An Open Letter to the ANN Editor-in-Chief

October 1, 2012 by Craig Fuller

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)

31 Responses to “An Open Letter to the ANN Editor-in-Chief”

  1. Chuck W Says:

    I have been a AOPA member since 1984 and reader of Propwash still working in the GA field. The issue is both of you are right to a point and this in-fighting will only benefit those that would like to us rich spoiled fatcats in our airplanes fail. Although I do own my own aircraft, I haven’t figured how to get a Fat-cat into a Mooney. Another victim of… The Barbrians are not only at the Gate, they are into funds that are paid by us (fuel taxes) with changing reporting methods through the DOT and funneling those funds based on human nature of Managers finding time or even knowing failing to file, which sends the funds elsewhere. That said as an example of how clever the use of human nature will divide us 1%ers and allow those with agenda to conquer. Even the part 121 operators tried a power grab for airspace control and you can bet there is no love lost on private owners not being fare paying passengers. I guess they aren’t GA, but some of the pilots/crews are.
    Both you guys are running media that can make a difference and one word of advise is “pride goeth before the…” I am glad it is out in the open and the issues aired. Jim is a bit of maverick at times and I see some personel bias at times, but he is trying to make a difference and AOPA has gotten quite large and all that baggage that goes with success. They too are working to make GA a better place and do seem at times to be a machine on autopilot based on what they were in 1984. That happens to any organization as the founders retire. You guys have got to get this rift settled in a way that makes the whole stronger or our enemies are truly in the mirror…

  2. Warren Peffer Says:

    Nice Chuck W.

    Could not have said it better myself. It seems that everyone wants to play war games. The past four years have been a perfect example. Jim and Craig! Please work together!

    Thank You!

  3. Aviation History Says:

    Anyone else remember a few years ago when AOPA refused to expose their financials for scrutiny?

    Anyone else remember AOPA downsizing their big building to save membership dollars?

    Anyone else think Craig Fuller and the rest of his executive staff is getting paid way too much for “talking” to the public?

    Anyone else have a problem with AOPA paying the last president an undisclosed amount of post-service compensation package?

    AOPA…Another Organized Ponzi Association

  4. Bert Fitch Says:

    Craig -

    Excellent letter. I’ve been around GA and NextGen development for decades, and it is nice to finally see some debate between our advocates.

    That said, I have been an on-again-off-again member. It is often difficult to determine what value I receive for my membership money. When a member, I received recruitment mailings every couple of months, always offering a pilot bag or other incentive to join.

    First, you spend my money trying to recruit me, again and again. Second, I want my money to go to the mission, not a membership gift. Pilots don’t need yet another pilot bag, we need our money spent judiciously advocating for our issues. Finally, I don’t need a wine club, travel service, or other added benefit. While I realize those items are revenue streams, what I would pay for is Focus, Focus, Focus.

    I would become a corporate member (if available) and attend every AOPA event if the organization would simply get back to the core purpose. Allow me to close my rant by agreeing that AOPA staff, past and present, have consistantly been a great group of professionals and rabbid aviation advocates.

    BF

  5. Len Assante Says:

    I guess I put myself in Chuck W’s corner. Infighting only serves to make us weaker, but at the same time, it is important to air grievances and discuss issues. We’ll never reach 100% consensus, but we don’t have to. What we MUST do is understand we won’t always agree, but we should respect divergant opinions. I enjoy my AOPA membership and I respect the hard work they do on our behalf. Do I think they are right 100% of the time? No. Do I think they miss the boat on occasion? Sure. But the rest of the time I am with them and I KNOW we (the GA community) are better off with them than without.
    I also think we need Jim Campbell around here doing his contrarian thing. Mr. Campbell and those of his ilk (I must say I see a bit of myself in his writing at times) bring a variety of perspectives to the table that the folks at AOPA HQ might not be thinking of. Both are stronger and more valuable with each other than without.
    The infighting we see among the segments of GA concerns me. But it shows we are a passionate bunch. Passion may inflame the words on an opinion page or blog, but passion is also what gets hard work done. Frankly, I think I’d be more worried if we all agreed, engaged in the resultant group think and got nothing done.
    Jim and Craig: Keep it up! Get together in a couple of weeks at PSP over coffee (or something more stout) and remember the common passion you both share. I’ll be there, and will gladly buy the first round. Wouldn’t miss it for the world!

