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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.”

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.

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.