Mark Baker

For the past 70 years, the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association has served the aviation community, informing, educating, and advocating on behalf of the nation's pilots. Now, it is an honor and my privilege to lead AOPA in preserving our freedoms - and to keep this trust so that future generations can realize the dream of flight. AOPA Now is a direct channel, from my desk to yours - and back again, to discuss how we can address these challenges and the many opportunities to keep aviation strong and secure.

- Mark Baker

Five new fly-ins for 2015

January 8, 2015 by Mark Baker

I’m excited to be able to tell you that the AOPA Fly-Ins will be back for 2015, and we’ll be in five brand-new locations around the country.

Anyone who knows me will tell you that I tend to have pretty high expectations. So it’s not too often that I find my expectations have been exceeded. But last year’s inaugural AOPA Fly-Ins were better than I could have hoped in just about every way.

At our 2014 events, we met more than 16,000 people and parked more than 2,800 airplanes. Most of all, we celebrated everything that’s great about general aviation, and our members loved it.

So it was an easy decision to do it again. The hard part was deciding where to hold these events. More than 40 airports invited us to host a fly-in, and I wish we could visit all of them. But in the end we had to make choices, so here’s what we came up with:

May 16—Salinas Municipal Airport (SNS), California
June 6—Frederick Municipal Airport (FDK), Maryland
August 22—Anoka County-Blaine Airport (ANE), Minnesota
September 26—Colorado Springs Municipal Airport (COS), Colorado
October 10—Tullahoma Regional Airport (THA), Tennessee

I can’t think of a better way to spend the weekend than hanging out at the airport with my fellow pilots and aviation enthusiasts, and I hope you’ll join me when we come to your part of the country.

For those of you who want to make a weekend of it, we’re adding fun Friday night social events to kick off each fly-in and most locations will offer on-field camping.  We’re also adding a lot of new educational opportunities with speakers covering aviation safety, maintenance, local flying tips, aircraft ownership, and more.

Admission to the fly-ins is free to everyone. And of course we’ll have wonderful aircraft displays that feature everything from the latest models to antiques, an exhibit area featuring the very best aviation products and services, a learn to fly area for future pilots, and Rusty Pilots seminars to help lapsed pilots get back in the air.

You can’t have a fly-in without food, so every event will start with a $5 pancake breakfast. Lunch will be provided by gourmet food trucks or local restaurants, and special pricing will be available for people who pre-register.

Needless to say, I’ll be there and I look forward to answering your questions and bringing you up to date on critical issues that affect your flying.

I am really excited to kick off this year’s fly-ins and meet friends new and old. Pre-registration starts next month. In the meantime, you can get all the details and start planning your trip at Can’t wait to see you there.

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I need your help

September 12, 2014 by Mark Baker

It’s time pilots got relief from the costly and outdated third-class medical. This is a pivotal moment in the fight for reform and I need your help right now.

I’m asking you to contact your Members of Congress today and tell them that third-class medical reform is important to you. Just click this link  and ask them to cosponsor the General Aviation Pilot Protection Act, legislation that would allow thousands more pilots to fly without getting a third-class medical certificate. It’s something Sport Pilots have been doing successfully for a decade, and it can work for you, too.

We have to be quick because this year’s election cycle means Congress has a limited number of days to act in this session. We have to let our elected officials know that third-class medical reform matters to voters in their home states. Let’s get this done. We’ve waited long enough!

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The great Northwest

August 22, 2014 by Mark Baker

I don’t get to the northwestern corner of the country as often as I’d like. For an outdoorsman like me, it’s just above heaven. In close proximity you’ll find jagged mountains, high deserts, stunning river gorges, and pristine forests.

But of course, the biggest draw in the Northwest has to be the people.

I was lucky enough to spend last weekend in Spokane, Washington, for the latest in our series of regional events. I can honestly say that we’ve never had a warmer welcome than we had in Spokane, where members repeatedly thanked us for coming to their beautiful corner of the country.AOPA Spokane '14 Fly In AOPA Spokane '14 Fly In AOPA Spokane '14 Fly In AOPA Spokane '14 Fly In AOPA Spokane '14 Fly In

Even though each AOPA Fly-In lasts only a day, there’s a lot of preparation that goes into every event. The staff at Felts Field was hugely helpful and accommodating while the 150-plus volunteers set to work with smiles on their faces. Best of all, they were still smiling even after spending a long day setting up, then doing everything from flipping pancakes to parking airplanes on the day of the fly-in, and even cleaning up at the end.

In Spokane, and everywhere we’ve been, I’ve been delighted to reach so many members who’ve never been to an AOPA event before. Our goal with these regional events was to meet our members where they fly, and that’s exactly what’s happening.

If you haven’t yet made it to one of this year’s fly-ins, we’ve got three more chances to connect. We’ll be in Chino, California on Sept. 20; Frederick, Maryland on Oct. 4; and St. Simons, Georgia on Nov. 8.

And we’ve already begun planning for next year. If your airport is interested in hosting an AOPA Fly-In in 2015, send us your proposal. The application is available online. We’d love to visit your community and get to know you better.

