This past weekend, NGPA (National Gay Pilots Association) hosted a first-of-its-kind event: a fly-in to Cedar Rapids, Iowa to celebrate aviation and pride called Wings Over Iowa. On Friday, June 3rd, over 100 members flew in, some with their own aircraft, and got together to celebrate. Not only did they have a chance to participate in the first ever LBGT+ pride parade in the history of Cedar Rapids, but they also hosted their own aviation event the following day on the ramp at KCID (Eastern Iowa Airport).
The Cedar Rapids LGBT+ community (hosted by CR Pride) came out in droves, lining the streets decked out in pride outfits and cheering on the floats. NGPA was one of the first organizations to walk down 3rd Street, all the participating members carrying a gigantic helium airliner balloon. They tossed out T-shirts, keychains, and more, and invited the community to come out to the airport the next day to see their parked aircraft on the tarmac and enjoy food from local vendors, live music provided by a Chicago-based band, and fun aviation-themed activities.
“In the past two and a half years, NGPA has grown by a number of 1,600 new members since the start of the pandemic, and it’s been absolutely incredible.” Brian Gambino, President of NGPA, remarked during their member party on Saturday night. “That growth means we need to evolve and grow as an organization as well. We need to speak to different communities and truly live out the mission of this organization. That’s why we are here in Cedar Rapids. That’s why we will be in other locations throughout the U.S. and abroad.” That mission, from their website, is ‘to BUILD, SUPPORT, and UNITE the LGBT aviation community worldwide.’
Based on the turn out we witnessed, they certainly fulfilled and lived out their mission in Cedar Rapids. In addition to meeting several aviation-related vendors at their event, we (the community team) had a chance to walk around the 18 different aircraft from various NGPA members and meet pilots from all over the United States. There was an aircraft for every type of aviation lover – from experimental airplanes like the Cozy Mark IV, to turboprops like the Daher TBM 900, and even a 1940 Boeing-Stearman Model 75. Pipers, Cessnas, and Diamonds were scattered along the ramp, colorful pride flags hanging on many.
Every pilot had a fascinating story about how they became interested in flying. Scott Lebovitz, a professional airline pilot and owner of a conventional gauge Piper, mentioned playing Microsoft Flight Simulator ‘95 as a kid and falling in love with flight. Another pilot, Dana Perez, practically grew up in the cockpit of her father’s Bonanza A36. Both, of course, were hooked on aviation ever since. We even bumped into the Mayor of Cedar Rapids, Tiffany O’Donnell, who pointed out the exact plane (a Piper Warrior) she used in her first solo when she trained for her PPL. All the pilots we met, each of their stories unique, all had one thing in common – their love for NGPA and its mission to support the LGBT+ aviation community.
We are very excited to continue to support this awesome organization, as we believe they play a very important part in continuing efforts to grow a diverse and inclusive global aviation community. If you are interested in learning more about NGPA, check out their website! They also host several events around the U.S. throughout the year, which you can learn about on their Events calendar.