Uncategorized Archive

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.

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.

Sequestration and our safety

Monday, February 25th, 2013

As most of you know, President Obama and the U.S. Congress are in the throes of debate over federal sequestration and the resulting $85 billion in across-the-board spending cuts set to take effect March 1.
The cuts will take place automatically unless Congress acts to stop them. Politics aside, the impact on our safety and freedom to fly could be severe.

Dramatic and arbitrary cuts to our aviation system could compromise the safety of ourselves, our passengers, and our fellow aviators.

I am blogging about this today because I believe it is important for all AOPA members to understand how a government sequester will affect us as pilots, aircraft owners, and aviation enthusiasts. I also want you to know how AOPA’s regulatory and government affairs experts are working to mitigate the damage to general aviation.

Last Friday, the Department of Transportation and Federal Aviation Administration wrote to AOPA and several other aviation organizations detailing how sequestration spending cuts would affect aviation services.
The agencies said the letter was “just the beginning” of a conversation with stakeholders about how to “reduce the negative impact” of required cuts that are expected to reach $600 million for this fiscal year.  The letter cited several measures that would be enacted if a deal on sequestration isn’t reached, including the closure of 60 airport control towers during midnight shifts, the complete shutdown of more than 100 towers at airports with fewer than 150,000 flight operations per year, and a nearly universal staff furlough.

We’ve scheduled a meeting with other aviation associations and top FAA officials to hear more about the agency’s sequestration plans. We will share more details with you as they become available.

AOPA’s government specialists expect that, if sequestration takes hold, we will see a gradual reduction of services that may take weeks to become apparent. During that time we can expect mounting pressure on Congress and the White House to find a workable compromise.

We have spent the past few years building the largest and strongest General Aviation Caucus the House and Senate have ever seen. The members of this caucus have been very supportive of general aviation and are working with AOPA to find the best possible scenario for managing anticipated cuts. In our meetings on Capitol Hill, we have made it clear that the safety of our nearly 400,000 members depends on maintaining vital services, including air traffic control, weather and NOTAM information, updated charts, and other critical planning and operational tools. Airmen certification and medical services are also a concern, and we are working with our colleagues within the FAA to make sure the agency knows which services are most important to our members.

Standing in the shadow of the sequestration controversy is the president’s budget, which will also come out in March.  We expect it to once again include a $100-per-flight user fee. We anticipate that the House of Representatives will declare the president’s budget dead on arrival, and then enact its own budget bills (without user fees).  Those bills will go to the Senate, where a budget has not been acted upon for years.
Thus, we are still months away from knowing whether the administration will be able to advance its user fee proposal.

If past is prologue, chances of its passage are not good, but we can’t afford to be complacent. We will work to defeat proposed user fees, as we have successfully done in the past.

In the meantime, we hope that a solution to the automatic sequester can be found by March 1. Until then, please stay tuned to AOPA’s website and newsletters for updates on our meetings with the FAA and Congress, and for further news on sequestration’s impact on aviation.


My Take On Day One in Washington….

Tuesday, January 1st, 2013

Well, we have entered 2013 with some extraordinary political theater here in Washington, D.C.  We at AOPA remained vigilant successfully preventing any measure adverse to our interests from creeping into the debate. And, while I am not sure how many people were really watching this drama, many news organizations were following the actions with breathless minute-by-minute updates.  One of the best lines (and perhaps the most accurate) suggested that “the people who are talking don’t know, and those that know aren’t talking.”

So, the latest actions by Congress seem to have prevented going over the fiscal cliff in a free fall and provided a ramp for a slow descent.  Only in Washington could well-intentioned people congratulate themselves for doing something meaningful which most believe is inadequate and the latest official budget estimates suggest will add billions to the deficit.

Yet these actions should prevent the imposition of dramatic budget reductions in the 2012-2013 budget for the time being.  For the aviation community, these cuts could have had serious impact at airports and in our control towers.  Failure to act certainly had the potential of disrupting the progress on modernizing our air traffic control system.

Perhaps of even greater significance, failure to act would have threatened the economy and made prospects for economic growth even more remote.

So, a path forward was found and for that we should be grateful.

However, what we must realize is that the path forward will take us down a road to yet another large debate that the new 113th Congress must consider within the next few months.  In this debate, budget reductions will be demanded as the price of supporting a debt ceiling increase necessary to continue funding federal government operations.

I see many challenges in this next debate.  Some in the Administration suggest they will look for more revenue.  Members of Congress will insist on dramatic spending reduction.   While all of this will be called for in an effort to promote a stronger economy, there will be risks in this debate for our general aviation community.

