The tyranny of miscalculation

December 9, 2010 by Craig Fuller

About 30 days ago, an online group called AVweb posted a gross miscalculation, saying that executives at AOPA had received pay increases of 14 percent. That report was flat out wrong, and we said so. But the post stayed up for about three days before the publisher agreed to take it down, and it caused no small amount of angst.

The truth is that the top 10 people at AOPA saw salary increases of less than 3 percent from 2008 to 2009 and less than 2 percent from 2009 to 2010.

Since that initial post, we’ve responded in detail and in writing to numerous questions and spent two hours on the phone with the group’s publisher, editor, and chief operating officer.

Now, 30 days later, they have made no correction and no public acknowledgement of their error. In fact, the very individual who miscalculated the compensation figures now wonders aloud why AOPA spends so much on advocacy.

We anticipate more postings, and we will answer them with the facts.

In the meantime, let me share just a few highlights from the exhaustive information we provided:

• Total expenditures for AOPA in 2010 are projected to be lower than they were in 2008 and 2009.

• Total salaries paid to all AOPA employees will be about 2 percent less in 2010 than they were in 2009, due to a small reduction in the number of employees.

• From 2008 to 2010, AOPA reduced the number of employees by six.

• When asked why AOPA spent so much money on advocacy during an economic downturn, we explained that our “cycle of activity” is different from many other “business cycles.” With a new Administration coming to Washington in 2009 and the threat of a $9.5 billion user fee on the table, we would not have served our members by pulling back and cutting spending.

• When asked why AOPA uses turbine aircraft, we explained that the Association has made use of turbine airplanes for 30 years because it is an efficient way to move people and equipment around the country. We are, after all, a general aviation association.

I am very proud of what AOPA has accomplished in the past and the work we are continuing to do today. We are a large and strong organization dedicated to protecting our freedom to fly. And we continue to try new approaches and experiment with new offerings to our members.

We always recognize our members’ right to know what we do and why. We can only hope that those who want to post information about AOPA come to care as much about being accurate as they do about being provocative.

  • Ian Murdoch

    Keep up the good work!

    Contributions to AOPA are a good investment in keeping our skies open. We have seen more and more restrictions to our freedoms in many areas and I, for one, appreciate what you are doing to make sure that the regulatory environment provides no more or less than required to ensure safety and freedom of flight. Making a contribution to AOPA for advocacy is a bargain compared to paying outrageous and punitive taxes, which AOPA staff fights on a routine basis.

    I like the AVWeb site and I’m disappointed that they are not acting more responsibly towards an organization that is so effective in protecting our interests.

  • James Cavanaugh

    I have seen an increasing number of internet posts critical of AOPA. Same issues with EAA from time to time. It is really unfortunate. Both AOPA and EAA have and continue to provide outstanding services and advocacy for General Aviation. I am amazed at the shortsighted nature of people who complain about how both associations are run. Do they believe that this can be done for free? Do they somehow feel their annual dues are excessive? Both AOPA and EAA have dues that are true bargains. The respective association magazines are worth the dues alone.

    Seeing what AOPA and EAA accomplish on the budgets they have is astonishing. It may seem like a lot of money to some, but in reality for the work done and services provided to 400,000+ for AOPA and 160,000+ for EAA, it is a true austerity budget. And complaints about the use of aircraft is beyond comprehension.

    I could not be more pleased with the management and fiscal responsibility of both associations.

  • Stuart Baxter

    I questioned AvWeb by e-mail about their claim as soon as it was posted and received a rather terse reply telling me that there would be more to follow. Apparently like so many news outlets nowadays admitting you might be wrong is not something that’s done. The result is that what they print as facts will be taken with a lot more doubt from now on.

    You at AOPA are doing a great job. Keep up the good work and those of us out here slogging through the bureaucratic skies will continue to support you and your efforts.

  • Erich Stocker

    It is clear that these websites continue to publish information which is largely fabicrated at the worst and not substantiated at all at the best. AOPA continues to provide valued services to its members and these are increasing and not decreasing. So, a great deal of the money is obviously focused correctly. As far as advocacy is concerned amounts here have to increase and not decrease. I’m not sure why any AV web page would ever indicate that advocating for general aviation is not worth extra effort. There are more threats to GA now than at any time past: new avionic requirements, new fuel requirements, increasting AD, continuing push by ATA and the commercial arlines to control FAA and ATC as well as their increasing lobbying in Congress and the executive. Cutting back on advocacy costs makes no sense.

  • Fredric R. Boswell

    AOPA should publish annually salaries by individual for at least the five highest compensated executives. In addition, a list of aircraft owned/leased by AOPA should be published with total operating costs of these aircraft and the hours operated by AOPA executives. Members have a right to know trhis information, and AOPA needs to avoid looking like an old boys club operated for the benefit of a few senior level execs.

  • Stuart Baxter

    Fred should get a grip on things. I would be disappointed if the AOPA people were not flying around in GA aircraft. After all that’s what we are all about. Someone should point out that the cheapest way is not always the best way. Also I would like to point out to Fred that the salaries are public information Take a minute before looking for bad guys.

  • Bruce Ziegler

    AOPA is a bargain. From what I have seen the executives and employee compensation is in line with other similar organizations. I do read AVweb on occaision and am dissapointed with their one-sided article. I will take anything else published on their site with a large grain of salt from now on. I continue to support AOPA fully, and with my meager donations to their efforts.

