General Aviation Serves America Archive

Reasons for optimism

Monday, October 5th, 2009

This past week I flew into Pittsfield Municipal Airport to speak to the Massachusetts Airport Management Association (MAMA). The airport is located in beautiful Berkshire County, Massachusetts, and it was a great opportunity to combine business and pleasure as I flew my Bonanza above the early fall foliage and terrific scenery.

Leaves begin to turn in Pittsfield, Mass.

Leaves begin to turn in Pittsfield, Mass.

Massachusetts is home to 37 general aviation airports, and the approximately 100 officials attending the conference serve in roles that are vital to preserving those airports–including positions as airport managers, members of the Massachusetts Aeronautical Commission, and area FAA representatives.

I love getting out and speaking to groups like this one because it gives me a great opportunity to hear about local concerns. While the details differ, the underlying issues are universal–airport encroachment, misguided legislation or taxation efforts, infrastructure needs.

This particular conference had a relaxed, informal atmosphere, and I was pleased by the excitement the audience showed over the General Aviation Serves America campaign–both our early successes and the work that remains ahead of us.

I left this event, as I do so many gatherings, with an acute awareness of the challenges ahead, and a profound optimism that the passion and cooperative spirit of the general aviation community will allow us to overcome any obstacles to ensuring a bright and vibrant future for GA.

General aviation at its best

Wednesday, July 29th, 2009

I am at Oshkosh this week for EAA AirVenture, and it’s a whirlwind as always. It just isn’t possible to fit in all the many things I want to do and people I want to see. But it’s a fun place to try.

Tom Poberezny and I shake hands after signing a historic cooperation agreement.

Tom Poberezny and I shake hands after signing a historic cooperation agreement.

AOPA has a much-expanded presence this year, and I am using the opportunity of being on site all week to accomplish a great deal of work, and have some fun, too.

I got to take a walk around the show at the beginning of the week and, as always, I was tremendously impressed by the sheer variety of aircraft, and businesses, taking part. If you ever want to see aviation in its full, diverse glory, spend a few days at AirVenture.

I also had the chance to be part of a panel of general aviation leaders invited to speak about the issues that concern our future. The panel was headed by EAA President Tom Poberezny and my fellow participants included Pete Bunce of the General Aviation Manufacturers Association, Matt Zuccaro of Helicopter Association International, and Ed Bolen of the National Business Aviation Association.

One thing was abundantly clear—although we each represent a slightly different segment of the general aviation community, we all agree that working together is pivotal to ensuring our future.

To help formalize that spirit of cooperation, AOPA and EAA today signed a memo of understanding saying that we will collaborate on a whole range of things from growing the pilot population through EAA’s wonderful Young Eagles program to using AOPA’s expert advocacy team to defend our freedom to fly on Capitol Hill and in states nationwide.

This agreement marks a major milestone for both associations, but I believe it’s just the start. I am really excited to see a new spirit of cooperation taking wing in GA. When we work together, the sky’s the limit!

Different groups, same goals

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009


Rep. Sam Graves answers questions at a town hall gathering in his hangar.

Rep. Sam Graves answers questions at a town hall gathering in his hangar.

This week finds me on the road, or rather in the sky, again to spread the General Aviation Serves America message to an ever widening audience.


But last week I enjoyed seeing just how diverse the spectrum of general aviation is when I spoke at two events in two very different places. The first group I addressed was the Flying Physicians Association at their annual convention held in Washington, D.C. This association is made up of doctors who also fly, and much of the gathering was devoted to discussions of various medical issues and technologies as they relate to aviation.


It’s hard to imagine a group of individuals who are more focused or intense about their passions than these highly trained professionals. And many are combining their medical training with their love for flying by working as aviation medical examiners, generally in addition to their primary field of practice.


They asked some tough questions and showed sincere interest in how they can play a role in promoting the General Aviation Serves America campaign to educate policy makers and opinion leaders about the value of GA.


The very next day, I traveled to Tarkio, Mo., to participate in a completely different sort of event—a great grassroots fly-in and airshow held at a grass airfield in this rural community. The event is put together by Congressman Sam Graves, a Tarkio native, pilot, and friend to general aviation in the House of Representatives.