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Reimagining how we fly

July 25, 2014 by Mark Baker

If there’s one thing AOPA members would like to change about general aviation, it’s the cost of flying. That’s why AOPA is conducting an experiment over the coming months—one that I believe will demonstrate that it’s possible to lower the cost of flying to a point that many more people can afford.14_Reimagined 152_0435

We call our experiment Reimagined Aircraft—airplanes that can be owned and operated by a group like a flying club, flight school, or partnership for as little as $65 per hour, including fuel and maintenance.

We started with Cessna 150s and 152s and, partnering with Aviat Aircraft, updated them from tip to tail. With carefully overhauled engines and new paint, panels, and interiors, these Reimagined Aircraft are reliable, fun to fly, and easy to own.

Over the next few months we’ll work with Aviat to create about a dozen of these aircraft, and we’ll spend the rest of the year substantiating the concept that existing aircraft can be brought up to date and owned and operated affordably. These first 150Reimagined and 152Reimagined airplanes will be available from Aviat for a base price of $89,900 and $99,900 respectively.

Of course, part of the challenge of aircraft ownership is getting the right financing and insurance, and we’ve already spoken to banks and insurance companies to make sure favorable terms are available.

The idea for Reimagined Aircraft grew out of our desire to take a comprehensive approach to lowering the barriers that keep people from starting or continuing to fly, and this experiment is one more way we’re working to grow and support the pilot population. It doesn’t mean AOPA is getting into the business of refurbishing and selling aircraft. We aren’t. In fact, we won’t make any money on the sale of Reimagined Aircraft. What it does mean is that we are exploring every avenue to find ways to make it fun, easy, and more affordable to fly.

You can learn more about Reimagined Aircraft on our website, and you can see the very first 152Reimagined at the AOPA tent right on the flight line at Oshkosh.

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The Administrator comes to Frederick

July 17, 2014 by Mark Baker
FAA Administrator Michael Huerta meets with AOPA President Mark Baker during a visit to AOPA headquarters.

FAA Administrator Michael Huerta meets with AOPA President Mark Baker during a visit to AOPA headquarters.

Today, FAA Administrator Michael Huerta spent several hours visiting AOPA headquarters in Maryland. It was the first time in many years that an FAA administrator has paid us a visit in Frederick, and I think it’s a great sign of Administrator Huerta’s interest in the GA community.

The visit was a chance for the Administrator to get an up-close look at AOPA’s initiatives, learn more about the general aviation perspective, and even answer a few questions. Meetings like this, outside the highly politicized environment of downtown D.C., are an important way to exchange ideas, and I really have to give Administrator Huerta credit for his willingness to hold candid and meaningful conversations about the issues that matter to our members.

Top of the list right now is third-class medical reform—an issue he takes very seriously. And while he wouldn’t say exactly when we can expect to see changes, he did say that the promised rulemaking is being reviewed at the executive level and we can expect action very soon.

He also took the time to talk to our staff about efforts to improve GA safety and the value of collaboration between government and industry when it comes to getting the message out. (You can see part of our conversation on AOPA Live .)

While he was in Frederick, the Administrator did some work on the FAA’s “Got Weather?” campaign, which is being produced with support from the AOPA Foundation and other aviation organizations. Several of the pilots on AOPA’s staff were interviewed for a future installment of the monthly program designed to help decrease the number and severity of weather related GA accidents.

I’ve met with Administrator Huerta many times since I took the left seat at AOPA, and I’m pleased to say that he understands not only the role general aviation plays in our national economic and transportation systems, but also the passion our members feel for flying. As he told our staff today, “What you bring to aviation is a completely different dimension, and that’s what makes flying fun.”

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Another great get together

July 14, 2014 by Mark Baker

Every community has its own character—that’s one of the truly enjoyable things about travel, discovering the differences and similarities among people and places. Airports, too, have personalities. And that has made each of this year’s AOPA Fly-Ins a special experience.

This past weekend, we were in Plymouth, Massachusetts, a very different setting from our previous fly-ins in San Marcos, Texas, and Indianapolis, but every bit as much fun.

The good weather brought out a lot of airplanes, with 495 aircraft flying in to Plymouth Municipal Airport and Taunton Municipal Airport. We even had 45 airplanes, and their occupants, camp overnight.

We had 2,250 people come out for the day plus more than 250 volunteers to help things run smoothly. I really can’t thank our volunteers enough. Instead of coming just to relax and enjoy, they come to work.  And they are all so willing to work together to help make each event great. They really exemplify the community spirit we hope to build with our fly-ins.

As I’ve traveled the country meeting pilots, both at AOPA events and at other types of gatherings, I’ve discovered that while there are regional differences in how we fly—location has a lot to do with whether you need to worry about preheating your engine, planning for high density altitude, or accounting for pop-up thunderstorms—there are huge similarities in why we fly.

Pilots everywhere fly because they enjoy the freedom it provides, they love the challenge, and flying enhances their business or personal lives. And pilots everywhere are passionate about protecting general aviation so they can continue to enjoy everything it has to offer.