  • Dwain Munyon CFII

    I have been flying for 51 years, have been a member of AOPA for 50 yeaars, and have no doubt in my mind that if it were not for AOPA and the work that they do, we, as general aviation pilots and busnesses would not be flying.
    I have also been in the broadcasting media for most of my working life and have been continually disgusted and alarmed at various branches of the news media who choose to publish and broadcast half-truths and outright personal-agenda untruths, and often written by personell who are totally in the dark about aviation knowledge and therefore unqualified to cover news about it.

    Dwain Munyon CFII Viroqua, WI

  • Dwain Munyon CFII

    I have been flying for 51 years, have been a member of AOPA for 50 yeaars, and have no doubt in my mind that if it were not for AOPA and the work that they do, we, as general aviation pilots and busnesses would not be flying.
    I have also been in the broadcasting media for most of my working life and have been continually disgusted and alarmed at various branches of the news media who choose to publish and broadcast half-truths and outright personal-agenda untruths, and often written by personell who are totally in the dark about aviation knowledge and therefore unqualified to cover news about it.
    I would have no objection to AOPA pub;ishing these salaries, etc as Mr. Boswell suggests.
    Dwain Munyon CFII Viroqua, WI

  • John Majane III

    AOPA and in fact EAA are doing a lot of work on our behalf in Washington. Face it the current climate is that anyone who is even perceived as doing well is a target with the crowd in power now and as pilots they think we are all rich and fair game. The Salaries may seem a high but are in the range of what these non-profits pay in DC. To get good people you need to be in the market and AOPA has many good people.

    The only change I would like to see with AOPA is for them to realise most of us do not own nor can we afford a high end airplane with a $50,000 avionics package. Most of us are like myself with an older plane that we maintain and fly but cannot justify or afford putting in 200% of the value of the plane into avionics. I like reading about the whiz bang stuff but would like to see AOPA do more to help the average owner out. The cost of Avionics is very steep when you consider a Garmin 530 is no more complicated than a $500 laptop and uses free government provided data bases yet it is over $10,000 to install. That is one of the issues with GA is that they are pricing themselves out of the market now, becoming a place for rich men and woman’s play toys. This is not the GA I grew up with where owners ranged from Auto Mechanics to Millionaires and was a sport for everyone if they cared to dedicate themselves to it.

    John A Majane III

  • Stuart Baxter

    John makes a great point about the avionics. I have a True Flight for a thousand dollars and a $99.00 per year subscription that does almost everything that my $12,000 (at the time) CNX80 that Jep charges me $455.00 for a subscription. I know Dynon makes all kinds of cool things for experimental planes for way less than we can get for our certified planes. Maybe AOPA can try to get us some legislative relief from what it takes to get new stuff to the market.

  • http://aopa howard schur

    i just dont see how using jet aircraft makes sense.

    with the new economic situation we all find ourselves in i find leaving my cessna 340a home and taking jetblue — than renting a car — makes the most sense!

  • Pat Reed

    I do not disagree that we need advocates for GA nor do I disagree that there are many areas that need GA support. Part of communicating the value of GA is utilizing aircraft to make the best use of our most valued resource-time. What I am mostly bothered about is the constant barrage of solicitations by AOPA. If you need to raise the dues, fine. Just don’t constantly send me notices about other ways to fund/support AOPA. I don’t need a wine club, for instance.

  • Tony Turner

    I agree with John on many things. AOPA is the tip of the sword that’s holding back infringement on our right to fly. With governments anxious to close down airports and looking for a reason to pass crazy laws that burden GA, we are luck to have someone on our side. AOPA is a good value no matter how you look at it.We receive our choice of one of two beautiful, slick, full color flying magazines and tons of aviation news delivered to our email box every day. Any other “normal” magazine alone would cost more than our membership to AOPA.

    Good people that are passionate about their work deserve to be compensated with a wage you can make a living from. We’re a non-profit origination, not a charity.

    I also agree with John that the cost of aviation in general is WAY to high. I blame it more on litigation and companies covering there rears. We’re way to quick to sue after “we” screw up…… somebody else had to be at fault.

    Good job AOPA, I’m with you all the way.

  • http://Salaries Dave Long

    What are the actual salaries and perks paid to the top ten wage earners at AOPA?

  • http://Salaries Dave Long

    What are the actual salaries and perks paid to the top ten at AOPA?

  • Dan Wychgram

    I second Dave’s question. In all this chat no mention of the actual salaries. What are they?

  • Stephen Samuelian

    I read both Avweb and AOPA ePilot religiously. I must say that I was wildly disappointed to hear how much money was going to the executives of AOPA at a time when everyone is hurting, AND they decide to raise our subscriptions rates. This organization is hugely important to aviation, but if the person running the business is making more than the average reader, PLUS the perks of the executive jet and everything else (which I feel is actually warranted, given the travel situation these days), how can we feel the organization has our best interests in mind?

    I’ve been a member since 2002, but I’d really like to see the figures and salaries of organization made available to members if I’m going to continue my membership into 2011. Pandora’s box has been opened, and even if it’s a ‘bonus’ for an outgoing executive, that’s a HEFTY bonus…

  • Kamala Krishnan

    I’d like to add my name to the list of people who want to see the salaries of high level execs published.
    It is my firmly held belief that ALLl organizations relying on public financial support should do so.

