Today’s world seems to require a specialized Association for everything! Automobile owners have the American Automobile Association, (AAA); Gun owners have the National Rifle Association (NRA), and of course those of us who own or operate aircraft have the Aircraft Owners & Pilots Association (AOPA)—all of which I belong to. There are many hundreds, possibly thousands, of similar Associations out there spanning most all industries—I wonder what the actual count is up to?
Naturally some associations, like those I mentioned, are more widely known than others. Here are a few I previously never heard of: National Limousine Association (NLA), National Parking Association (NPA), and slightly closer to home—Airport Ground Transportation Association (AGTA). Knowing there are many other associations out there serving a distinct purpose for their member-base, I often wonder if there are any within GA I am not yet aware of that maybe I ought to be.
As I move around the region I talk to many members and businesses and am always trying to gauge their individual level of engagement with General Aviation. Frequently I meet people who use aircraft for business and pleasure but maybe by the nature of their work or different life focus remain unaware of even local aviation associations—be they local pilot or airport associations. Comprised of local businesses and residents (money and votes to a politician 😉 ) these associations exude great influence over local and state legislation.
One particular type of association that many pilots remain unaware of is their State’s Airport Management Association. Now it’s true not every state has one but if yours does, you may consider joining even if you don’t work in airport management. Where I live, we have the Massachusetts Airport Management Association (MAMA). Initially I joined because it made sense for me as a Regional Manager to be involved in statewide airport matters, but the more I worked with MAMA and others like it, I realized how they benefit me as a pilot—protecting the very system that allows me to enjoy the privilege of flight. Airport management associations such as those in Mass (MAMA), New York (NYAMA), New Hampshire (GSAMA), and Pennsylvania (ACP), are often the largest state-based aviation lobbying groups. These groups generally maintain close relationships with the respective division of the State DOT and this direct link serves advocates like you and me as an excellent communication medium with State officials and industry leaders.
Now like any association, there are usually annual member dues—these monies usually serve to cover quarterly member and Board of Director meetings. Some Associations also hold annual conferences to bring the membership together with other state leaders and related entities for education and networking. The most recent of which I participated in was MAMA’s Annual Conference held at Gillette Stadium—surely a place worth visiting even if you’re not a Patriots fan! In addition to these annual Conferences, Massachusetts and New York host annual Capital Days in which the members gather to represent their respective airports and talk with State leaders about the benefits of our industry while highlighting the immense economic impact airports have on a state’s economy—nothing grabs the unsuspecting legislator like rattling off “Did you know” facts such as: Massachusetts’ 40 public use airports support 400,000+ jobs, and generate more than $4 Billion in annual economic activity. Of course, these are the kinds of fun facts every pilot and aviation advocate should know about their own state!
So with this information in mind, considering joining if your state has one, of course if it doesn’t—Happy New Year—now is a great time to start one!