Uncategorized Archive

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)

Speaking up for GA in AK

Monday, September 17th, 2012

For those of us who live in the “lower 48,” Alaska can sometimes feel a world away. But it’s a state I love to visit, not least because so many of the residents are involved in general aviation.

Today I had the privilege to be part of an event with Sen. Mark Begich of Alaska, as well as Pete Bunce of GAMA, Tom Hendricks of NATA, and Ed Bolen of NBAA. Sen. Begich co-chairs the Senate General Aviation Caucus and routinely speaks out against user fees and in favor of general aviation. He’s worked to ensure that avgas remains available even as the industry seeks safe and affordable alternatives. And he has fought hard against new taxes for GA operators. In short he’s a real friend to GA.

Senator Begich

Sen. Mark Begich speaking to an audience of Alaskan aviators.

The crowd that gathered for the event was enthusiastic about protecting GA, too. And for good reason. Tourism is an important part of Alaska’s economy and hundreds of thousands of tourists each year take advantage of GA to go flightseeing or fishing. Residents, too, depend on GA for transportation, access to medical care, and the delivery of everything from food to mail.

It should come as no surprise that this was a knowledgeable audience that asked pertinent questions and really understood the issues facing general aviation.

It’s been a great trip to Alaska and I look forward to returning to this beautiful state with its GA-friendly atmosphere. If I’m lucky I’ll find a way to bring my Husky north for some real backcountry flying.

Teens get their first taste of GA with AV8RS

Sunday, July 29th, 2012

Thousands of young people dream of taking to the skies, whether for fun or a career, and AOPA is supporting those dreams with our new AV8RS teen membership. We launched the new membership at AirVenture on Saturday, and it’s a program I’m really excited about.

The young people who joined us for the launch of AOPA’s AV8RS teen membership program were excited to have a new way to connect with the GA community.

Teens between the ages of 13 and 18 can join for free to receive a digital subscription to Flight Training magazine as well as access to members’ only content on AOPA.org and specialized information just for them. They’ll even get free admission to AOPA’s Aviation Summit in Palm Springs.

The young people I met as part of the launch event were not only enthusiastic about general aviation, but also remarkably well informed. Many had gone to considerable lengths to gather information about GA and were excited to have access to AOPA’s extensive and authoritative resources. If you know a teen who’s fascinated by flying and wants to become part of the GA community, encourage them to become an AV8RS member. You can learn more about the program and sign up online.

A Very Special Moment at AirVenture

Thursday, July 26th, 2012

Yesterday, several of us had an opportunity to have a working lunch with FAA Acting Administrator Michael Huerta.  It was a briefing of sorts where a few of the general aviation leaders could discuss issues of importance with the Administrator and his top staff.  In the middle of a discussion on avgas, the door opened and EAA Founder Paul Poberezny asked if he could join in the discussion.  Paul shared his perspective on what AirVenture has become for the GA community as well as a few other thoughts on government and the FAA.  It was a remarkable visit and saying he was almost 91, Paul announced, “…I’m not running for anything!”  It will be one of the great moments of what has already been a wonderful week for us here at AirVenture in Oshkosh.

N24HU to OSH…then, Wyoming

Monday, July 23rd, 2012


Husky ready for OSH

I’ve got the gear, now all I need are some clothes and weather window, and I’m headed to AirVenture.

It’s an ambitious trip, but that’s what July and August are for, right?

 Not only is EAA AirVenture starting in Oshkosh (KOSH), it’s time for AOPA’s Sweepstakes Husky to work it’s way West for the AOPA Summit in Palm Springs. Since Pilot senior editor Dave Hirschman and I have been flying the Huskies together all year, it just didn’t seem right to sit this trip out.

So, my Husky is getting loaded today to start a trip that will take me to EAA AirVenture for the week and then onto Wyoming and Montana. We’re taking the Tougher than a Tornado Husky through Afton, Wyoming where Aviat builds the Huskies to get it’s final scheduled service before we find that lucky winner and announce him or her from Palm Springs in October. Of course, a trip to Afton (KAFO) also allows for a tour of the Grand Tetons and Jackson, Wyoming. This is some of the most scenic country in the West. I will take time along the way to post a story or two in AOPA NOW….so, I hope you enjoy the adventure.

PS: In case you are wondering what all the stuff is…from left to right there is The Claw tiedown system; a Snap-on Tools bag; a great new survival bag from Prepared Pilot; a tall red bag with a chair; a red bag with extra clothing; my canvas flight bag for the Husky; the blue bag for the plane cover and the black bag with oil and stuff. All I need now are a few clothes!


Topping off the tanks before we launch for Oshkosh.