  • Tony Alvarado

    As a child my parents used to say that it was easier to criticize than it is to pay compliments. I have been a member of AOPA since 1987 if I remember correctly and just recently did I see a raise in fees. I can tell you that if everything else from gas to food had maintained that track record then maybe our economic situation in this nation would not be what it is today. Over 20 years without an increase is something an organization can brag about and I, as am sure many others are glad to be part of this organization which protects our rights. I am amazed at AOPA and the volunteers that constantly fight to keep airports open. When and if we ever got to the point of paying as much for fuel as our fellow pilots in Europe pay, will people realize what organizations such as AOPA does for us. When and if our airspace became as scarce as Chinas, will people realize what having AOPA means. Lets not forget there are lots of special interest out there trying to gain access to designated airspace for Unmanned Aerial Vehicles. If we leave it up to those folks, before you know it, we will all be flying below 1200 feet AGL from NY to CA.
    ( Being sarcastic of course) But you never know. I congratulate AOPA and all of its members for what they do and encourage AVweb to pick a bone with our politicians who fly bigger jets with lots more people and we don’t have a say so as to wanting to pick up the tab or not. AOPA flying turbine !!!! Common….
    Upper management or not, everyone is entitled to a pay raise. Doesn’t matter how much you love aviation, folks still have to make a living right? Just going out on a limb here but did Avweb report when congress voted themselves a pay raise of almost 50% ? Doubt it. Again, we are taxed with no choice for that raise. At least AOPA is a volunteer organization. YOU HAVE A CHOICE !!!!!

  • Michael Darder

    For those of you needing to see executive salaries, get a grip! Can you really not afford the yearly dues to AOPA? If not, how can you afford to fly any plane? I consider those dues to be one of the best deals anywhere. AOPA does an amazing job as an advocate of something I am passionate about. I only wish other organizations I’m involved with were so efficient and effective, and at such a low cost.

  • Mark S.

    I believe AOPA is doing a lot of good work for the aviation community and I will continue to support them (for now). However, I have read many of the articles critical of AOPA and I believe they raise some important concerns that AOPA needs to address. Particularly the use of money. One example, the AOPA Wine Club. This seems like a significant deviation from the mission of AOPA. Should OUR association be using it’s name and influence to sell wine and how much of OUR money is being used to fund this. Also, how much money is being used on all of the junk mail? I get mail from AOPA every few weeks and most of it goes in the garbage. How does AOPA justify all of these mailings and their association cost? Finally, executive salaries and compensation as discussed in this article.

    This article like most responses from AOPA are too vague and don’t give enough detail. As long as this continues the stories and speculations will persist. It’s time to open the books and give the actual numbers and explainations in detail. If the association is run the way it should be then there is nothing to hide and these issues can be put to bed permanently.

  • Paul Carner

    I too would like to see the salaries, bonuses, etc. of the AOPA exec’s. I’ve already dropped my 30 year EAA membership to protest Poberezny’s exorbitant pay ! If the pay is legit, that’s ok, they should not be afraid to justify it.

  • Joel B

    It’s time for AOPA to come clean and become more transparent to its members. The junk mailings are getting out of control and like others have mentioned they should publish a list of GA aircraft in their fleet along with their operating expenses. I’m glad that AvWeb brought this to light. It’s about time members take a deeper look into where they’re dues are going. AOPA has been out of touch with the rest of the flying public for a while now. Most of us can’t afford a $400K Cirrus or overpriced Garmin avionics. I can’t even read their product reviews anymore without feeling like they’ve been bought out by Cessna and Garmin. Their reviews of Bendix King and anyone but Garmin are nearly always on the negative side. Sorry Craig, but the only “tyranny of miscalculation” is yours, not AvWebs.

  • Astro T Cat

    How much does Craig Fuller receive as a salary including benefits and salary?
    What is the yearly payroll for the AOPA staff

  • Jane P

    I’m getting thousands of dollars in information and training materials, an excellant flight planning tool, and the support of a huge organization – all for a few bucks a year! This is not a charitable organization with money being diverted from the needy or sick. These executives, as most top level executives and/or business owners, are “on” 24/7. I begrudge them nothing.
    Most of the complaints from above seem to be coming from pilots who are flying on the cheap – unable or unwilling to spend a few bucks to improve their personal flying environments – and mighty bitter about it. I’ve seen your types all over the airfields as both a pilot and an aviation business owner; simply unable to comprehend that aviation has evolved. This is a complex environment and your old equipment and ways are part of what is jeopardizing everyone’s flying freedoms – and the reason AOPA has to work so hard!
    Keep up the good work Craig – and have a bottle of champagne at your next board meeting, you all deserve it!

  • Paul Henderson

    AOPA has consistently delivered in the legislative arena and the dues are not outrageous by any means. That gives the management considerable latitude in other areas, in my opinion, including executive compensation. Results speak loudly. I have noticed a shift in style and emphasis since Craig Fuller became president. I scratch my head at the wine club and fund raising articles about going flying with rich guys like the fellow who started Nordstroms. I am far more impressed with a pilot’s ability to intercept a localizer and smoothly execute an ILS approach than I am by how much money he has. Most aviators I know do OK financially but few are what you would call “wealthy.” Joining a “wine club” to the guy who does an owner-assisted annual on his 1972 C-172 probably ain’t gonna happen. I am not sure of the complete demographics of AOPA membership. If it is shifting toward the turbine, “$10,000 hamburger” crowd, then mangement is on the right track. These days I look at AOPA as a lobbyist organization for a special interest group of which I am a member. I get most of my equipment information from Aviation Consumer and flying technique and safety info from ASF.