  6. Ollie Washburn Says:

    Change, yes someone else promised us change four years ago and look where it has gotten this country.

  7. Dave Smith Says:

    Reminds me of the line from the “Right Stuff.” “You boys know what makes this bird go up? Funding, that’s what makes this bird go up. No bucks, no Buck Rogers.” Everyone expects AOPA to go out and do extensive and miraculous GA advocacy, which doesn’t happen on $45 of annual member dues- it never did. I’m no AOPA apologist, but you can’t fault AOPA for working to secure the resources necessary to do everyone expects. Advocacy work costs money, in ever increasing amounts. So they’re looking at new ways to generate revenue while trying to add value to what we like to do- that’s what every large advocacy organization is doing these days, including the NRA, AAA, and AARP, all of which I also belong to. AOPA is no different, and I appreciate the fact they’re taking a look at how they and GA will remain viable going forward, even if some don’t agree. After all, no bucks, No Buck Rogers….

  8. Charles Parker Says:

    My sense is that AOPA and in particular it’s executive section has become completely seduced by the beltway mentality.

  9. Curtis Eggen Says:

    Mr. Fuller, please do not be so dismissive of the concerns expressed by Mr. Campbell. He is not alone in these concerns, nor are they limited to corporate players that may dislike having to compete with AOPA in the marketplace.

    I am a “regular Joe” private pilot who flies on all-too-rare occasions for the sheer joy of it. I’ve been an AOPA member since 1995 but, in the last couple of years, have grown increasingly uncomfortable with: 1, the (real or perceived) obsession with money that seems to permeate the association since you took the helm; and 2, the (real or perceived) arrogance of the leadership in imposing this philosophy and responding to criticism of the same.

    Paradoxically, the arrogance of using this forum to personally attack and berate a critic that dares to question your methodology may be the very act that opens the floodgates: I supposed that I was alone in my concerns. I know now that I am not.

    Curtis Eggen

  10. Willis Steele Says:

    I have only been flying for the last 5 years or so, but the AOPA did help me through the mentor program, but I have seen a very disappointing change in the organization lately. The articles in the AOPA pilot magazine are expensive trips to exotic locations that benefit the editors who take them and cost the membership dollars that could be used for better things (New Zealand article for example). Not many of us will be able to do a New Zealand trip. This article was interesting but could have been done by using a local writer/aviator. Flying in France and Caribbean are again interesting, but do you really think this is good use of members dollars? The “junk” mail I am receiving from the AOPA is getting very annoying, second only to the AARP. I am feeling like the major interest the AOPA has is in my wallet now. I do appreciate the work to save local airports, supply flight planning online, political oversite etc. but why not focus on local airports, local events, more than an occasional quarter column piece. GA pilots fly to pancake breakfasts in South Albany, NY or ice cream at Jaffery, NH not Lobster in the Caribbean. I do feel like the AOPA is being run by a bunch of ‘high maintenance’ executives that are more ‘perk’ orientated. Most of us pilots are just average guys not gold coast pilots.
    Jim Campbell I think has some validate points.

  11. Doc Mirror Says:

    I started with AOPA in 1979. The 80s were a tough time, and we muddled through. Lately, the infatuation with a few Hollyweird types, and the use of a private jet which is blocked from member scrutiny begin to look a lot like the ‘right’ kind of pilots are not important. Taking any credit for the pilot bill of rights is insidiously disingenuous, and typical of what AOPA is like. All hat, and no cattle.

    I think a lot of ex members feel bad about leaving, but we look back on our association and realize that we didn’t really leave AOPA, they left us. The focus on commercial aspects, at the expense of legislative actions tells me and the people on the hill that AOPA is in it for the profit, although they are a non-profit. At that point, congress is free to bid us off to the highest payer, and if the commercial interests can pony up more money than us, we get the shaft.

