Having just returned from Norman Oklahoma and the AOPA Regional Fly-In I was impressed to see the record attendance numbers at the two-day event. Over 7500 people and 500 airplanes came to enjoy the Friday educational seminars and the Saturday events. This year, AOPA broke the mold of the wildly successful regional fly-in by adding Friday seminars, which educate both the pilot, and non-pilot (as with Pilot Plus One/Right Seat Ready). In observing the event at Norman, I was reminded of the three-tiered model of airport advocacy. In action were local pilot groups, the eleventh annual Aviation Festival, the University of Oklahoma, state-level aviation associations, and of course nationally AOPA.
As pilots, we are all used to looking at Class B airspace as an upside-down wedding cake. We understand that the first level extends from the ground upward; a larger ring sits on top of that, and a still larger ring above that. I have long believed that in terms of airport advocacy we need to subscribe to a three-tiered model. Much like Class B, we have the central core being the boots on the ground, local level. Above that are the state level and finally the national level. Let’s take a closer look:
Tier 1 – Local Advocacy: Local wisdom is the best source of information at an airport. Who better understands current issues, history, and future needs better the pilots who are based there? What can you do locally?
- Join your local airport organization.
- Find out who your AOPA ASN volunteer is.
- Attend Airport Land Use Meetings.
- Host community events at your airport.
- Form a business relationship with your City or County Planners.
- Attend all City or County sponsored airport meetings.
- Attend Airport meetings.
- Look for chapters of state aviation organizations in your town/area/region.
- Use media to the airport’s best interest [newspaper, radio, social media, TV].
- Create a good working relationship with your airport manager.
Tier 2 – Statewide Organizations: Not every state has its own general aviation organization. But a quick Google search will tell you if your state does. Statewide airport advocacy organizations are important because they maintain statewide contacts, information, and strategies. Further, our statewide groups can also advise and assist the local airport groups when issues arise.
Tier 3 – National Organizations: Our national aviation organizations are a critical piece of the three-tiered airport defense strategy. Membership insures that each maintains its ability to support statewide or local airport/pilot organizations. If you do not belong to AOPA, EAA, NBAA, you should. Critical to interfacing with our congressional representatives, lobbying that national pilot organizations provide a large presence in Washington, DC. This voice serves to remind DC of the importance of general aviation to the nation’s transportation infrastructure.
As a resident of California, I get the pleasure of seeing the three-tiered model in full effect coming up October 13th and 14th at historic San Carlos Airport [KSQL]. The California Pilots Association in conjunction with the San Carlos Airport Association is presenting AirFest 2017. The two-day event sponsored by ACI Jet, features a Friday night wine and food reception with AOPA President, Mark Baker. Saturday’s workshops range from safety seminars and airport advocacy to disaster preparedness. All three levels of local state and national are working together to provide educational, social and advocacy. I would encourage everyone to think like an upside down wedding cake when it comes to advocating for GA and airports. Think globally and act locally. The more we promote general aviation the more we protect our airports.