Florida is ranked third in the United States—behind California and Texas—for the total number of pilots, aircraft, and airports. This GA hub contributes significantly to the Florida economy, which is why it was so surprising to a few local pilots that there wasn’t a specialty plate to recognize this industry.
It all started with a chance meeting when Joseph Hurtuck went in for a doctor’s appointment and stepped into Ian Goldbaum’s office and noted the Corvette décor. The two became fast friends upon discovering a shared interest in GA, with Hurtuk obtaining his certificate in 1996 and Goldbaum in the middle of flight training when they met. “We became friends and now we fly all the time together,” said Hurtuk.
The idea for the plate came when Hurtuk, who has a background in aviation law enforcement, noticed Goldbaum had Florida’s “Endless summer” license plate and was reminded of his desire to bring a GA specialty plate to Florida. “There are a lot of specialty plates in Florida that generate money for different organizations but there is nothing for general aviation,” said Hurtuk, who was involved in bringing a similar plate to Virginia and loved representing GA when he lived there.
What started as a sketch on a piece of paper has now been formed into an official design by pilot Richard Golightly. It paints a scene familiar to pilots at hundreds of GA airports across the country: aircraft taking off and landing around a control tower on a bright, VFR day. “It tells a story of supporting not just aviation, but general aviation,” said Hurtuk. The airplane taking off in the scene is his Cessna 172, and the Cirrus SR20 pictured landing belongs to Goldbaum. “The design will remain in the works until it actually gets final approval from the state department of motor vehicles,” said Hurtuk.
And the final approval process is a complex one. First and foremost, a specialty plate needs the support of a state legislator who can either carry a standalone bill or attach the proposal onto an existing proposed bill for easier approval. Hurtuk and Goldbaum have taken the issue to a local legislator and are in ongoing conversations to find the right time and place to attach the proposal.
The other hurdle to introducing a specialty license plate is to decide where the funds go. “We’re just local pilots. It would really be a daunting task for us,” Hurtuk said of handling and distributing the profit made off the plate. However, Hurtuk and Goldbaum, with the help of AOPA, have made contact with a nonprofit aviation organization in Florida that is more than willing to take on the funds and set up a scholarship program.
As Hurtuk describes, these scholarships would be given in small amounts to young people who are interested in opportunities in the aviation industry. “It’s not a lot,” Hurtuck said. “Maybe it’s enough to join AOPA, maybe it’s enough to join EAA and just start to learn about aviation.”
Even after the bill is passed, there will still be hurdles to overcome. Three thousand vouchers for the license plate must be sold before the plate can be manufactured—though Hurtuk is optimistic that the number is attainable with the interest the plate has received so far. His team also has plans to promote the plate at pancake breakfasts, at private airparks, and at the Sun ‘n Fun Aerospace Expo.
While it may take some time to turn this dream into a license plate in-hand, the enthusiasm for promoting and supporting GA is contagious among this small group of Florida aviators.
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