    Grass-roots is where AOPA started, but they left the grass roots flyer long ago because we just don’t make and give enough money. So, the grass roots aviators are leaving in droves. Best of luck with the corp types, you’re gonna need it.

  12. Richard Wyeroski Says:

    I have been an AOPA member since 1969. I was a former FAA Inspector that got on the dark side of the FAA about an issue that went to the federal register. I contacted the AOPA and when the issue got too hot AOPA would not respond to my e-mails any longer. The issue was so important that if FAA had it’s way General Aviation would have taken a major hit. Maybe you will remember the term “ACTIVELY ENGAGED” and the FAA’s attempted to remove 50% of the A&P IA’s in the industry!

    AOPA was always for the little guy, but it seems you are afraid to stand up to the FAA, especially when they overreach and cause problems for the industry. Believe me I know the FAA and they know me. Sometimes government forgets who they are working for and AOPA may have lost it way with the grassroots of aviation.

    I believe in ‘UNITED WE STAND DIVIDED WE FALL” the government know this and AOPA needs to get back to it’s grass roots

    Richard Wyeroski

  13. T. Lawman Says:

    Sounds like a lot of folks here haven’t run into ole Jim Campbell before. He is the one behind ANN and the old U.S. Aviator. People just instinctively believe what is in print.. especially coming from a “news” outlet right? I would do some research on your own first about his background and experience (I’d use google.. not his bio on ANN) and then decide for yourself what might be going on. His nice looking website is probably not the best way to decide either.

    I’d suggest http://www.ousterhout.net/zoom.html as a good place to start. I’d start with the actual NTSB transcriptions where he was found “Mentally unfit”. Impersonating a doctor will do that… and it only gets better.

    Mr. Fuller, I know your staff has researched this guy fully and I know you hated to have to reply to his statements. You had to though for all the folks out there that don’t know the “real” Jim Campbell and the reasons behind his musings. So thanks for doing that. There are so many new good people entering aviation all the time that it is hard to educate everyone. So simply diismissing him would ONLY be best if EVERYONE did some research on him and knew his “true” background.

  14. J. Horner Says:

    I hadn’t read the article before I read this letter. Now that I have read the article, I feel that AOPA should only be worried/defensive if there is a thread of truth across the article. I don’t know that AOPA is as connected to its full membership as it should be, frankly. The issues Mr. Campbell point out cannot possibly be inventions; they’re rooted in something.

    Fifteen or more years ago, transparency wasn’t as important. The Internet wasn’t widely available, so discord among the troops was hard to aggregate. Now, it’s very easy. To Mr. Fuller’s point of things have changed, I believe that he should focus that comment a bit more internally and rationalize that the “old way” of communicating isn’t working well.

    I have had an AOPA membership since the point I started flight training; it was my second expenditure (the first was my Cessna kit). I also “support” AOPA through several of its products. I must admit that I have had a thought the last year that I wasn’t sure that I was getting the full value for my spend. It was very convenient to have an organization point me to these services, for sure. But as far as advocacy for the private pilot—I wasn’t sure I saw it explicitly led by AOPA. I’m reminded of a call I received asking for a donation for AOPA’s support of a measure in California that prevented legislation that provided protections for flight students. AOPA supported the flight school position that the requirements imposed by the bill were onerous, and would put them out of business. It seemed to me, at that point, that AOPA was leaving the students out to dry in favor flight schools. As a student who had a bad (and costly) experience with flight instruction, this clearly went against my interests. I asked the AOPA telemarketer to not call me again, which they’ve honored.

    The point here is that I think AOPA should embrace the feedback in Mr. Campbell’s article, look at itself through the eyes of others, and then make corrections where necessary. At this point, it seems like AOPA has set a particular heading without incorporating wind corrections, and is still expecting to arrive at the destination as though there were no winds.