In addition, while this debate plays itself out over the next few months, the President is required to submit to the Congress his 2013-2014 Federal Budget Plan.  Given the statements made during 2012, we have every reason to believe that the Administration will come in search of more revenue from the general aviation community and their search seems to focus on operational user fees.

Are we better off having been spared from a plunge off a fiscal cliff?  Undoubtedly we are.  Can we lessen our resistance to ill-advised revenue measures injurious to general aviation?  Absolutely not!

The drama that has been played out in Washington, D.C as we have entered the New Year seems only to have moved the deep and serious budget challenges down the road.  There were some who believed that this round needed to focus on the tax issues and they suggested the spending debate could be fought in February and March around the debt ceiling debate.  Whether or not we like it, this is the scenario that has played itself out.  The coming debate on spending is likely, in my view, to be even more difficult than the debate we have just gone through.

The bottom line is we have our work cut out for us as we travel this path that has been set with the actions taken on this first day of 2013.



Looking Forward to 2013

Monday, December 24th, 2012

Tom Haines, our editor-in-chief and AOPA LIVE anchor, and I sat down and talked about AOPA’s 2012 experiences and also discussed what 2013 may hold for us and for general aviation.  Tom’s good questions allowed for a wide ranging discussion that I hope you find informative!

Here’s the link: http://bit.ly/AOPALive2013

GA loses a friend

Friday, December 7th, 2012

All of us at AOPA and the AOPA Foundation were saddened to learn of the death of J.Lloyd Huck, retired chairman of Merck & Co., Inc. and lifelong supporter of general aviation. He was a thoughtful and dedicated advocate for GA who was deeply concerned about growing the pilot population and addressing the challenges facing the flight training community. He loved flying and wanted to be sure future generations would have the same opportunity to enjoy that unique freedom.

Mr. Huck began his flying career in the U.S. Army Air Corps where he first flew the B-17 before becoming an instructor and pilot on B-29 bombers. Even after his service ended, Mr. Huck never lost his love of aviation. He continued to fly until shortly before his 90th birthday when he donated the proceeds from the sale of his last aircraft, an American Champion Champ, to the AOPA Foundation. He had previously donated another of his personal aircraft, which became the AOPA 2009 Let’s Go Flying Sweepstakes airplane.

His commitment and generosity made a real difference for pilots. He will be missed.

Demystifying flying clubs

Thursday, November 15th, 2012

Flying clubs have been around a long time—almost as long as aviation itself. Until recently, they grew almost exclusively through word of mouth. If you were lucky, you’d meet someone who knew someone who belonged to a flying club—and that was how you might happen on to a community of like-minded pilots to help share the costs and joys of aircraft ownership.

It all seemed a little mysterious. How could you connect with a club? What if there wasn’t one in your area? What if you wanted to start your own?

Last night, we began the process of taking the mystery out of flying clubs and making them accessible to many more pilots who want to get more from their flying.

More than 630 pilots signed up to spend their Wednesday evening taking part in a webinar hosted by the Center to Advance the Pilot Community. Participants learned about how to start their own clubs, heard from the president of a Texas flying club that grew from nothing to more than 200 members in its first three years, and got some legal and tax guidance from a leading aviation attorney. Then they asked questions—literally hundreds of them—during a discussion moderated by Adam Smith, who leads the Center.

There were questions about insurance, financing, maintenance, leasing, structure, and more. But most of all, participants wanted the kind of practical, detailed advice they need to take their own interest in flying clubs to the next level.

The session was first of many to be held by the Center to help pilots start, join, and benefit from flying clubs in communities nationwide. It’s still early days, but the strong participation and active engagement of those who took part is more evidence that pilots are excited by the idea of being part of a community where they can share their passion for aviation—and save money and hassles so they can indulge that passion a little more often.

I want to thank everyone who participated in this first event. Your questions and feedback will help us focus our efforts and give you the information you need, whether you want to join a club, expand an existing enterprise, or start something completely new. I know flying clubs have a lot to offer, and I’m excited to be working on new ways to bring those benefits to a wider audience.

I invite you to learn more about how clubs can fit into your flying by visiting our web page at www.aopa.org/flyingclubs. Over the coming weeks and months, we’ll be bringing you new tools and information that can help you connect with a club in your area or even start a new one of your own. In the meantime lets keep the discussion going and learn from one another. You can take part by joining the AOPA Flying Clubs group on Facebook. See you there.