  • Mike Fisher

    I reluctantly renewed my subscription last week for the 25th and what could be my last year as a member of AOPA. This is not the result of AvWeb’s piece last month but rather a growing dissatisfaction with AOPA’s constant effort to sell me something. Much like an insurance agent telling the tale of someone’s misfortune, AOPA has many of their own and have just the right legal or medical services plan to prevent me from a similar fate.

    Also, I have to admit that I can’t relate to an increasing amount of content in Pilot Magazine that seems to feature the latest aircraft and avionics that, for me and most of my fellow pilots who fly out of my local FBO, have had zero experience with. Articles that talk about how pilots will feel right at home in front of a G1000 since much of the functionality is borrowed from the 530 don’t really mean anything to our group. I can appreciate the importance in covering advancements in avionics and new aircraft, and I do try to slog through some of those articles but, more and more, I find myself skimming past in hopes of more content I can relate to. I also miss one of my favorite columnists, Mark Twombly. Fantastic writing for over 20 years that was hard not to read first upon opening a new issue of Pilot.

    I’m glad to see this year’s sweepstakes airplane is a 182 restoration rather than a new Cirrus or Remos. I like getting dirty reading about the process of re-doing an older GA aircraft rather than reading about the latest and greatest offerings or some road/air rally to Florida.

    AOPA has been a fantastic organization that is feeling increasingly inbred to me. Articles that I used to devour now seem to be written for guys who fly the new stuff – you guys!

    And maybe keep the criticism of the AvWeb guys to a minimum. Fuller’s defensive response seems more provocative than the guys he’s taking to task. In my opinion, AvWeb has done a better job of keeping me informed. By the time I receive an AOPA e-pilot newsletter, I’d already read about it on AvWeb.

  • Jim DeLaHunt

    I appreciate AOPA’s advocacy work, and I appreciate AvWeb’s journalism. Both benefit me as a pilot, and as a member of AOPA, EAA, and the Canadian COPA since I got my PPL. Rather than somewhat defensive sniping at AvWeb’s flaws in describing AOPA’s salaries and finances, why doesn’t AOPA just publish an informative annual financial report and then point us members to it?

  • Jim Herd

    All this fuss about executive salaries is largely misplaced. It is important, but nowhere near as important as the increasing list of serious challenges faced by G.A. The leaded fuel crisis, the NextGen crisis, the airspace restrictions crisis, the relentless decline in G.A. crisis, the relentless increase in cost of aviation crisis …….

    Much of this is unprecedented since the genesis of aviation! I want to see recognition of the gravity of all this, followed by the commensurate priorty and innovative and revolutionary policies and strategies to combat the bad things that are happening. Squabbling over compensation is little more than misdirected energy that becomes unavailable to fight the good fight. Rome truly is burning!

    Bacially, I want the aviation industry leadership to wake up, smell the roses, and kick it up a notch!

  • Steve Egolf

    The major problem I have with the way AOPA spends it’s money is that I don’t feel truly represented. When I see what AOPA fights for the only thing that pertains to me is the right to keep flying. However, more and more that looks like it isn’t going to matter because the cost of flying will be more than I can afford.

    NEXTGEN – It looks like equipage will be required soon, to the tune of significant dollars, yet I don’t see AOPA fighting the requirement or fighting to make the FAA subsidize it. I can spend far less money on anywhere map and a weather subscription and get better benefits.

    Avionics – I have yet to see AOPA fight to convince the FAA that the current avionics available for experimental aircraft are suitable for installation in certified aircraft such as my Mooney M20F. I think there must be a better way to make avionics more affordable.

    Fuel – I don’t recall what the exact figure is, but I think it is around 90% of the existing piston fleet could use unleaded auto fuel, were it not for the certification issues. But ti use it U have to buy an STC. Yes, there is then the question of availability. But then maybe AOPA could spend some money on subsidizing FBOs to encourage them to carry unleaded fuel in an effort to promote it.

    Promotion – AOPA has finally figured out that they need to be actively promoting flying. What they have not figured out yet is that until the cost of learning to fly, the cost of flying is brought down significantly, and a reason to fly other than “because I love to” is there it is going to steadily become and elitist activity. By my calculations, getting a pilot certificate costs around $6000-$8000 now. I’m not sure I would be wiling to spend that much and I “love to fly”. Once you get past that “I love to fly”, what can you really do with that minimal certificate that would make someone who isn’t looking at it in that waylay down their cash for flying instead of a boat, a snowmobile, a golf membership, etc.?

    In short, I feel less and less like AOPA is representing me and more and more like it represents an elitist club of which I will never be a member.

  • http://Salaries Dave Long

    I have been an AOPA member for almost 30 years. I have never seen any disclosure of the salaries and compensation for our top 10 (or anybody else for that matter) either published or disclosed. I first became concerned when I was told that I would have to join a special group (for an annual additional fee) to get medical information which had previously been provided (very efficently) at no cost to me over and above my annual membership dues. Same for the simple legal questions being answered. Then dues were raised with no explanation or justification other than “costs are going up”.

