Author Archive

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.

 

 

 

Let’s get together

Monday, January 6th, 2014

I love to spend my Saturdays at the airport, hanging out with pilots and airplanes. I’m hoping you’ll join me at least once this year as we inaugurate a series of Saturday AOPA Fly-Ins to be held all across the country.

These gatherings were inspired by you—AOPA members. Many of you told us that you wanted ways to connect with one another and with your association, and we wanted to create a fun, easy way for you to do that.

Each fly-in will start with a pancake breakfast and pilot town hall. I’ll bring you up to speed on the big issues that affect our flying and some of AOPA’s most important initiatives. Then I’ll take lots of your questions so we can have a meaningful discussion about the issues that matter the most to you and the way you fly.

Throughout the day, we’ll have flying activities, educational seminars, exhibits, and aircraft on display. We’ll also have a learn-to-fly area for the aspiring pilots you bring along with you.

Admission is free for everyone, and lunch is free for AOPA members.

Every event will be special, but there’s one in particular that I’m looking forward to—the AOPA Homecoming set for October 4 at our Frederick headquarters. It’s going to be a celebration not only of all things GA, but also of AOPA’s 75th anniversary.

I can’t tell you how proud I am to lead an organization with such a long and impressive history of protecting the freedom to fly, and I can’t wait to share some of that history with you—the members who make AOPA what it is. We want you to come home to your association headquarters and get real insight into what it means to share in the long tradition of AOPA membership.

I have always been lucky to fly at airports where there’s a strong sense of community. More than anything, I want to share that experience with all of you. So I hope you’ll join me and other members of the AOPA team for at the Homecoming or any of our Saturday Fly-Ins for a day of fun, flying, and camaraderie.

Here’s the schedule:

  • Texas: San Marcos Municipal Airport (HYI), April 26
  • Indiana: Indianapolis Regional Airport (MQJ), May 31
  • Massachusetts: Plymouth Airport (PYM), July 12
  • Washington: Spokane Felts Field (SFF), August 16
  • California: Chino Airport (CNO), September 20
  • Maryland: Frederick Municipal Airport (FDK), October 4
  • Georgia: Malcolm McKinnon Airport (SSI), November 8

Hope to see you there!

Weekends are for flying

Monday, October 21st, 2013

As far as I’m concerned, weekends are for flying. OK, every day is for flying, but like you, I sometimes have to wait for the weekend to be able to hang around the airport and talk to pilots.

This past weekend, I had a great time doing some of the things I love most.

The Beech Party celebrates all makes and models of Beechcraft planes.

The annual Beech Party celebrates all makes and models of Beechcraft planes.

Classic airplanes at the Beech Party in Tullahoma Tennessee.

Classic airplanes take flight at the Beech Party in Tullahoma, Tennessee.

On Friday, I stopped in Tullahoma, Tennessee, to drop in on an amazing “Beech Party.” Pilots from all over the country had gathered at this gem of an airport to celebrate the past and present of some of their favorite aircraft. Lunch was held at the Beechcraft Heritage Museum, and this year marked the 50th anniversary of the Staggerwing Club and the 40th anniversary of the museum, which the club founded. As the owner of a Beech 18 and the past owner of a succession of Barons and Bonanzas, I was in heaven.

Tullahoma has both paved and soft landing areas, so the airplanes old and new were in their element. What’s more beautiful than a pristine grass strip with carefully restored Staggerwings buzzing overhead? I just love that sound and the smell of sod crushed under fat airplane tires.

I had the chance to talk to the pilots about some of AOPA’s most critical work, and then I got to just talk airplanes with them.

It was hard to leave Tullahoma, but I had to get to Denver where I spent Saturday morning with another enthusiastic group of AOPA members. This time we were at the Wings Over the Rockies Museum with its enormous hangar filled with military and civilian aircraft, historic flight suits, and even an X-wing replica for you Star Wars fans.

I spent Saturday morning talking to AOPA members at the Wings Overs the Rockies museum in Denver.

I spent Saturday morning talking to AOPA members at the Wings Overs the Rockies Museum in Denver.

I was joined there by Rob Hackman, our vice president of regulatory affairs, and Dave Ulane, our regional manager for the northwest mountain states. More than 200 people turned out to hear about my priorities for AOPA, learn more about state
aviation issues, and get updates on big regulatory efforts, including avgas, changes to aircraft certification, and our medical petition. They had some great questions about where GA is headed and what AOPA is doing to protect our freedom to fly.

So my weekend was just the way I like them—all about aviation.

Preparing to meet the future

Friday, October 18th, 2013

As president of AOPA, I am proud to lead an organization that’s been protecting the interests of pilots for almost 75 years. It’s a legacy I want to advance, and I believe it’s my job to help make sure the next 75 years are just as successful.

That’s why I’ve made some changes to AOPA’s organizational structure that will help us focus on our core mission, bring our revenue and expenses back in line, and position us for future growth.

Yesterday, we announced a reorganization. The biggest changes are in our government affairs division and our programs to grow the pilot population. Both of these areas are top priorities for AOPA, so they need to be structured in a way that helps us get results.

In government affairs, we needed more flexibility and better integration between our legislative and regulatory activities. To do that, we’re changing the way we deploy staff members so that our subject matter experts will have the support they need to address such big issues as avgas, aircraft certification reform, and NextGen implementation.

When it comes to growing the pilot population, we’re moving toward greater collaboration with other aviation advocates. For example, we will be working more closely with EAA’s Young Eagles program. At the same time, we will keep expanding programs that make flying more accessible and affordable, including supporting and growing flying clubs and helping lapsed pilots get back into the air.

These are the biggest changes, but we’ve done some reorganizing across most of AOPA’s departments. Every change was made with a clear goal in mind—using our resources efficiently to achieve our members’ priorities.

In some cases, the shift has made positions redundant, and as a result we have released 12 staffers. Cutting jobs is never easy, but we owe it to our members to be fiscally responsible.

AOPA is financially strong, but like you, we can’t afford to spend more than we make. I believe strongly that the new structure will make us more efficient and effective as we focus on making sure general aviation and AOPA are still serving pilots a century from now.