  15. B. Rogers Says:

    T. Lawman,

    We don’t need Jim Campbell to know that AOPA has failed its membership, and they have been failing for a long time now. People like you are sheep who can’t see past the pastures and glossy magazine covers AOPA spew out. AOPA is pretty out of touch as an organization. I know many people who have left the organization including myself. I’m tired of seeing AOPA’s incessant solicitation for money, while giving away crap “gifts” in order to attract members for its own benefit.

    Craig Fuller is getting paid AND compensated very well with membership dollars; along with his executive managers. What do we get as members? Legal service that won’t answer direct questions. Customer service that is marginal at best. Ineffective efforts in stimulating pilot growth. Biased research that blames flight instructors for student drop outs. Nonstop junk mail that costs postage (read: membership dollars). Duplication of services that is already well executed in the market. Another words, AOPA is being executed inefficiently and ineffective at its core mission.

    What AOPA doesn’t want you to know, and they will fully take credit for, is that pilots have been supporting aviation locally, and have done more for aviation than AOPA ever can. Showing up at Air Venture, Sun ‘n Fun, and running their Summit does little for us. What it does do is support corporations, and in turn, AOPA generates a boat load of cash…to pay for their executives, and whatever else they are not disclosing.

    So why support AOPA? So that we can wave a flag…for what? If you want to see general aviation thrive, save your $45 and whatever else you waste with AOPA and redirect that money to your personal aviation activities. AOPA can’t exist without membership. That’s why they work hard to get members and not as hard in representing them.

  16. Tom Coleman Says:

    I let my AOPA membership lapse a number of years ago and don’t feel compelled to return.

    There is no question that AOPA fights for aviation and for pilots. A number of years ago, no doubt influenced by the events of 9/11, the State of Michigan passed a law requiring criminal background checks for pilots. AOPA tried to reason with them, and then sued the State in Federal court. As a result, the State repealed ill-advised law.

    After Phil Boyer retired, I questioned the selection of Mr. Fuller as President, but was disappointed to find that I was unable to find any place to voice my concerns. Have you ever tried to find a list of Directors of AOPA? My impression at the time was that they were trying to conceal their affiliation. I have since learned how to find information about non-profit organizations, but really, if AOPA serves my interests and is interested in my opinions, should I really have to hunt?

    As time went on, I was left with the distinct impression that AOPA’s flagship magazine was not targeted at me. I don’t own an airplane, I will never fly with the likes of Harrison Ford, I don’t wear a watch like John Travolta and will never fly airplanes in the class that Tom Haines routinely reviews.

    When I want a dose of fantasy, I can turn on the TV or watch a movie. I don’t want fantasy from AOPA.

  17. Paul Peterson Says:

    After reading through the previous posts, I can’t help but feel discouraged about the apathy that exists with the aging pilot population.

    Most of posts were filled with criticism and negative comments. Can’t recall any positive suggestions or constructive comments that were made.

    General Aviation is in a world of hurt. I’m glad that we have an organization like AOPA leading the way, addressing the many issues that confront GA today.

  18. Chip Davis Says:

    Craig, decades of experience has shown that arguing with Zoom is a waste of perfectly good electrons. He first surfaced in the 80′s on the rec.aviation newsgroup, where he quickly became a disturbing and disruptive force. Facts and reality held little sway in his flame-wars. Google may still have them in its archives.

    He has been clinically diagnosed as mentally ill for most of his life, exhibiting a tenuous grasp of reality, anger-management issues, and megalomania. Sadly, he learned that he could get away with his sociopathic behavior by shouting down anyone who disagreed with him.

    When he started USAviator, he amped up the volume to a national level but ended up defrauding most of his advertisers, then suing them for having the temerity to call him a crook. (He always lost.) Now he has his ANN aggregator blog and an even wider audience for his screeds.

    There is a reason that he was banned from Sun-n-Fun and is usually escorted off the Airventure field. He sees himself as the intrepid muck-raking reporter of corruption and defender of the common pilot. He is none of those, merely an attention-seeking child who screams in the grocery until someone gives him what he wants.

    You do him a huge benefit (and the AOPA a disservice) when you dignify his rants (even the valid ones) with a thoughtful response. He will use them to demonstrate that he is a force in the aviation world. He is, but it is a malevolent one.