    Judging by some of the comments in response to this article, I am not alone in becoming more concerned with what is really going on with AOPA. I agree with the comment to the effect that members in good standing should be provided with an annual financial statement of AOPA’s income and expenses, including a full disclosure of the compensation paid to each of “the top 10″ and costs of operating our aircraft.

    You could have headed off this entire discussion by simply providing the requested information, rather than stonewalling it!

  • Fred Wedemeier

    Anyone interested in AOPA officer salaries and other expenditures please check
    The last year reported is 2008. If (at least some) of the info members have been asking about isn’t disclosed earlier, the federally-mandated parts will eventually be published.

  • Fredric R. Boswell

    Dave Long has done a great job in articulating the crux of these issues. AOPA leaders, like all leaders, are in a position of trust and are relied upon by the membership to act with judgment, prudence, and in an ethical manner. Recent disclosures have raised questions in each of these areas.

    Craig Fuller stated in his comments above that AOPA has used turbine aircraft for 30 years. That alone does not make this an appropriate choice for AOPA management going forward. To be truly representative of the membership, AOPA leaders should be flying aircraft which they personally own and which are representative of what members are flying. A CJ-3 doesnt fit this description, but a 15 year old Baron might. While there is no doubt that a CJ-3 is a GA aircraft (and so is a G550) it is not the kind of GA aircraft operated by the great majority of AOPA members. To the extent that AOPA leaders use their personally owned aircraft for AOPA business, I have no problem with them being reimbursed at reasonable rates.

    Sometimes leaders must, by their actions, set a compelling example to their followers they they deserve to be in leadership roles. I call upon AOPA leadership to do this, by among other things, providing a degree of transparency into AOPA finances which has not generally been available in the past. If nothing is being hidden, then this should be a non-issue.

    I do not mean by my comments to suggest that AOPA has not contributed greatly to general aviation over the years. However, as an AOPA member since 1967, I do believe that AOPA leaders must be accountable to those that provide the funds from which their compensation and perqs are derived, and this is a separte and distinct issue from that of what AOPA has accomplished.

  • Bill Menzel

    Those who opine that AOPA and EAA need to be more sensitive to their memberships may well have some legitimate points, but all would do well to imagine what GA would be like without these two powerful organizations. I gladly will continue to pay my relatively modest dues, so that they can continue to advocate on behalf of GA interests.

  • Jim Wapelhorst

    Everytime an aviation story is seriously distorted in the media we all moan and groan.

    Now we provide ammunition for the anti-aviation groups with this internal squabble.

    I suggest we remember we are all in this together protecting our right to fly.

    AvWeb should have given AOPA the courtesy of checking their information.

    I don’t want Wine Club from AOPA and I don’t want unwarranted aviation exposes from Avweb.

  • http://none Theron Kelley

    I have been flying since 1946, licensed since 1947, with ratings added in 1960 and 1962..
    I have been a member of AOPA since 1960…(Fifty year pin this year)…Having had other flying organzation memberships and maagazines, I can attest that no other has had the effect on the growth for years and the sustaining presently of pilot interest..
    The only magazine that I enjoyed more was the old Air Facts mag put out by Leighton Collilns in the fifties and sixties..
    You complailnors should thank your lucky stars that AOPA has been there for you with the information and assistance (plus entertainment) for however long you have been a member..

  • Bruce Liddel

    While everyone (including me) is venting… I joined in 1990, but haven’t flown as PIC since 2002. Medicals got way too expensive, tedious, and risky, while my income declined dramatically. I haven’t used a single AOPA service since then either, aside from getting a 20-year pin. Still, I continue to renew out of a love of aviation and a spirit of strength in numbers. I also use an AOPA credit card for the vast majority of my expenditures. More recently, I’ve spent a 72-week period of unemployed, and even prior to that I was earning less (adjusted for inflation) than in 1995. Still, when I desperately needed a job, and I applied for an opening (for which I was well qualified) at AOPA, my application was ignored. Go figure.

    So, it was a very nasty surprise when AOPA raised their member rates. It was as though if I want to contribute, there is a significant minimum $ they will accept. Maybe every little bit doesn’t help.

    There have to be tens of thousands of AOPA members much like me, in similar situations.

    A significant of my meager disposable income every year goes to advocacy organizations like AOPA, EAA, NRA, and DownsizeDC. I don’t appreciate the sniping between them (like with DownsizeDC and the NRA), any more than between AvWeb (which I read faithfully) and AOPA.

    So, No, Mr. Fuller is not making any friends in my circles by turbo-fanning about the country above FL380, and protecting his financial privacy from loyal members.

    Whether AvWeb is 100% correct or 100% wrong, they’ve raised a legitimate issue, and Mr. Fuller would do well to come clean, instead of being hostile and defensive. It could make my decision at next renewal a lot easier.

  • Thomas Serrano

    AOPA has changed significantly since Mr. Fuller took over. It is amusing to read the blog from him above where he answers no valid questions asked of him but rather uses his formidable political skills to misdirect the issue and name-call. Sir, answer the question, don’t try to impugn the questioner, and let the public draw its own conclusions. If you seriously can’t afford to shine sunlight on these aspects of the business, then there is something to hide, plain and simple.