I count myself lucky to be part of a pilot community that is ready to come together to work with AOPA to protect the freedom to fly. And I’m thrilled to be meeting so many pilots from around the country and learning what matters to you.

My next chance to do that is at the hub of general aviation activity—AirVenture in Oshkosh. I hope you’ll join me there to learn about how AOPA is working for you and to see all great new things we have to offer, starting with a new location right on the flight line.  And for those of you on the West Coast, I’ll be in Spokane, Washington, for the next AOPA Fly-In on August 16.  Look forward to seeing you there.

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The promise of change

May 28, 2014 by Mark Baker

A couple of weeks back, I sat down one-on-one with the head of Customs and Border Protection, Commissioner Gil Kerlikowske. He made it clear from the first moment of our meeting that he was not only aware of the pilot community’s frustration with the unwarranted stops and searches of general aviation pilots, but also that he planned to do something about it. During that meeting Commissioner Kerlikowske told me that a top-down review of CBP’s general aviation program had already begun.

Today, in a story that aired on National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition” program, we got further confirmation that CBP is willing to acknowledge there have been problems and is prepared to make changes. AOPA provided information and perspective to the reporter, and if you haven’t already heard the story, I encourage you to take a listen.

It’s good to know that persistence pays off, that our message is being heard loud and clear, and that law-abiding general aviation pilots can expect their rights to be respected. Of course, that doesn’t mean we’re closing the book on this issue. If you have an encounter with CBP on a domestic GA flight, let us know. You can report your experience to us using an online form . We’ll keep watching—and doing whatever it takes—to make sure the promised change really comes.

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Time to remember

May 22, 2014 by Mark Baker

Long weekends, especially at this time of year, are to be cherished, and maybe especially for pilots. Much of the country has suffered one of the worst winters in memory, and everyone is itching to get out and feel the relative warmth of spring. If you live in the far north, long days mean many more daylight hours to enjoy. If you’re located further south, it’s time to soak up the sun.

I hope you will get out and fly this long weekend. If you’re not current, or haven’t yet begun to fly, why not use the extra time to take a step in that direction—sign up for a Rusty Pilot program, check out a local flight school, or book time with an instructor. The more we fly ourselves, and share our passion with others, the stronger our community becomes.

But above all, on this Memorial Day weekend, let’s take time to remember those who have fought and sacrificed for all of our uniquely American freedoms, including our cherished freedom to fly.

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AOPA’s First Fly-In

April 28, 2014 by Mark Baker

0501_volunteers4 Saturday was our first-ever AOPA Fly-In, and what a great day it was!

More than 2,500 people joined me in San Marcos for a day of all things aviation. We had wonderful exhibits, all kinds of aircraft on display, good food, and plenty of chances to mix and mingle with our fellow aviation enthusiasts. 

 A little IFR weather in the morning slowed down early arrivals, but we kept the pancake breakfast going to make sure everyone had the chance to eat. And by the time I hosted my Pilot Town Hall mid-afternoon, the fun was in full swing.

We started these events because we wanted to meet our members where they fly, and because we wanted to help more aviation enthusiasts get engaged in all the exciting things happening in GA. I think we accomplished both goals.

If you joined us in San Marcos, thank you for making our inaugural AOPA Fly-In an event to remember. And a special thanks to the 185 volunteers who helped make it all possible. If you couldn’t make it to Texas, I hope you’ll join us when we come to your part of 0501_volunteers1the country later in the year. 

Here’s the schedule:

May 31—Indianapolis, IN

July 12—Plymouth, MA

Aug. 16—Spokane, WA

Sept. 20—Chino, CA

Oct. 4—Frederick, MD (AOPA 75th Anniversary Homecoming)

Nov. 8—St. Simons, GA

Hope to see you there!


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Knocking off the rust

March 27, 2014 by Mark Baker

If you’ve ever taken a lengthy break from flying, you know that coming back can be a little intimidating. Depending how long you’ve been away, you might wonder if you can remember the regs. You might even wonder if you’ve still got what it takes to fly. Or maybe you just can’t seem to find time to wade through the requirements and get back into the cockpit.

Trust me on this. If you’ve earned a pilot certificate, even if you haven’t used it for years, you’ve done the hard part. Getting back into the left seat is easier than you think, and all of us at AOPA are here to help you do it.

Today we launched our Rusty Pilots Program—an easy, no-cost way to get you flying again. We work with flights schools around the country to offer a seminar that covers the changes that may have taken place since you’ve been away, including new regs, airspace issues, technology, and whatever else you might need to know. The seminars and class materials are free and, best of all, they meet the requirements for the ground portion of the flight review. So bring your logbook and you’re halfway there.

To make it even easier, in many cases you can sign up on the spot for the flight time you need to complete your review and get current.

Visit us at to find and sign up for a seminar near you. Or join us the day before each of this year’s AOPA Fly-Ins to take part in the Rusty Pilots program delivered by one of our expert presenters. And be sure to bring that logbook! Can’t wait to see you there!

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