Author Archive

The great Northwest

Friday, August 22nd, 2014

I don’t get to the northwestern corner of the country as often as I’d like. For an outdoorsman like me, it’s just above heaven. In close proximity you’ll find jagged mountains, high deserts, stunning river gorges, and pristine forests.

But of course, the biggest draw in the Northwest has to be the people.

I was lucky enough to spend last weekend in Spokane, Washington, for the latest in our series of regional events. I can honestly say that we’ve never had a warmer welcome than we had in Spokane, where members repeatedly thanked us for coming to their beautiful corner of the country.AOPA Spokane '14 Fly In AOPA Spokane '14 Fly In AOPA Spokane '14 Fly In AOPA Spokane '14 Fly In AOPA Spokane '14 Fly In

Even though each AOPA Fly-In lasts only a day, there’s a lot of preparation that goes into every event. The staff at Felts Field was hugely helpful and accommodating while the 150-plus volunteers set to work with smiles on their faces. Best of all, they were still smiling even after spending a long day setting up, then doing everything from flipping pancakes to parking airplanes on the day of the fly-in, and even cleaning up at the end.

In Spokane, and everywhere we’ve been, I’ve been delighted to reach so many members who’ve never been to an AOPA event before. Our goal with these regional events was to meet our members where they fly, and that’s exactly what’s happening.

If you haven’t yet made it to one of this year’s fly-ins, we’ve got three more chances to connect. We’ll be in Chino, California on Sept. 20; Frederick, Maryland on Oct. 4; and St. Simons, Georgia on Nov. 8.

And we’ve already begun planning for next year. If your airport is interested in hosting an AOPA Fly-In in 2015, send us your proposal. The application is available online. We’d love to visit your community and get to know you better.

Reimagining how we fly

Friday, July 25th, 2014

If there’s one thing AOPA members would like to change about general aviation, it’s the cost of flying. That’s why AOPA is conducting an experiment over the coming months—one that I believe will demonstrate that it’s possible to lower the cost of flying to a point that many more people can afford.14_Reimagined 152_0435

We call our experiment Reimagined Aircraft—airplanes that can be owned and operated by a group like a flying club, flight school, or partnership for as little as $65 per hour, including fuel and maintenance.

We started with Cessna 150s and 152s and, partnering with Aviat Aircraft, updated them from tip to tail. With carefully overhauled engines and new paint, panels, and interiors, these Reimagined Aircraft are reliable, fun to fly, and easy to own.

Over the next few months we’ll work with Aviat to create about a dozen of these aircraft, and we’ll spend the rest of the year substantiating the concept that existing aircraft can be brought up to date and owned and operated affordably. These first 150Reimagined and 152Reimagined airplanes will be available from Aviat for a base price of $89,900 and $99,900 respectively.

Of course, part of the challenge of aircraft ownership is getting the right financing and insurance, and we’ve already spoken to banks and insurance companies to make sure favorable terms are available.

The idea for Reimagined Aircraft grew out of our desire to take a comprehensive approach to lowering the barriers that keep people from starting or continuing to fly, and this experiment is one more way we’re working to grow and support the pilot population. It doesn’t mean AOPA is getting into the business of refurbishing and selling aircraft. We aren’t. In fact, we won’t make any money on the sale of Reimagined Aircraft. What it does mean is that we are exploring every avenue to find ways to make it fun, easy, and more affordable to fly.

You can learn more about Reimagined Aircraft on our website, and you can see the very first 152Reimagined at the AOPA tent right on the flight line at Oshkosh.

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The Administrator comes to Frederick

Thursday, July 17th, 2014
FAA Administrator Michael Huerta meets with AOPA President Mark Baker during a visit to AOPA headquarters.

FAA Administrator Michael Huerta meets with AOPA President Mark Baker during a visit to AOPA headquarters.

Today, FAA Administrator Michael Huerta spent several hours visiting AOPA headquarters in Maryland. It was the first time in many years that an FAA administrator has paid us a visit in Frederick, and I think it’s a great sign of Administrator Huerta’s interest in the GA community.

The visit was a chance for the Administrator to get an up-close look at AOPA’s initiatives, learn more about the general aviation perspective, and even answer a few questions. Meetings like this, outside the highly politicized environment of downtown D.C., are an important way to exchange ideas, and I really have to give Administrator Huerta credit for his willingness to hold candid and meaningful conversations about the issues that matter to our members.

Top of the list right now is third-class medical reform—an issue he takes very seriously. And while he wouldn’t say exactly when we can expect to see changes, he did say that the promised rulemaking is being reviewed at the executive level and we can expect action very soon.

He also took the time to talk to our staff about efforts to improve GA safety and the value of collaboration between government and industry when it comes to getting the message out. (You can see part of our conversation on AOPA Live .)

While he was in Frederick, the Administrator did some work on the FAA’s “Got Weather?” campaign, which is being produced with support from the AOPA Foundation and other aviation organizations. Several of the pilots on AOPA’s staff were interviewed for a future installment of the monthly program designed to help decrease the number and severity of weather related GA accidents.