Aircraft Electronics Association – Live Coverage

Wednesday, April 4th, 2012

We always look forward to seeing what is coming in avionics during the annual conference sponsored by the Aircraft Electronics Association (AEA).  This year the meeting is in the Washington, D.C. area.  Portions of the event are being covered live by Aero-News which has permitted us to share the link for coverage.  You can watch now at – http://bit.ly/HfKAgD .

Live coverage is on right now.

Our AOPA team will be on hand during the week and we will have reports as well.  You will find those at www.AOPA.org.

Huskies South…Day 3

Friday, March 23rd, 2012

It may not be for everyone, but honestly, it is pure pleasure to be flying low and slow over the Gulf coast of Florida right now.  The winds are steady.  The air is smooth out over the water.  And, the scenery is just spectacular.

The Tornado Husky piloted by my colleague Dave Hirschman is also proving to be a fine photo platform for our colleague Paul Harrop.  Dave and I have discovered that all we have to do is fly the planes and Paul does a superb job showing our AOPA Online and AOPA LIVE audiences what this is like.   We are really excited about Paul’s work and I think all will agree he is a great new addition to the team.

Along the way, I enjoy taking a few pictures out of windows that open to the fresh salt air.

We’ve just wrapped up day 3 of our trip and are overnighting in Naples, Florida near the airport.  We’ve felt welcomed from the start!  The Huskies were surrounded by jets on the ramp at the Naples Municipal Airport, but the fellow on the line walked right up to the Tornado Husky and as a member expressed what virtually every member tells us…they are ready to win the aircraft.  Soon, Ted Soliday, the executive director of the City of Naples Airport Authority stopped over to say hello since he heard we were headed his way.

Today, we left Ceder Cay after breakfast and made a hop to Venice where we fueled up and enjoyed a light lunch at the airport cafe.  It was quite good.  Then, it was a scenic flight to Naples.

Here are some samples of what I’m seeing from N24HU.

This shot was taken as we were both climbing above the broken to scattered clouds.  Once we reached the West coast of Florida, the clouds became widely scattered.

I circled around Cedar Cay (KCDK) airport as the Tornado Husky touched down.  Dave and I noticed there are a fair number of skid marks well past the numbers…the 2,300 foot runway is plenty long for the Huskies and many other planes….but, some people may have stood on the brakes rather than just go around when finding they were landing long.

Without the tundra tires, N24HU is just a bit faster….I pulled up just to get this shot.  We are just a little South of Tampa and enjoying the blue water.

Now there is a beach!  At this point, we’re not far from Naples.

With the camera gear and a few bags for the night in Naples, we were grateful for the fine service at the Naples Airport!

We look forward to a weekend of flying and an arrival at Lakeland for our SUN ‘n FUN preparations on Sunday.  The excitement starts on Tuesday and we hope if you are in the area you will visit Lakeland and take in the show!

A view from the Northwest

Sunday, February 26th, 2012

This weekend I have the privilege of spending some time in the beautiful Pacific Northwest. Skies may be gray, but the prospects for GA are sunny. I’m here to take part in the Northwest Aviation Conference, which brings together pilots from Washington, California, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Utah, and more.

This region is particularly active for pilots, and there are a great many places best reached by small aircraft. The conference is being held in Puyallup, just outside Seattle.

I started my trip by joining the Washington Seaplane Pilots Association for dinner—it the largest such event yet. With so much water around, it’s no wonder that flying floatplanes is a major pastime in these parts.

Arriving in Seattle for the Northwest Aviation Conference.

I’ve also spoken to attendees at the Northwest Aviation Conference—an annual gathering of as many as 10,000 pilots from the region.  And I’m meeting with leaders from most of the largest aviation associations in the region.

Joining me are Greg Pecoraro, our vice president for airports and state advocacy, and David Ulane, northwest mountain regional manager for AOPA, so I have the advantage of having with me experts on the area and specific issues affecting pilots here.

Coming here is a wonderful chance to speak directly to pilots in this part of the country about their concerns, and to collaborate with them on the issues that affect us all, including preserving our access to airspace, protecting our airports (on land and water), simplifying  customs and border issues, and preventing onerous regulations from compromising our freedom to fly.

We enjoy updating pilots on our national efforts, but we also listen closely to what they tell us about their flying. And we take that insight back to Washington where it helps us advocate for the needs of all pilots in all parts of the country.

Perhaps that’s the most important lesson I can take from all of these meetings. Though the specifics may differ according to where we live, the goals of all general aviation pilots are the same—enjoy our unique freedom to fly, and ensure that it remains intact for our children and grandchildren after us.