    It is just as disappointing to see members rush to the defense of AOPA, again by name calling and saying things like “I’ve been a member for 50 years.” Irrelevant. “AOPA has done good things.” Irrelevant. “AOPA is a bargain.” Irrelevant. We can all draw our own conclusions about those things, and mine may differ. I am and continue to be a member of AOPA because I do believe on balance that it benefits the aviation community. However, I’m not quite so willing to fawn over all of its activities; like the NRA, some of its slippery slope arguments are drivel. Perhaps this is how the game is played, but I’m an adult and will draw my own conclusions rather than simply act like a rat to AOPA’s Pied Piper.

  • Stuart Baxter

    I always knew that pilots were a bunch of whiners. A lot of these responses confirms this. I think the dues went up by six bucks. That’s 1.6 pennies per day…..and you people fly airplanes?

    AOPA is the best and maybe only real clear voice for the general aviation community and all you people can do is grouse about management. Get your eyes back on the goal and quit with the sniping. If you don’t like the way the organization is run the stop being a member, however I would like it if you would stop trying to ruin a great organization with a barrage of cheap shots.

  • Jacie Ann Crowell

    I have been a member of AOPA just shy of 10 years. I have had the honor to interact with both former and current president’s Phil Boyer and Craig Fuller on a one to one basis. Both president’s are passionate about aviation. I know the current president better than the former one, and I can pledge to each AOPA member that Craig is our best chance of getting the big heads in Washington D.C. to listen to our cause.
    I too felt like many of the members who can not relate to flying a jet all over advocating GA, but I have since changed my mind. For instance, I had issues with Harrison Ford representing me as a GA pilot. He was not my idea of who I was as a regular GA gal flying around “just for fun”. I changed my mind last March when I was in Washington D.C. with my husband on his business trip. My husband was “on the hill” the same day that Harrison Ford and Craig Fuller were there. The fact that the president of the club that represented me as an aviator was even on an agenda at the capitol building, was impressive!! Mr. Ford was able to gain positive attention for we “regular aviators”, and help drive home NO USERS FEES. We do not have user fee’s now, and I credit that day on the hill as to why.
    I am thankful that AOPA has a president who is smart enough to know how to bring in someone who is not a politician and who is articulate enough to represent me “normal chick aviator” and protect my interests.
    I am from humble beginnings and am honored to even own an aircraft let alone be affiliated with people who understand this complex structure from which I derive such personal pleasure.
    AOPA is like my military in GA; fighting against the entity who wants to squash my freedom to fly, or greatly alter it.
    My freedom to fly comes from these individuals who dedicate their careers to ensure I can remain flying.
    I am happy to have an organization with a long track record of successful business in aviation.
    It is so easy to jump on the current craze of negativity in these times where money is so tight. I would encourage all AOPA members to remain thoughtful to those who are on the front lines fighting for our cause. Let’s all try to look at the situation with an open mind and knowledge that we are all in this together, because we are all aviators at the end of the day.
    Respectfully Submitted – Jacie Ann Crowell

  • Mick Anderson

    I’ve read all the comments made so far, and there are a few common threads. But the one that has me thinking “hmmm” is simply, “Is “our” organization still a consistent reflection of its members?” IOW, I’d like to see our demographics published, perhaps annually – what’s the histogram on how much members make?…what’s the histo on age of what we’re flying?…histo on value of what we’re flying? How many of us own and how many of us are really flying? You get the idea. Then we can get into the “gross” finances of our org and see if its reasonable for who we are. I really enjoy our AOPA and the advocacy that’s done on the Hill for us. We need to keep that going strong or the govt machine will just push us aside (can you say Europe?) I also appreciate pubs like AVweb, Kitplanes and especially Light Plan Maint (a low cost but fantastic publication). All of these need to remember we’re siblings in the same GA family. Sure, poke at each others faults to keep us all straight; but give each other props when due too. More importantly work actively together to fight the forces that are insidiously against GA. All for One and One for All, so to speak…

  • Phil DeRosier

    Salaries, schmalaries! If you like the AOPA products and services you’ll continue subscribing regardless of what the officers make. Whining about someone else’s income dosen’t improve yours. If you disagree with AOPA officer’s salaries and perks, you’re free to “vote with your dollars”, and drop your subscription.

  • Don Knight

    There are 42 replies above this one.

    I suggest if you want to stay up on this issue that you read a more recent post “Anatomy of a Story” at the URL below.

    If you want to take the time, the AOPA tax return form (990) for 2008 and other financial info. is also referenced for your review.

    Otherwise party on, but remember that we all have to live somewhere on the planet together.

  • http://Salaries Dave Long

    Phil sums it up beautifully. There is no question but that AOPA has done a great deal (and continues to do a great deal) for GA. I think a paying dues member is entitled to whine, but needs to know what he (or she) is whining about. The more somebody or some entity tries to avoid transparency (does that term sound familiar?) the more I become concerned about what is really going on and what they are trying to hide or cover up.

    Unless AOPA (Mr. Fuller) decides to disclose the information that is being requested, I am afraid he is going to find that a substantial number of members are going to follow Phil’s advice and bail out. I am one of them!

  • Don Knight

    BTW I went back and couldn’t find the URL for the Form 990 the second time i looked.

    Here is the URL in case you have trouble finding it.