I’ve met with Administrator Huerta many times since I took the left seat at AOPA, and I’m pleased to say that he understands not only the role general aviation plays in our national economic and transportation systems, but also the passion our members feel for flying. As he told our staff today, “What you bring to aviation is a completely different dimension, and that’s what makes flying fun.”

Another great get together

Monday, July 14th, 2014

Every community has its own character—that’s one of the truly enjoyable things about travel, discovering the differences and similarities among people and places. Airports, too, have personalities. And that has made each of this year’s AOPA Fly-Ins a special experience.

This past weekend, we were in Plymouth, Massachusetts, a very different setting from our previous fly-ins in San Marcos, Texas, and Indianapolis, but every bit as much fun.

The good weather brought out a lot of airplanes, with 495 aircraft flying in to Plymouth Municipal Airport and Taunton Municipal Airport. We even had 45 airplanes, and their occupants, camp overnight.

We had 2,250 people come out for the day plus more than 250 volunteers to help things run smoothly. I really can’t thank our volunteers enough. Instead of coming just to relax and enjoy, they come to work.  And they are all so willing to work together to help make each event great. They really exemplify the community spirit we hope to build with our fly-ins.

As I’ve traveled the country meeting pilots, both at AOPA events and at other types of gatherings, I’ve discovered that while there are regional differences in how we fly—location has a lot to do with whether you need to worry about preheating your engine, planning for high density altitude, or accounting for pop-up thunderstorms—there are huge similarities in why we fly.

Pilots everywhere fly because they enjoy the freedom it provides, they love the challenge, and flying enhances their business or personal lives. And pilots everywhere are passionate about protecting general aviation so they can continue to enjoy everything it has to offer.

I count myself lucky to be part of a pilot community that is ready to come together to work with AOPA to protect the freedom to fly. And I’m thrilled to be meeting so many pilots from around the country and learning what matters to you.

My next chance to do that is at the hub of general aviation activity—AirVenture in Oshkosh. I hope you’ll join me there to learn about how AOPA is working for you and to see all great new things we have to offer, starting with a new location right on the flight line.  And for those of you on the West Coast, I’ll be in Spokane, Washington, for the next AOPA Fly-In on August 16.  Look forward to seeing you there.

The promise of change

Wednesday, May 28th, 2014

A couple of weeks back, I sat down one-on-one with the head of Customs and Border Protection, Commissioner Gil Kerlikowske. He made it clear from the first moment of our meeting that he was not only aware of the pilot community’s frustration with the unwarranted stops and searches of general aviation pilots, but also that he planned to do something about it. During that meeting Commissioner Kerlikowske told me that a top-down review of CBP’s general aviation program had already begun.

Today, in a story that aired on National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition” program, we got further confirmation that CBP is willing to acknowledge there have been problems and is prepared to make changes. AOPA provided information and perspective to the reporter, and if you haven’t already heard the story, I encourage you to take a listen.

It’s good to know that persistence pays off, that our message is being heard loud and clear, and that law-abiding general aviation pilots can expect their rights to be respected. Of course, that doesn’t mean we’re closing the book on this issue. If you have an encounter with CBP on a domestic GA flight, let us know. You can report your experience to us using an online form . We’ll keep watching—and doing whatever it takes—to make sure the promised change really comes.

Time to remember

Thursday, May 22nd, 2014

Long weekends, especially at this time of year, are to be cherished, and maybe especially for pilots. Much of the country has suffered one of the worst winters in memory, and everyone is itching to get out and feel the relative warmth of spring. If you live in the far north, long days mean many more daylight hours to enjoy. If you’re located further south, it’s time to soak up the sun.

I hope you will get out and fly this long weekend. If you’re not current, or haven’t yet begun to fly, why not use the extra time to take a step in that direction—sign up for a Rusty Pilot program, check out a local flight school, or book time with an instructor. The more we fly ourselves, and share our passion with others, the stronger our community becomes.

But above all, on this Memorial Day weekend, let’s take time to remember those who have fought and sacrificed for all of our uniquely American freedoms, including our cherished freedom to fly.

AOPA’s First Fly-In

Monday, April 28th, 2014

0501_volunteers4 Saturday was our first-ever AOPA Fly-In, and what a great day it was!

More than 2,500 people joined me in San Marcos for a day of all things aviation. We had wonderful exhibits, all kinds of aircraft on display, good food, and plenty of chances to mix and mingle with our fellow aviation enthusiasts. 

 A little IFR weather in the morning slowed down early arrivals, but we kept the pancake breakfast going to make sure everyone had the chance to eat. And by the time I hosted my Pilot Town Hall mid-afternoon, the fun was in full swing.

We started these events because we wanted to meet our members where they fly, and because we wanted to help more aviation enthusiasts get engaged in all the exciting things happening in GA. I think we accomplished both goals.

If you joined us in San Marcos, thank you for making our inaugural AOPA Fly-In an event to remember. And a special thanks to the 185 volunteers who helped make it all possible. If you couldn’t make it to Texas, I hope you’ll join us when we come to your part of 0501_volunteers1the country later in the year. 

