A stop in Emerald City

February 23, 2014 by Mark Baker

I was lucky to be able to spend the weekend in the Seattle area attending the Northwest Aviation Conference with thousands of my fellow pilots. I love coming to the Pacific Northwest. Not only is this a beautiful part of the country, but it’s also a place where lots of water means lots of seaplane flying, one of my favorite activities. Every pilot loves to compare experiences and share stories about their favorite aircraft and destinations, so I had a great time just chatting with folks who stopped to say hello.

But I also spent some time talking about the serious issues that affect our flying and taking questions from conference attendees. It should come as no surprise that the burning issues here in the Northwest are very much the same as elsewhere in the country. People want to know how we can control the cost of flying, what we can do to bring more people into aviation, and how we can stop government agencies from targeting innocent pilots

Legislation or regulatory changes that would let more pilots fly without the need for a third-class medical could really alter the landscape, saving money and making it easier for many people to keep flying or get back to flying. I don’t think it’s a cureall, but I do think it’s a huge step in the right direction. Promising alternatives to leaded avgas are another good sign for the future of GA. Finding ways to make airports more welcoming, to help rusty pilots get back in the air, and to make it possible to fly for around $250 a month, are also high on my agenda.

Mark Baker talks to pilots at the 2014 Northwest Aviation Conference.

Mark Baker talks to pilots at the 2014 Northwest Aviation Conference.

There was plenty of passion around all of these issues, but the biggest audience reaction came when I answered a question about the unwarranted stops and searches of general aviation aircraft by Customs and Border Protection. As I told the audience, I don’t know why general aviation is being singled out for this outrageous treatment, but I do know that America is supposed to be the “home of the free” and we aren’t going to stand by while the rights of law abiding pilots are trampled.

Stay tuned for more about our next steps and rest assured that we won’t let this issue go.




  • Jim Accuntius

    Just thought on the 3rd class medical. Even it the FAA would change given the BMI/sleep study response, will insurance companies allow this. The insurance companies have a lot more requirements than the FAA when it comes to coverage and what we fly. Has anyone at AOPA asked the insurance companies for a position on the 3rd medical proposal?

  • Ray Toews

    Less regulation is the key to increased pilots flying. Personal licensing is a big step but decreased regulation of aircraft is as important.
    Canada has adopted the Owner Maintenance Category for private non complex aircraft. This has been the single most important step in keeping me in the aviation fold.

  • Ray Toews

    Keeping the ethanol out of 91 octane Automotive fuel is a major factor in keeping my fuel costs down.

  • Sam

    I am glad to see that AOPA will continue to fight for our rights in this issue. I would also like to see AOPA continue to push for the driver license medical. And lastly I would also like to say that Mogas is a huge issue which AOPA seems to over look. Mogas could even be burned in your Twin Beech and it has the ability to increase flight hours through decreased costs.

  • Jason

    In my opinion, the obvious answer for why GA pilots are being singled out by Customs and Border Protection is that it’s the same thing as a driver in a red Ferrari being targeted by a highway patrolman. Having the means to speed or illegally import contraband does not mean you should be subjected to greater scrutiny but that’s just the way it is. The general public’s perception of private pilots flying private aircraft is that those pilot’s are wealthy individuals. From my time in law enforcement I can say that there are many that have no problem with inconveniencing those who are perceived to hold a greater station in life. This behavior is not ethical and I don’t condone it but the fact remains that there is a sense of power derived from inconveniencing “well-to-do” individuals who must comply with what they are told AND there is a sense of curiosity that plays into it as well; maybe the 28 yr old officer who is making only $40K/yr has never seen the inside of a TBM and wants to get a closer look. Such actions are obviously neither condoned nor supported through policy but these actions are carried out by individuals that many times have their own shoulder chips, curiosity or inferiority complex.