Rod Hightower leaves EAA, collaboration will continue

Monday, October 22nd, 2012

All of us at AOPA were saddened to learn today of Rod Hightower’s resignation as president of EAA. During his tenure AOPA and EAA enjoyed an unprecedented level of collaboration that has served members of both organizations well. Our associations have committed to working together to protect general aviation interests, promote GA safety, and grow the GA community in the United States. That commitment has been at the heart of the joint AOPA-EAA petition to allow an exemption to the third class medical, now under review by the FAA.

I am confident the EAA Board, under the chairmanship of Jack Pelton, will find the right individual to lead EAA into the future. In the meantime, all of us at AOPA look forward to continuing to work with EAA’s leadership team to develop innovative ways to address the challenges facing the general aviation community.

Finally, I have enjoyed getting to know Rod and Maura, and I wish them and their entire family the best in this new chapter of their lives.


An Open Letter to the ANN Editor-in-Chief

Monday, October 1st, 2012

An Open Letter to ANN Editor-In-Chief, Jim Campbell

Dear Jim,

Well, you told me several weeks ago that we were finding ourselves in agreement far too often so you would have to say something unflattering about me sometime soon.  I suggested that we’d welcome a kinder and gentler Jim Campbell….guess you rejected that concept.

Your morning opinion piece reached me early today, and while my first instinct is always just to let these missives sit, you throw so many people under the bus that I thought a response would be appropriate.

You seem to confuse being contrarian with being constructive.

What we need, is an honest discussion about the challenges and the opportunities existing in our general aviation community where things are continuing to change.

If fact, the one point I totally agree with you about is that we at AOPA are really working to do things differently.  By the way, not because initiatives from the past were wrong.  Indeed, the initiatives of the past built the strong and effective organization we have today.  But, as the saying goes, what got us this far, will not get us where we need to be in the future.

Things have changed, Jim.  Advertisers cannot spend what they used to.  Banks cannot sustain credit card arrangements and associations cannot spend valuable marketing funds in the same way they once did. 

The world has changed in many ways, but what has not changed is our mission.  We work passionately here to protect the freedom to fly!

During the past couple of years…

-          We fought user fees at the federal level successfully;
-          We opposed tax increases on aircraft that states threatened to impose and won 100% of the time;
-          We are working to shape countless regulations;
-          We work to insure GA is considered as airspace is modified;
-          We worked to help pass the Pilot Bill of Rights this year when many thought it could never happen;
-          We support local airport efforts against community opposition through the work for our full time regional team and 3,000 Airport Support Network volunteers across the country;
-          We are testifying from Capitol Hill to city councils about the value of airports
-          In this fight we’ve enlisted some great aviators like Harrison Ford, Morgan Freeman and individuals who use their aircraft to build their businesses and aid citizens in need…
-          And, much, much more! 

In all of this work, we team up with other organizations in the GA community.  Because we work together, others want to be part of what we do.  Remarkably, we now have in the US Congress the largest collection of elected officials ever as members of the General Aviation Caucus in the House and the Senate.  We’ve also seen resolutions sponsored in support of general aviation in almost every state. 

Your obsession for many months has been around change.  You look back to a different time and bemoan the fact we are a different organization.

I’m reminded, when we speak and when I read your concerns, of one great contribution that Albert Einstein made when he gave us his definition of insanity.  Insanity, he suggested, “is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.”

I think he has that right.  And, for associations, when traditional sources of revenue change dramatically, it would be irresponsible to just keep doing the same things over and over again.  We have not done that, nor will we.  Sorry!

So, let’s take a look at a few of the issues in this morning’s rant:

Flight Planning and Weather  –  we are very excited about our offering called FlyQ and the soon-to-be FlyQ Electronic Flight Bag.  You seem obsessed with this concept.  But, we’ve been in this space for many years.  We’ve worked with commercial partners in this space for many years.  We felt that the tens of thousands of members who come to our site to use this service could benefit from something more current.  We did not decide to just go it alone.  We spoke to numerous companies about the possibility of partnering to improve our offering.  We found a very fine general aviation company called Seattle Avionics and, with them, we are developing the next generation of something we’ve offered to members successfully for many years.  Have we been competing in this marketplace for dozens of years? Yes, we have.  Will we continue to compete in the marketplace?  Yes we will.  Isn’t that the idea about having a marketplace?  Shouldn’t we be encouraging innovation and affordable technology solutions to come to market?

Meetings – I don’t know how you receive information, but you received a copy of a letter to me from three companies before it reached my office (interesting professional approach).  I meet with our advertisers and companies in the industry all of the time and will continue to do so.  I did not need a lawyer to caution me about hosting a meeting with a “collective group” of companies who want to discuss how we compete in the marketplace.  A stroll through a law library will inform you that this gets much too close to antitrust issues.  So, no problem with meetings.  But, no collective marketplace negotiations.