Here’s the schedule:

May 31—Indianapolis, IN

July 12—Plymouth, MA

Aug. 16—Spokane, WA

Sept. 20—Chino, CA

Oct. 4—Frederick, MD (AOPA 75th Anniversary Homecoming)

Nov. 8—St. Simons, GA

Hope to see you there!

 

Knocking off the rust

Thursday, March 27th, 2014

If you’ve ever taken a lengthy break from flying, you know that coming back can be a little intimidating. Depending how long you’ve been away, you might wonder if you can remember the regs. You might even wonder if you’ve still got what it takes to fly. Or maybe you just can’t seem to find time to wade through the requirements and get back into the cockpit.

Trust me on this. If you’ve earned a pilot certificate, even if you haven’t used it for years, you’ve done the hard part. Getting back into the left seat is easier than you think, and all of us at AOPA are here to help you do it.

Today we launched our Rusty Pilots Program—an easy, no-cost way to get you flying again. We work with flights schools around the country to offer a seminar that covers the changes that may have taken place since you’ve been away, including new regs, airspace issues, technology, and whatever else you might need to know. The seminars and class materials are free and, best of all, they meet the requirements for the ground portion of the flight review. So bring your logbook and you’re halfway there.

To make it even easier, in many cases you can sign up on the spot for the flight time you need to complete your review and get current.

Visit us at www.RustyPilots.org to find and sign up for a seminar near you. Or join us the day before each of this year’s AOPA Fly-Ins to take part in the Rusty Pilots program delivered by one of our expert presenters. And be sure to bring that logbook! Can’t wait to see you there!

Why not start your own flying club?

Wednesday, March 12th, 2014

There’s nothing better than having everything you need all in one package—especially when you’re launching into something new. That’s why today we introduced “AOPA’s Guide to Starting a Flying Club”—a one-stop primer to help you turn a dream into a reality.

Flying clubs are a great way to enjoy the benefits of aircraft ownership while sharing costs and camaraderie with your fellow pilots. But not everyone has access to a club, or maybe you just haven’t found the perfect fit. You can solve that by taking matters into your own hands, and this guide can help.

I’m a hands-on, practical person. So when I take on a new project I look for experts who can give me real-world answers to my questions, and help me figure out what I need to know. That’s what this guide is designed to do.

It covers the biggest issues you need to consider in starting a flying club and, just as important, tells you how to overcome roadblocks along the way. Not only will you find expert advice on everything from how to choose the right airplane to what to look for in insurance, you’ll also find sample forms, rules,  lease agreements, and more—the nitty gritty that can make things run smoothly or give you heartburn.

I’m a big believer in flying clubs. For many pilots who want great access to aircraft, more affordable flying, a chance to network with others pilots, and a reason to bring the family out to the airport, the right flying club can deliver.

If you’ve ever thought about starting a club, take a few minutes to find out what’s really involved and how easy it can be to make your dreams come true.  Even if you’re considering joining an existing club, this guide can help you understand what goes into making a club tick.  You can download “AOPA’s Guide to Starting a Flying Club” for free from AOPA.org.

A stop in Emerald City

Sunday, February 23rd, 2014

I was lucky to be able to spend the weekend in the Seattle area attending the Northwest Aviation Conference with thousands of my fellow pilots. I love coming to the Pacific Northwest. Not only is this a beautiful part of the country, but it’s also a place where lots of water means lots of seaplane flying, one of my favorite activities. Every pilot loves to compare experiences and share stories about their favorite aircraft and destinations, so I had a great time just chatting with folks who stopped to say hello.

But I also spent some time talking about the serious issues that affect our flying and taking questions from conference attendees. It should come as no surprise that the burning issues here in the Northwest are very much the same as elsewhere in the country. People want to know how we can control the cost of flying, what we can do to bring more people into aviation, and how we can stop government agencies from targeting innocent pilots

Legislation or regulatory changes that would let more pilots fly without the need for a third-class medical could really alter the landscape, saving money and making it easier for many people to keep flying or get back to flying. I don’t think it’s a cureall, but I do think it’s a huge step in the right direction. Promising alternatives to leaded avgas are another good sign for the future of GA. Finding ways to make airports more welcoming, to help rusty pilots get back in the air, and to make it possible to fly for around $250 a month, are also high on my agenda.

Mark Baker talks to pilots at the 2014 Northwest Aviation Conference.

Mark Baker talks to pilots at the 2014 Northwest Aviation Conference.

There was plenty of passion around all of these issues, but the biggest audience reaction came when I answered a question about the unwarranted stops and searches of general aviation aircraft by Customs and Border Protection. As I told the audience, I don’t know why general aviation is being singled out for this outrageous treatment, but I do know that America is supposed to be the “home of the free” and we aren’t going to stand by while the rights of law abiding pilots are trampled.

Stay tuned for more about our next steps and rest assured that we won’t let this issue go.