John Baker, president of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association after long-time head “Doc” Hartranft, died Thursday morning in Angier, N.C,. where he lived with his wife Kathy. Baker was president of AOPA from 1977 to 1991, just the second person to fill that position. Before taking over the top leadership post at AOPA, he was director of general aviation at the FAA. He was a jet pilot in the U.S. Air Force.
Craig Fuller, current president of AOPA, said, “John Baker was an extraordinary advocate for our freedom to fly and his passion for aviation and defending the interests of the general aviation community never waned. His dedication and energy were vital to drawing attention to the issues affecting general aviation and his work has had a lasting impact on our industry.”
Phil Boyer, AOPA’s immediate past president who served between Baker and Fuller, praised Baker’s focus on the association’s members.
“John Baker was the true epitome of a fighter pilot,” Boyer said. “He advanced from his military career to some of the highest general aviation ranks in industry and government. Baker was a highly qualified choice as AOPA’s second president, and was the leader who transformed the organization from a large flying club to one of the world’s most successful membership associations.
“His concentration on member-centric activities was as precise as his military flying,” Boyer continued. “When I first followed him as AOPA’s third president, employees often quoted his line, ‘If you stiff a member, you’re out.’ The successes AOPA enjoyed under my leadership and will enjoy into the future are set on the strong foundation John established.”
Funeral services will be in the Bryan-Lee funeral home in Angier Sunday afternoon, March 14.