    Those of us who have had to deal with Zoom (his self-annointed callsign) for thirty years, know that the only way to deal with him is to stridently ignore him.

    So sorry you have to deal with this.

  19. Luc de Gaspe Beaubien Says:

    IMHO not only is AOPA off mission but your are failing the membership at a critical time.

    The AOPA’s mission is, and I cite:

    “The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), a not-for-profit individual membership association, effectively serves the interests and needs of its members as aircraft owners and pilots, and establishes, maintains, and articulates positions of leadership to promote the economy, safety, and popularity of flight in aircraft.”

    Yet the critical objectives make no mention of cost reduction…so how can AOPA justify the mission stating “economy” , not listing it as an objective AND BITING THE HANDS THAT FEED THEM? Compete with your vendors and you may arguably lower the initial cost BUT:

    -You’re off course and will alienate innovation/participation from innovators (recall avionics is the true meaningful innovation of the last decade; so why not launch your own NAV COMM line?)

    -You’ll not “grow the pie” . These new entrants would acquire aircraft, staff departments etc which bc of your economies of scale AOPA would not.

    Look a the motorcycle industry. It is growing for 2 reasons: attracted nontraditional entrants’ (women , retirees, …) thru programs and products: like the CAN AM Spyder, a 3 wheel stable platform. It’s not for the purist but the pie grew; rather than get divvied up. The Motorcycle Industry Council did launch products for that: they helped OEMs interpret regs, modify them and come up with training programs…HMMMM. Novel!

    If I wanted a business relationship and some risk-reward investment/return scheme I’d buy shares. If I had shares in a company that ceased a relationship with a vendor that generated profits / revenues without having a replacement (the Sporty’s issue) I’d sell my shares. Mr. Fuller and the AOPA Board should be aware: With the plethora of rental car discount programs and other fidelization schemes out there; AOPA is lost in the noise (they’re competing against the programs from everyone from AARP to Starbucks).

    I want a grassroots organization that can get things done…like explain to the President the benefits of GA (economic impact and number of jobs) and the actual tax benefits of off shoring your aircraft…you don’t get a deduction for that!

    Raise funds primarily thru membership and endowments: that is a measure of how your value is perceived! Stop listening to the bankers and CFOs. They can only tell you if you made money last year (actual quote from a top 5 aerospace CEO).

    AOPA is continuing flight into IMC and they are not IFR rated! They need a coordinated turn 180 degrees from present course.
    But that is OK. They can become a different organization. I (as an instrument rated private SEL/SES owner) can chose not to support them as they “evolve”. Will they survive? At least the incessant promotions from AOPA will cease cluttering my mailbox and inbox.

    PS:cancelled my subscription/ was on auto renew since 1994!

    PPS: Tried cc’ing Mr Fuller directly but could not find his email address on the site. A grassroots President who does not have a discoverable email under contact us tab…????

  20. Jack Esposito. Says:

    Let us not lose site of the fact that AOPA has moved us forward to the 21st Century in a turbulent economy that has placed a
    strain on many segents of aviation. They could very well have frequented the local pancake breakfast (as one reader suggest)
    and let us continue to use our E6B computer and paper Jepp plates while we all paid our dues.

    I wish I had this laptop thirty years ago when I was tasked with flying a long range business jet to places in the world that I could
    not even spell. AOPA put me in touch with a person in the State Department to gain valuable information required to enter the
    countries we were about to visit. AOPA was our source to gain the required landing permits required in those countries along
    with proper passport and visa requirements. It was a lot of phone calls and a lot of paper work but the final result was a trip
    that allowed me to do what I do best and that was flying the aircraft with long range navigation systems that were well before
    GPS came along. The efforts of this organization have not changed and their expertise in keeping up with the latest technology
    (AOPA Live as an example) has made me aware that the new generation of pilots is in good hands.