Sporty’s – You elected to identify one company that AOPA has enjoyed a long standing relationship with on many fronts.  Our respect for what Sporty’s does for the GA community and the skilled management team is significant and we do speak with one another with some frequency.  In one small area, the AOPA logo collection, we have asked one another for some time what we might do differently.  It was not working well for either party a couple years ago and, from our perspective at least, it works less well now.  It’s the nature of the agreement that to change our approach, we have to terminate the existing approach with a 90 day notice.  That’s what we did.  We will take the time to look for something that might work better for our members as we enter 2013….no one fired anyone as you, or someone who contacted you, seemed to suggest.  Again, why do the same thing, the same way and hope for a better result….that’s not working for them or us.

People Leaving – I could not be more proud of the team we have here at AOPA today!  They work across the country and even internationally on behalf of our members.  It is true that when you have really good people and they have a great deal of visibility in the aviation community, they get recruited away.  So, I am also proud of an AOPA alumni group that is doing great things in the aviation community. They took the experience from here and continue to support the industry in good and important places.  And, as a place to work, I think we do our best to make sure we are inviting and attract new people.  You mentioned two fine individuals who recently joined us, Katie Pribyl and Adam Smith.  We are proud to have them and our members will benefit by their experience shaped at GAMA and EAA respectively.

Strategic Investing – OK, this is an area where we do not have something to announce, but you already see troubling consequences.  Here’s the thing, Jim, AOPA has resources and we are very well aware that there are serious issues confronting our general aviation community.  We could keep all of our reserves invested in funds and benefit by the interest earned.  Or, we could take some portion of these resources and make investments that might help the community and earn a return for AOPA that would help fund the advocacy and other work we do.

You see, Jim, no one comes through my door and says, “…hey, why don’t you just kick back and do less.”  Certainly, that is not the position you espouse.  You and others want us to do more and do it faster.  Well, if our traditional revenue streams do not produce as much, we need to find new ones.  Honestly, I thought this was about as attractive an idea as I could imagine.  Invest where we can make a difference to help our members and, in doing so, create the possibility of new revenue streams.

You cry foul.  But, did you know that AOPA first started developing commercial relationships with companies in the 1940s.  It’s been an important part of our history and it has allowed us to hold down the dues our members pay each year to less than what it cost for you and me to have one dinner together!

Now, you do make choices when you embark on this strategy.  By definition, you select partners.  Like I’ve said, AOPA has been doing that for decades.

What the community has the right to know is how we make choices.  Actually, Jim, it hasn’t really changed in 73 years.  We take action and engage in activities that benefit our members.  We need resources to do that and we find them as best we can.

I do believe that our members benefit from our ability to build and sustain communications platforms in print, electronic and video media that are the most popular, well read and viewed in the world.  I also believe that the best way I can serve the fine companies who market products to our members and the broader general aviation community is to keep these platforms strong and available for advertising and sponsorship opportunities.

We need a stronger marketplace, but we will not get there by shrinking from the challenges or the opportunities that are presented and available to us.

A Final Word

Jim, I have tried meeting with you to understand your point of view and I have ignored you.  Both approaches seem to take me to about the same place. 

I start every day trying to make a positive difference in this space we call general aviation.  If I am guilty of anything, it is in believing that others in our community start their day the same way.  While from time to time you test this belief, I will continue to embrace and hold on to my optimism.  It’s who I am.

What really sustains my belief in the goodness and enduring nature of our general aviation community comes not from sitting at a desk and writing a blog, it comes from being out with people.  It comes from talking directly to policy makers about the contributions the general aviation community makes across the country.  It also comes from doing the hard work of running an organization and working with other strong and good organizations.  It comes from talking with generous donors about what they may want to support.  In comes from learning from some of the great and successful innovators in the GA community where they see opportunities. And, it comes from standing in front of members in town halls and other gatherings and answering their questions while hearing and understanding their concerns.

Jim, I do not ever see you in any of these places.  Maybe that is why we see the world differently.

A pilot, AOPA member and very successful investor said over lunch a few days ago in California, “…I’ve been a member of AOPA since 1985 and I have admired what you do for us; however, I had become concerned about just how you and the other associations could survive.  After hearing about the new ideas, I’m convinced you will be around another 70 years.”

So, Jim, you can stay plugged into the past and be a contrarian.  Or, tune into what we are trying to do to build a stronger future.  Either way, all we can do is keep working in the directions we believe will benefit our members and, in this regard, repeating the same things and expecting a different result, no matter how pleasing to some, is not an option.

Craig Fuller
President and CEO
Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA)