Welcome to Washington, you win a plane

United Airlines First Officer Eric Short was making his usual 1 a.m. arrival on a trip from San Francisco to Washington’s Dulles International Airport. But he had one more stop after that. With assistance from United, the stop was carefully coordinated by Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association staffers on a mission: to inform Short that he was the winner of AOPA’s 2011 Crossover Classic sweepstakes.

The midnight event was a total surprise. Hours earlier the staff, camera person Peter Roof and audio/lighting tech Kathi Overton helped setup the scene inside the Signature Flight Support hangar on the grounds of Dulles. The prize plane was positioned just inside the massive hangar doors and lit up with HMI lights. As Short’s van pulled up the doors opened to reveal the plane and AOPA president, Craig Fuller. One crew followed Fuller as he greeted the winner and presented the fully refurbished and restored 1974 Cessna 182P four-seater, single-engine aircraft.

“A few minutes ago, we were flying 200 people,” he said. “And now here I am with a new airplane!” exclaimed Short.

Short, who lives in Paulden, Ariz., has spent his life in aviation and served a 20-year stint in the Air Force. MORE