  21. Nick Cain Says:

    Craig,
    Unfortunate that you had to respond to the ranting of Jim Campbell. His site is valuable for current events and aviation information, so it is widely read. It exists and has an audience. That is reality. Campbell’s mental fitness history is also widely read.
    Separating the personal attacks from the concepts that have merit is the challenge. I find it disturbing that so many people complain these days. About everything. If I don’t want to buy wine from a club…. I don’t buy it. Simple. Change the channel.
    Running an organization and having a voice in Washington is expensive. I don’t see that anyone else is going to accomplish that.
    My $45 each year is a very low expenditure. Blaming AOPA for the cost of aircraft and fuel is way off target.
    I don’t see our president (US not AOPA) lowering the price of gas. Just not going to happen. Just the FlyQ software is easily worth the cost of membership. I read travel magazines too. An exotic trip report does not generate a complaint letter from me, just because I won’t be going there. Grow up dear fellow members. The AOPA has a difficult and expensive challenge, just as AARP and other organizations do. It will evolve and face these, but not solve them all as some members who appear far to naive seem to expect. Count me in for continued membership. I can ignore extra mailings. They are just part of the landscape these days. I enjoy the Safety Foundation course offerings and they are simple to do from home on my computer, or iPad on the road.

  22. Frank Shaw Says:

    I also agree with the majority of posts that AOPA seems to have lost touch with me and most of the pilots I know. I don’t need or particularly care about articles on the most recent jets, multimillion dollar pressurized turbine aircraft or exotic vacation destinations. I feel it is a waste of my membership money to have it spent flying AOPA employees to those destinations or to pay for time in extremely high dollar turbines and jets. I would like to see my money spent supporting ways to make aviation more affordable and available including a workable avgas replacement, broadening access to non-ethanol mogas, bringing changes to the FAA process of small GA airplane certification, among many others.

    I would hope that Mr. Fuller and the execs at AOPA not only read but take to heart what their membership is telling them in these responses to Mr. Fuller’s open letter. It seems that AOPA has become bloated and lost focus on the small plane GA pilot. I would like to think that’s where the majority of AOPA’s membership is and also where AOPA’s focus should be shifted to, maybe I’m wrong on that though. While I personally find Mr. Goyer of Flying magazine a bit pretentious there is a significant amount of additional feedback from current and former AOPA members on this topic here: http://www.flyingmag.com/blogs/going-direct/aopa-comes-under-gun

    Hopefully AOPA leadership will not simply dismiss this feedback as loud noise from a vocal minority and will shift their focus from running with and writing for the “jet set” to meeting the needs and interests of GA pilots who don’t fly and can’t afford $400,000 Cessna 172′s and multimillion dollar turbines and jets. There are other organizations to cater to that group.

    Frank Shaw

  23. jim hanson Says:

    I left this message on the ANN message board.

    It’s normal–organizations grow and are successful–until they become so large that they are no longer responsive (EAA has been accused of this)–then a smaller, more nimble, more focused organization better serves the needs of the consumer. The Federal government is the ultimate example.

    I’ve been a member of AOPA for 27 years. Things I like: Their magazine has surpassed Flying magazine as the best all-around publication. The quality, content, and advertisements are the best. As an FBO, I like the ability to rapidly get responses to questions when calling AOPA headquarters–they are the best of the alphabet aviation organizations. When the FAA overstepped their bounds locally, AOPA was right there with legal help and advocacy. They ARE effective in beating back rogue regulators.

    Things I don’t like: A constant barrage of junk mail, e-mail, and advertisements. I would rather they just continue doing their job as aviation advocates. Item 2–I’d like them to do more issues in changing our industry–like the AOPA-EAA partnership on the medical issue. The entire aviation regulatory system is a relic, and needs review. That should keep them busy for the next 20 years!

    That being said, EAA and AOPA are the best advocates our industry has–I certainly wouldn’t disparage them.

  24. John Springthorpe Says:

    It seems that many (most) of the posts on this issue are from folks who have cancelled or not renewed their membership in AOPA. If you find fault with the organization, it makes sense for you to vote with your wallet and leave, but why then do you bother to read the website and respond to Mr. Fuller’s post? You aren’t a member anymore. Go away and allow those of us who are investing in the organization to be the ones who direct it.