  • John Scurlock

    I relate my loyalty to AOPA as follows: I first flew my home-built airplane, an RV6, on July 18, 2001, after about nine years of construction. I had let my AOPA membership lapse, I was still an EAA member at that time. We all know what happened on 9/11, and I felt certain that I’d never fly my plane again. But I saw AOPA immediately step to the front and work tirelessly to get us all back in the air again; I’ve been a paying member ever since, and won’t be quitting any time soon. I am definitely getting my money’s worth. In fact, as far as I’m concerned, I’m getting a lot more than what it costs me, frankly. The notion of ditching AOPA over this current issue is most certainly cutting off the nose to spite the face. If you don’t like the situation, it seems to make a lot more sense to work for change and improvement, rather than jumping ship.

  • Steve Zeller

    I have been an AOPA member since the mid 80’s and they do great work. All organizations have a natural tendency to get “top heavy” over time. You have to work hard to stay lean and mean. I have been self employed for almost 20 years and the last 2 years have been very difficult. The few times I visited AOPA headquarters, things seemed pretty relaxed. Maybe time for a shake up?

  • Jacie Ann Crowell

    Dave Long; What part of IRS form 990 don’t you understand? It is online for anyone to read; can not be more transparent than that.

  • charles l. trunck

    Very good reply to this bunch of nonsense. I proberly would not have been that polite. Keep up the good work for G. A.
    and maybe next time tell these egg heads to kiss off.

  • Christian

    I’ve seen the tax filing online and don’t understand what the gripe is all about. AOPA’s executive pay for 10+ people accounted for less than 7% of their total revenue. Is that really that far off of other organizations? How about corporations? I love AVweb, but there is some perspective missing here. This works against the GA community.

  • Stuart Baxter

    This is the kind of perspective that needs to be given to this discussion. That sounds like a pretty responsible % to me. I run a small company and our numbers are just a little higher than that…….. and I can assure you that I am not overpaid. Just ask me.

    I hope AOPA does not get intimidated by the complaining. I’m fairly sure this is the usual vocal very small minority.

  • Peter DC

    We need strong AOPA that represents all of GA. A strong AOPA needs good people at the top. Good people deserve/earn good money. If Avweb’s article was based on IRS returns, that’s not too bad a journalist’s job. In the reply above, I see much treading around the issues, like a politicians answer. It raises more questions. Why no straight answers Craig ? How much ? We all understand the hike in membership fees, what makes you think we wouldn’t interpret the salary figures properly ? Also : Avweb is a great site, I disapprove of you bashing it without disclosing all the facts. You haven’t stated anything about why/where their reasoning went awry. I lean towards Avweb until you counter them with relevant facts.

  • Stuart Baxter

    How about Craig gets $528,000 with all benefits. Is that factual enough for you? Is that too much? I think not.

  • Steve Zeller

    To put my post above in perspective, I remain a loyal AOPA member but discontinued the AOPA magazine years ago. I find AOPA’s magazine boring and repetitive. I now get most of my general aviation news online at Avweb and hope that AOPA is spending the savings working to find a replacement for 100LL. I spend $5000 to $6000 a year on fuel, so this is a major priority for me.

  • http://Salaries Dave Long

    Too much political evasiveness and distraction, not enough transparency and honesty! If the AOPA supporters would be open enough to disclose their being on the AOPA payroll, that would help too. We should not have to go to an outside source to find out what is going on! A simple, polite request should provide the requested information forthwith. If that had occured, none of this exchange of emails and distrust would have occured.

    Bottom line, when the “Top 10″ are unwilling or too embarrased to voluntarily disclose their compensation in response to a simple request that they do so, something just ain’t right. The answer “go try to find it somewhere else” just doesn’t cut it. As in the other kind of politics, stonewall, if that doesn’t work attack the person challenging what is going on by either belittling them or trying to intimidate them. Remember what happened in Bell, California when some of the citizens (taxpayers) tried to get information about the salaries that the mayor, chief of police, council members, etc. were paying themselves and for some strange reason the individuals involved tried to block the requested disclosure, and look at what eventually happened.

    I have a lot better things to do with my time than exchange emails with people who are trying to block or cover up a simple thing like executive compensation. If you feel guilty about something you are doing, why not just stop doing it? I know my opitons as I am sure all of you do. Have a nice day!

  • Michael Bush

    Here are the figures for the President of AOPA (then Phil Boyer) from the 2008 IRS Form 990: $603,825 from AOPA + $945,420 from “other” related compensation. Perhaps those figures included deferred comp or a retirement package.

    It will be interesting to learn whether Craig Fuller’s total compensation rose or fell from those levels in the worst recession in modern memory.

  • Mitch

    Very spirited discussion. Thank you Avweb for bringing this to the attention of all of us. I don’t see anything wrong with that. I do also very much appreciate what AOPA is doing for us as pilots. I think that the $45.00 is fair.
    I also agree with not wanting to be bombarded with solicitation for ancilary products such as what others have cited. I like that it is offered but I don’t want the solicitation.
    Also; Perhaps this is a way to sharpen the membership and the organization as a whole and get more people directly involved in the operations… not that you need more people telling you how to run AOPA but to get more GA input, for the types of people/pilots that are members instead of appealing to just a smaller sector. This will be a good thing when it all shakes out. Nothing wrong with challenging the organization, but just don’t be hateful or spiteful in the process. This will all work out to be a good thing. be nice, be proactive and give input with ideas for change. Thanks AOPA and thanks AVWEB….

