Some of our members have asked why the decision was made to move the Great Minnesota Aviation Gathering (GMAG) annually to mid-May. In response please accept this as a description of our reasons for making this move.
Before the first GMAG, in 2014, the MN Seaplane Pilots Association’s Safety Seminar was the only viable outlet for pilots to get together in MN and enjoy each other’s company. The leadership of the Seaplane Safety Seminar was successful in covering topics regarding safety not only for seaplane operations, but also for land ops. We were aware that a significant proportion of those who attended that event were not float plane pilots, nor rated for seaplanes. We understand that this was precisely why the MNDOT Aeronautics chose to be a major proponent of the Safety Seminar, as well as a major contributor to keeping the event afloat, even as attendance dwindled.
We did our best to give that event, as well as other major aviation events, a wide berth. We wanted to maximize the ability for a person to take in many events, and to that end we began by holding the first GMAG in March. We gradually moved the event later and later in an effort to gain better weather in which to hold “tent” venues for the presentations. You may recall how distracting and cold the tents could be, but you came despite the challenges posed by weather.
It has been gratifying to see the numbers of attendees grow and stabilize at the GMAGs. We have several hundred people attend the GMAGs, and we feel that the move from the Anoka County-Blaine airport (KANE) to the Buffalo Municipal Airport has been a positive one. At the same time we have watched the attendance of pilots at the Seaplane Safety Seminar decrease, then more recently stabilize. It remains a great event, however, and we appreciate that fact. We think we cannot have too many aviation events that emphasize safety and offer the chance to visit with other pilots.
There are seaplane pilots who attend the GMAG, and “wheel” pilots who attend the Seaplane Safety Seminar, and some that attend both! We are really happy to see that “cross pollination”! Given the relative numbers of pilots in each group, however, we feel that the time has come to try to be inclusive of both populations at the GMAG so as to benefit all of aviation in Minnesota. We will continue to have presentations regarding seaplane operations at the GMAG.
We have discussed the change in dates with the leadership of the MNDOT Aeronautics and our Sponsors and have been assured that they will not only continue to support the GMAG but also expand their participation in our event, providing the same services and benefits that they have given to the MN Seaplane Pilots Association for several years.
Taken together, we feel that holding the GMAG’s annually on the weekend after Mother’s Day/Fishing Opener in Minnesota will provide many benefits to pilots in Minnesota. There will be some years in which the dates may coincide with the Seaplane Safety Seminar, but we feel the benefits far outweigh the downside for the majority of Minnesota pilots.