    I am in my third decade of membership in AOPA. On every occasion when I have contacted them regarding something about flying I have received a courteous and helpful response. I have never been told anything by them in those responses that was later proven to be incorrect. They have been there when I needed them.

    Any organization has to evolve with the times. Communication is always difficult. Frequently, members only want to communicate when they have a concern, thus they ignore the information that routinely comes from the organization. None of us is perfect and AOPA has opportunities to improve on individualizing the channels used to communicate with us as members. Plus, I agree that there are too many wasted membership solicitations which waste precious resources.

    We are the reason the organization exists and AOPA should not forget that, but let us not forget that it takes a lot more than a $45 annual membership fee to accomplish all that we want done at the federal and state levels. There is no free lunch: we either accept less than what is necessary to maintain our freedom to fly; pay more personally; or allow the organization to find other revenue opportunities.

  25. Frank Shaw Says:

    My membership is on automatic renewal. I don’t anticipate changing that in the near future. The “If you don’t like it, get out” attitude might not be the best was to grow a broad based and vigorous organization. I could be wrong on that though.

  26. Don Arnold Says:

    Craig,
    So sorry you felt it necessary to lend your status to Zoom by engaging him. As a little guy homebuilder I have been reading him and about him for 20 years. I learned about Zoom many years ago from one of his alleged victims, so I wasn’t sure about the part where the judge found him a megalomaniac. But what I’ve read today is consistent with what I’ve heard. Expect Zoom to be overjoyed with the compliment of your response, it will keep him going for months. If anything good comes of this, it will be the increased awareness of who Jim Campbell really is.

  27. John Springthorpe Says:

    I don’t believe I said “If you don’t like it, get out”. At least that wasn’t my intent. I fully support a vigorous organization, but I believe the debate should be among those who are part of the organization. I just think you need to be a member to have a voice.

  28. Maynard McKillen Says:

    Mr. Fuller:

    Would you consider publishing your daily agenda so that AOPA members know who you meet with, where, when, and how you travel to meetings?

    The company you keep needs some keen scrutiny. There is an imbalance in the variety of people with whom you engage in deep, thoughtful discussion about the future of general aviation.

    Have you cut the grass at a small airport lately, or helped change a tire on a Cessna 150? Such experiences provide balance, broaden and deepen perspective, help prove you have (or want to have) some skin in the game, help show that you don’t fill your days with meetings in which you calibrate every sentence to please an affluent audience, and during which you demonstrate fluency in corporate-speak.

    In your open letter you have unknowingly revealed that the efforts AOPA has made to alter/shift/create a revenue stream to help perpetuate the organization have also had unintended and undesirable consequences. Who exactly you spend your time talking to is one such consequence. Where is another. How you get there is another.

    I suggest that as much as you want to believe that you and other AOPA personnel have applied business and financial experience and acumen to the funding problem, allegedly for the good of the organization, you have also, collectively, invited in an attendant but troubling mentality that has alienated many AOPA members and former members.

    It may have seemed a good idea to perpetuate the organization as a quasi-business entity (while superficially continuing to insist it is a broad-based GA advocacy group), and to populate AOPA management with people who by education, training or inclination borne of inexperience tend to reinforce this bias that AOPA is, or should evolve into, a quasi-business entity, but this has had the damaging consequence of making preservation of the “business” more important than listening to, and acting on, the concerns of members, all members, I repeat, all members.

    Many AOPA members and former members express this sentiment, but, in a way all too familiar to individuals who have to exert themselves mightily to get the attention of a corporation, AOPA management is not sufficiently accountable, accessible, or transparent. AOPA has become too corporate. Whatever advantages that creates for AOPA as a business entity, it destroys the collective benefits which made the organization attractive to those who love to fly, but who don’t find and maintain (or lose) a large part of their identity in the corporate mindset.

