Archive for October, 2013

Meet the AOPA Regional Managers

Wednesday, October 30th, 2013
This is a guest post by my colleague, Bob Minter. Bob is one of 7 Regional Managers at AOPA and oversees localized issues in the southeastern region. You can read more about each of the Regions and each of the Regional Managers, here.
AOPA's Regional Managers

AOPA’s Regional Managers

In 2012 AOPA upgraded its former program of 12 Regional Representatives to 7 Regional Managers. All of the association’s former Representatives had been operating under individual contracts. The new Regional Managers were all hired as full-time employees.

The Regional Representatives program was begun under former Association President John Baker in the early 80’s and most of those who comprised the “Rep. Corps” had formerly served at state government aeronautics departments. All lived in and worked from their respective regions and the Rep. Program then came under the Communications Division at AOPA headquarters. It was later moved into the Government & Technical Affairs Division. The core mission was to serve as AOPA’s eyes and ears, to become the face of AOPA in their respective regions, to work closely with members and pilot groups, to identify and resolve issues before they became larger problems and to take AOPA’s governmental affairs advocacy and expertise to the state and local level. During those days, the Reps worked lots of airport related issues until AOPA’s 3rd President, Phil Boyer, established the AOPA Airport Support Network (ASN) and began utilizing volunteers(ASNVs), at what is now more than 2,500 local airports nation wide. Boyer then refocused the Reps mission to working primarily with state legislatures and local governments.

When the full-time Regional Managers program was established in January, 2012 under AOPA President Craig Fuller, the Managers’ responsibilities were expanded to include membership development and territories were redefined to conform with the FAA regions .AOPA Regional Managers continue to live and work in their assigned territories.

The legacy of AOPA’s regional outreach over the past 30 years is truly extraordinary – hundreds of legislative and regulatory victories at the state and local levels have saved members money in the form of sales & property taxes, airports charges & fees and more helping to fulfill our promise to keep the cost of flying down and protect our freedom to fly. General aviation airports and funding have been saved… the successes of AOPA’s Regional Reps and now Managers as well as those of the Airports Support Network Volunteers are far too numerous to mention; all made possible because of close and collaborative support from AOPA headquarters staff who frequently are the real experts on a given technical issue.

Members often wonder how Regional Managers handle their various responsibilities in regions with a large number of states. The key is a team effort connecting members, alliances in each state, and headquarters staff. Managers must be skilled strategists. Networking and establishing relationships with state and local governments, federal agencies, airports, pilot/user groups, and a variety of centers of influence that impact aviation and air transportation policy are vitally important. AOPA utilizes a broad spectrum of the latest in technology in its work for our membership. For example, Regional Managers utilize legislative and regulatory monitoring software and services to stay abreast of lawmaking and regulation that may impact our members. It is common to see an AOPA Regional Manager in the halls of state legislatures initiating a measure that will benefit general aviation or opposing those that threaten to increase the cost of flying, our airports, or our freedom to fly.

At the end of the day, our work is all about connecting with AOPA members. Members consistently provide our most valuable advanced link to issues and opportunities. Our new President, Mark Baker, understands the importance of connecting with our members and is re-focusing and re-dedicating AOPA toward more one-on-one service. In 2014, we expect AOPA Regional Managers to be even more involved in helping fulfill President Baker’s mission.

Advocacy efforts continue even when the government is shut down

Wednesday, October 23rd, 2013
While attending the AOPA Summit in Ft Worth, the most frequent question I received was “what is AOPA’s government affairs doing if the federal government is shut down?”    A lot more than you’d think.
Image courtesy of Tomasso Galli []

Image courtesy of Tomasso Galli []

The government was only sort of closed

Even while the government was “shut down,” roughly 60% of all federal employees continued working.  These folks are deemed essential or exempt.  Most of the FAA’s lines of business are considered essential and were largely unaffected, leaving pilots to fly as usual.  While flight operations were not directly impacted, the regulatory and “backroom” work was paused.  Most rank and file employees involved in non-operational capacities were furloughed.

The shutdown presented a unique challenge for continuing our advocacy efforts.  AOPA participates, and chairs, many industry committees which make recommendations to the FAA regarding policy and regulatory issues.  In most cases, these committees continued to operate.  However, submission of final reports and input from FAA subject matter experts delayed the progress or completion of some activities.  Despite the government shutdown, AOPA’s advocacy work continued and over the past few weeks, we made significant strides on several issues.

Advocacy efforts continue

AOPA supported the Small Airplane Revitalization Act, which recently passed by unanimous consent in the Senate.  The Act mirrors recommendations made to the FAA by industry, to streamline and simplify the certification process for GA aircraft and avionics.  This will drive down costs and pave the way for innovation and safety enhancement for new and existing aircraft.

The 16 day government shutdown resulted in closure of the aircraft registration office in Oklahoma City.  AOPA, along with several other associations, requested the FAA reopen the aircraft registration branch, citing legal authority based on the FAA’s past characterization of the office as an “essential function for public safety, security and compliance with international treaty obligations.”

AOPA staff and industry partners met with Customs and Border Protection Field Operations staff to discuss improvements to the border crossing process, including the Advanced Passenger Information System (APIS). The group secured a commitment from customs to improve consistency amongst officers and procedures from airport to airport.

AOPA submitted a letter to the San Francisco Mayor’s office, expressing concern with an ordinance being considered which would prohibit aerial advertising over the city. AOPA’s letter urged the Mayor’s office cease moving forward with any ordinance that would restrict aerial advertising, and recognize the FAA’s sole authority to regulate navigable airspace.

During the AOPA Summit, government affairs staff met with industry counterparts, learned about new technologies, and led several educational seminars.  My favorite part about Summit, though, is engaging directly with AOPA members.  It’s easy to get wrapped up in the day to day activities and forget that there are real, live pilots that I am serving.  Meeting members face to face and finding out what is important to them is my top priority at Summit and other outreach activities.  So while I am sad to see Summit suspended, I am looking forward to meeting even more members through our regional outreach events.

Speaking of Summit

The second most-frequently discussed topic was the suspension of Summit and questions about the future regional outreach efforts.  Where will these smaller events be held?  Will there be vendors, static displays, seminars?  The bottom line is that we really don’t know yet.  This is an exciting new development for the organization and the details are still being ironed out.

What would you like to see?  Where should these events be held, and what should be included?  This is a clean sheet design, so we’re looking for lots of input on how best to meet our members, literally and figuratively.  Share your thoughts in the comment section below!