  • Charles Linenfelser

    Let’s be accurate and honest about what goes on with AOPA membership. I originally joined in 1975 (there or about) and gained AOPA pins for modest recruitment of members. In the 1980’s I needed AOPA’s help with a local airport issue prohibiting my ability to perform aviation maintenance. The prohibition was in place with local ordinances established between Piedmont Aviation (Winston-Salem) NC and the City of Roanoke, VA. The requirements were so stiff that it was meant to discourage any modest endeavor to gain traction at the Roanoke Regional Airport. I called upon AOPA to assist me in my effort and was told by one of the staff “What do you expect for $35.00″. I called John Baker (then president of AOPA) and reported this quote. Of course he said the right things, but AOPA abandoned me.

    Eventually I gained legal access to perform aviation maintenance at the airport by my own unwitting discovery that Piedmont Aviation was illegally subleasing their old facility (building 2, approximately 10,000 square feet ) to a local group of pilots for $75.00 a month in an effort to stave out any competition gaining a foot hold. This was being done while the City of Roanoke, VA was the granter of leases to businesses. I stopped being a member of AOPA for over twenty years. But in 2007 with new leadership (Phil Boyer) I rejoined. I sent an e-mail to Phil and told him of my extended absence and he welcomed me back into the fold. I have subsequently called upon their medical division for assistance and was warmly welcomed. Also, I use the safety and education web sites and find them very useful. I do get pleas from AOPA asking for additional monies for safety and political requests. I must be honest and tell you that when I discovered the salary that John Baker and several higher echelon officers were receiving it didn’t go down well while I was trying to just get by turning wrenches.

    Charles Linenfelser

  • Alan Foreman

    I have been a member of AOPA for many years,initially in the UK. I believe AOPA do an excellent job overall,but have significant concerns concerning senior executive salaries,and the lack of transparency with how one of the new senior positions was filled.It had all the hallmarks of the “good-old-boys-club”. I did write to Craig Fuller and was pleased he took the trouble to respond,but his reply was long on platitudes but short on addressing the issues I raised.

    We should be a membersip oriented organisation,with the administration being held accountable by the membership,and not be allowed to run without oversight! I would welcome comments as to how this could be achieved,but a good starting point would be the annual publication to the membership of the P&L account,the balance sheet,salaries of senior executives,and the budget for the forthcoming year.Maybe many of the members dont care,BUT I CERTAINLY DO.

  • rick utermoehlen

    I read the Av Web info ,looks like they are trying to clear it up. I think we at AOPA we caught off guard here and didn’t really know how to handle the inquiry…v

  • Trevor Evans

    My question would be, why be so defensive and why avoid talking with AV Web in the first place about this? As someone who works in PR and Marketing I would assume that the reason for avoiding the issue is that the Upper Management are aware that the salaries are on the high side and as an Association, which is supposed to be driven by a passion for their purpose, they know they will be criticized by the membership regarding this. Listen, everyone is fully aware that you need to pay good money for good people and that large multinational corporations pay their executives high salaries, but this is an association, which is supposed to be an advocacy, the purpose of which is not to drive profits for the shareholders but to drive the concerns of their membership to the powers that be. Associations and not for profit organizations are seen in a different light than corporate money making organizations, therefore it is normally expected that the executives of these types of organizations will be driven more by passion than by dollars, but clearly AOPA Executives see themselves as Corporate America and expected to be compensated as such. No member expects that we will pay peanuts for monkeys, but we do expect some fiscal restraint when it comes to Executive Compensation for Management in an advocacy association. The mere fact that Fuller initially tried to avoid the interview, then became inflamed by AVWeb publishing the figures that AOPA itself has filled on record with the IRS, is grounds for concern. Claiming that the factual figures “don’t tell the whole story” and that “…we can explain, you don’t understand”, just doesn’t hold water with me. In the PR world we call this damage control and I think that AOPA Members are entitled to understand why the Top Executives at AOPA feel that ‘Damage Control” is necessary. AOPA does a great job, don’t get me wrong, as does EAA, but sometimes these organizations need a wake up call. With Millions of dollars in the treasury, perhaps money could be spent on a General PR or Advertising Campaign in Mainstream Media about the role of GA in the Community, rather than justifying and defending high Executive Salaries and criticizing media organizations for bringing these salaries to the attention of the pilot community.

  • Chris

    With the sensitivity of compromising one’s certificate to even very minor alcohol-related incidents, AOPA should drop the wine club, no delay. “Wine Connoisseurs” are often borderline alcoholics hiding behind an air of affected sophistication. Aviation organizations should have nothing to do with promoting alcohol products, and instead encourage sober, responsible pilots. I’m not a prohibitionist or religious adherent; and will occasionally have a glass of my favorite beverage in the evening, after all driving or flying tasks are completed – but not if I’m flying the next day. It would be terrible publicity to have a pilot kill himself or innocent people while flying intoxicated, and then have it discovered he obtained the wine from AOPA. What are they thinking? An aviation association has about as much business promoting alcoholic beverages, as the American Diabetes Association would have promoting a line of (normally sugared) candy bars.

  • Rich

    I think that Trevor Evans’ comments above (2 up) are spot on and agree and second them.

  • mike

    Keep up the good work. My dues are well worth it. As far as I am concerned, you should give your employees a halfway decent raise based on individual performance and not limit them based on external pressures. (No I don’t work for you :-)).

    My question is. Do you have any plans on re hiring the 6 employees laid off?

    It is sad to see our country in its current state.

    We are all fortunate to have AOPA on our side.

    Thank you!

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