    Forming a collective to advance and represent your interests within a larger community gives voice to the concerns of the collective members. Their concerns are the focus, agenda and purpose for the collective. But you have topped this collective (read: not a business), AOPA, with a corporate-style management, and now impose upon the organization a corporate agenda, focus and purpose at odds with the needs of the members.

    The focus, agenda and purpose for which the organization was founded have been hijacked, whatever protestations you make to the contrary. This entity AOPA has become may survive as a quasi-business, but current AOPA policy reflects the work (prejudices) of a handful of like-minded individuals, and exposes their glaring short-sightedness, limited life experiences, lopsided education and political affiliation.
    In evidence, I cite the misinformation campaign AOPA has mounted to prevent an honest discussion of User Fees. The shameful way in which AOPA has cherry-picked data, selectively reported it to create lies of omission, conflated and collapsed cause and effect relationships, allowed and encouraged mis-perceptions to flourish, descends into partisan politicking of the lowest kind.

    AOPA is no longer a people-first, members-first organization. What it more closely resembles is a corporation, managed now by those who benefited from the supply-side economy built in the last several decades, and whose members concern themselves primarily with preserving the economic status quo. Of course, they number among the beneficiaries of the status quo.

    If AOPA really did listen to all of its members, they’d be supporting the User Fee proposal, and citing the FAA’s statement that, “The fact that fewer than 500 users would account for 95 percent of the billable flights presents opportunities for significant efficiencies in the billing and collection process.”

    No massive new bureaucracy needed here, but AOPA members have to look beyond any “source” of information proffered by AOPA management to get an accurate picture of how User Fees will affect, and not affect, corporate and private aviation.

    It’s clear that AOPA goes to bat for the 500, at the expense of thousands of other members.

  29. William Blatter Says:

    I have been an AOPA member since I began flying in 1998. I have always thought my membership dues were reasonable, even cheap. I have enjoyed the magazine, even the features (articles, adverstisements, etc.) regarding equipment and lifestyles beyond my reach. The online flight planner, legal services plan, turbo medical, and support hotline have all proven invaluable to me over the years. Yes, I get the occasional piece of junk mail. But unlike many other organizational solicitations, I have actually purchased a few items from those mailings over the years. The only downside has been the need to transport unwanted ones to the garbage can every now and then.

    I was unaware of the brewing dispute concerning expenditures, salaries, and service to higher-end operators until reading this group of comments. It seems to me that AOPA has a very broad audience with different, and sometimes conflicting, objectives amongst the various member subgroups. That is not, however, to say that the organization favors one such subgroup over another. The recurrent complaints regarding service to “corporations” and “fat cats” are genuinely disturbing, echoing as they do the envy and acrimony promoted by the current occupant of our White House.

    For my part (and I am one of the “little guys” so prized by the noisier complainants), I value AOPA’s work and have benefitted extensively from it, as have all aviators. I recognize that there are other members who are differently positioned and who hold interests and objectives different from my own, but, for the most part, the bottom-line mission for all of us is the same. The argument that AOPA somehow serves or favors one sub-group of its memerbship over another is not supported in my experience, and seems to me ridiculous.

    The gentleman who reminded us from “Top Gun” that funding is what makes aircraft fly hit the issue on the nose. We may not like it, but in today’s Washington-ruled environment, we have to play the game to maintain our perks. And that game costs money – lots of it. The fact that we (GA) are still here (unlike virtually any other country) is in large measure attributable to the aggressive actions, political and, yes, financial, of our organization and its leadership. So instead of quibbling about the nickles which constitute the entire participation of 98% of our esteemed “core” members, we should do more to help – making voluntary donations, becoming lifetime members, and yes, purchasing products from those annoying, unrelenting solications. As a very wise man once commanded, ask not what your assocation can do for you; ask what you can do for your association.

  30. Stan Lee Says:

    A quick comment to all of of you who left critical or skeptical comments; Well put! I cannot express anything better than has already been said. Before I let my membership lapse I would like to see Fuller or some of his staff rebut or address some of the concerns raised on this thread. I highly suspect Craig F and his over paid top heavy staff is too concerned about large corporate accounts to worry about the common members. Sad time for AOPA.

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