Here the non-flying community joined pilots who fly in from around the region to be part of a wonderful day spent among aircraft, watching aerobatics, and seeing classic aircraft of all types. Families come out to see the show and kids look in wonder at the airplanes and dream of flying. It’s the sort of event that might have taken place 50 years ago, and it’s just as relevant and refreshing today.


Here too, to this diverse audience, I had the chance to speak about issues affecting general aviation and the ways we are addressing them through the General Aviation Serves America Campaign.


This audience, too, was intensely interested in what’s going on in GA and all that general aviation does to serve America.


And it was then that I realized just how much general aviation really does bring people together, ideologically as well as literally. These two completely different audiences in wildly differing locations shared a powerful interest in preserving general aviation. And while these groups use GA differently in many ways, both could clearly see the value in protecting it for themselves, for their communities, and for future generations.


Exercising our freedom to fly

Thursday, July 2nd, 2009

I have spent the past few weeks traveling all around the country—mainly to speak with groups of pilots about the value of general aviation and the General Aviation Serves America campaign.


The whole experience has been a wonderful chance for me to talk face-to-face with AOPA’s members about how they fly and why general aviation is important to their business and personal lives. It’s also been a wonderful validation of the efficient use of general aviation aircraft.


Last month, in a 48-hour period I was able to travel to California, New Mexico, Ohio, and Maryland. In that same time frame I was able to give a commencement address to UCLA’s political science graduates, participate in fundraising event for General Aviation Serves America, attend an important business meeting, and get back into the office in time to put in a full afternoon’s work. I could never have managed all that on such a tight timeline if I had been forced to follow airline schedules.


And I do it all the time. If I have a long trip to make, I try to plan my fuel stops around airports, pilot groups, or events I need to visit. Can’t do that on the airlines, either.


Almost every day I personally take advantage of the freedom general aviation gives me to get where I need to go, get the job done, and get back into the office. And I’ve done it for years. Long before becoming president of AOPA, I relied on general aviation to maximize my most limited resource—time.


I am sure many of you have had similar experiences—discovering that general aviation allows you to “warp” time and do things that simply wouldn’t be possible by any other means. That’s a story worth sharing, and I hope it’s one you’ll tell every chance you get.


I hope you’ll also take a look at this amazing YouTube video developed from pictures taken by general aviation pilots—it just may remind you of how extraordinary our freedom to fly really is. Share it with a non-flying friend to give them a unique insight into the world of general aviation flying, and consider inviting them up for a flight.  And, this Independence Day weekend join me and thousands of general aviation pilots in exercising one of the greatest freedoms we share—the freedom to fly!

Making the connection

Friday, June 26th, 2009

If you’ve been following our General Aviation Serves America campaign, you’ve heard me talk about GA’s remarkable power to connect people despite distances, and sometimes even across time. Well just this week, I experienced those connections first hand, thanks to a serendipitous fuel stop.


Returning to AOPA’s Frederick, Md., headquarters after a series of meetings in Arizona, I decided to make a stop for food and fuel in Ponca City, Okla. The service at Greenwood’s Oklahoma Jet was friendly and efficient. And when the alert staff recognized the 4GA N-number of AOPA’s jet, they asked if Ponca City Mayor Homer Nicholson—an active AOPA member—could stop by and say hello.


From left, Mayor Homer Nicholson, reporter Louise Abercrombie, AOPA President Craig Fuller, and Chuck Greenwood of Greenwood's Oklahoma Jet.
From left, Mayor Homer Nicholson, reporter Louise Abercrombie, myself, and Chuck Greenwood of Greenwood’s Oklahoma Jet

Naturally I was delighted to meet both Mayor Nicholson and reporter Louise Abercrombie of the Ponca City News, who wanted to know why I had chosen Ponca City as a stop.


The answer was twofold. First, it offered a GA airport with fuel and great food right along my route. Second, it was my mother’s hometown, and the place my aunt and uncle spent most of their lives.


But the connection, it turned out, went further. I soon learned that Mayor Nicholson knew my family and was familiar with my uncle’s industrial welding business. Abercrombie had been working at the local newspaper when I visited Ponca City with my parents as a young boy in the 1960s. 


What began as a convenient fuel stop in a familiar locale from my distant past turned into a wonderful opportunity to connect not only with that past, but also with the wonderful people who make up that community today. You can’t do that on the airlines!