were doing it for themselves!”
That year, the warm-up was at the Hilton, and we were still small enough that Saturday Breakfast featured “Pass the Mic.” Steven Moore asked us to keep it short (ha!) by saying: name, where from, and if our company was hiring. When it got to me, (heart pounding), I said “I’m Kit, I fly floatplanes in Seattle, and believe it or not, we’re hiring for the summer!” And wouldn’t you know, but someone came up to me afterwards and asked if I was serious. I was. And that’s how John Swaney came to fly for
Seattle Seaplanes for a summer season!
Tip: NGPA provides connections in unlikely places – be open to all possibilities!
Saturday afternoon, Queen of the Fleet. OMG.
I HAVE FOUND MY PEOPLE!
Geeking out over airplanes with the added layers of Gay was like the part of the Wizard of Oz where Dorothy steps into Oz. Everything was in brilliant color and fabulousness! I knew then that my worlds had truly merged.
I’ve included a photo of Steven Moore trying to herd the cats for the group picture.
Tip: Don’t overlook how fabulous it is to be with your LGBTQ family in a place where you can dork out on aircraft, too.
Back in 2013, the Flight Deck reception included both FD members and newcomers. Brilliant. We continue that tradition today with our Retirees & Newcomers meet & greet. A great way to connect!
Tip: Find ways to connect and be inspired, both by reaching out to newcomers, and, by connecting with “old-timers.” Both are necessary.
Honestly, what I remember about that year’s Banquet was that it was hilarious and far more entertaining than any other banquet (aviation or otherwise) I’d attended. Again, the layers of Gay (etc.) just made it so special.I came home from PSP that year, tired, happy, inspired. I couldn’t wait until the next one!
I don’t want to sound like I’m bragging, ‘cuz that’s not what I do. I will mention, however, that I went from being a shy newcomer to Co-Chair of NGPA within just a few years. Why? Because I love the people and believe in the mission. You can do that, too. It’s your organization!
If this is your first Palm Springs, and/or NGPA event: WELCOME! We’re glad you’re here!
If you’ve been around for a while…. WELCOME! We’re glad you’re here!
We all have the opportunity to make an impact, to make connections, and to add color to each other’s lives. Be that and do that.
Mama Bear loves you all!