I joined the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) in 1973. I had just received my flight instructor’s certificate and the solicitation came in the mail. What caught my interest was that, with my paid new membership, I would receive a small “transistor VHF receiver radio.” I already knew of AOPA but hadn’t got around to joining. Now, not only would I finally make the move, but I’d get a great little radio with which I could listen to my students when they were in the pattern of our controlled field while on supervised solos. For years I used that radio to monitor students while standing alongside the taxiway at Morristown, N.J. In similar fashion, for the past 19 years AOPA has been returning to me far more than the dues I’ve paid.
I fly both professionally and personally. AOPA has helped me to navigate through the gauntlet of regulatory and medical issues. A surprise high blood pressure reading six years ago, in my dad’s living room just days before a scheduled flight physical, sent me diving for AOPA 800 number. A fast response and sound advice helped me cover the right steps to treat the problem and pass my flight physical on schedule. What’s that worth?
As with any organization, you get out of it only as much as the effort you put into communicating with that organization. The times are countless when I have called AOPA staff to deal with questions regarding operational issues. Having owned nearly 20 aircraft in the past 19 years, and bought and sold hundreds more, I learned that the resources available to owners are almost endless. There were years when AOPA Air Safety Foundation seminars kept me up to date and my CFI certificates current. As a Project Pilot Instructor, their support has been substantial in helping me develop specialized training programs for students with special needs. The international flight planning assistance AOPA offers has made my numerous border-crossings, both north and south, a cake-walk. Not a year has gone by that I haven’t gotten the cost of my dues returned to me just by using the coupons for rental car freebies.
If, at this point, you’re asking yourself “Why is this guy gushing so much over AOPA? Is this one of those paid ads?” The answer emphatically is “no” to the second part: AOPA is clueless that I am writing this. And I’ll now answer the first part. If you are already a member, you probably already know the answer.
It has everything to do with the Sept. 11 attacks and how AOPA jumped right in and got to work, not just for the membership, but for all of GA.
AOPA appropriately called it “The day aviation stood still,” much like the title of the ’50s sci-fi movie, “The Day the Earth Stood Still.” I don’t need to rehash how the attacks changed our industry. What I will speak to here is how anyone could go to AOPA.org and get the latest NOTAMs and the best interpretations of them. It was a mess, but AOPA staff worked endless hours to be there on behalf of all of general aviation, and to report back to us on their progress as well as what we could and could not do. The organization was effective, professional, responsive, and top grade when it came to explaining, in plain language, what was going on and the best actions the membership should take at any given time.
As with most membership organizations, AOPA depends on many alliances and partnerships for the sale of products and services, along with its conventions and dues, for survival. From time to time I have heard some people criticize AOPA for their dogged approach to generating multiple revenue streams. In the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks, everyone associated with GA received a clear benefit from the tremendous resources of AOPA.
I am firmly convinced that, if it were not for AOPA, the flying freedoms that we have regained to date either would not have happened or, at best, would not have happened as quickly. There is not a single person who has any involvement at all with general aviation who has a valid excuse not to be a member of AOPA.
Becoming a first time member, or renewing your existing membership, is one New Year’s resolution that should be easy to keep and beneficial to all of us.
Guy R. Maher is a business owner and aircraft appraiser with more than 12,000 hours in general aviation airplanes and helicopters. He is an independent buyer’s agent and flight instructor for type specific initial and recurrent training. He can be contacted through the e-mail address below, or by calling 704-287-3475.