A strong community is our best defense

GUEST EDITORIAL By CRAIG FULLER, AOPA President

You don’t have to look very far to see the threats to general aviation today. Sequestration cuts, tower closures, user fees, and tax changes are just a few of the recent, and ongoing, assaults on GA. Our freedom to fly is under attack, and we must fight back with every weapon in our arsenal.

That means actively engaging with elected officials, questioning the mistaken assumptions about what GA is and does, and demanding that policy makers take responsibility for the consequences of their actions. It also means standing together as pilots, aircraft owners, GA enthusiasts, and Americans. When we speak loudly, clearly, with one voice, we will be heard.

We are hard at work in Washington, D.C., and the states, fighting to preserve our freedom to fly, keep costs down, and prevent unreasonable regulations. Support in Congress is strong and the general aviation caucuses in the House and Senate continue to grow, reaching 173 and 35 members respectively. And yet, from some quarters, we continue to see a determined effort to inflict pain on the general aviation community.

We must face each challenge with energy and persistence. At the same time, we can’t afford to be shortsighted. We have to take a long-term view.

From that perspective, I believe that a strong community is ultimately our best defense. And although I have announced my decision to step down as president of the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA), I am confident that the course we’ve set — and the profound dedication of our members — will keep this organization, and the GA community, moving forward.

When we are deeply engaged with general aviation, and with one another, we can present a strong, unified front — exactly what we need in the face of so many attacks. When we invite newcomers to experience the intangible joys and practical benefits of flying, our community grows. And when we get out and fly, our community prospers.

At AOPA we are committed to continuing to defend general aviation through the traditional means that have been so effective and remain so critical, starting with the work of our advocacy experts in Washington, D.C., and all 50 states. Our communications team will continue to tell our story far and wide. And our publications will continue to keep aviators informed about the debates and decisions that affect our flying.

But we are also seeking new ways to build for the future by promoting community, welcoming newcomers into aviation, and finding ways to help current and future pilots get the most from their aviation experiences. That’s why we created the Center to Advance the Pilot Community, and it’s a vital part of our long-term view.

In a sense, it’s also what makes events like SUN ’n FUN both exciting and important. When we travel great distances and turn out in vast numbers, we show that general aviation is a priority for us. When we gather to discuss the issues that affect our flying, interact with thought leaders and policy makers, and, frankly, spend money supporting GA businesses, we are showing our commitment to the present and future prosperity of general aviation.

When we invite people of all ages and backgrounds to experience the excitement and amazement of flying, whether through an airshow experience, a realistic simulation, an up-close encounter with a beautiful airplane, or a first flight in a light aircraft, we build friendships and support for GA.

I hope you’ll take time to do a little community building of your own. Connect with AOPA and the other GA organizations that represent your interests. Shop for the supplies, avionics, and aircraft of your dreams when at airshows. Connect with your fellow pilots — and encourage non-aviators you may meet to take their first steps into GA.

As pilots, aircraft owners, and aviation enthusiasts, we understand the very special experience that is general aviation. We know what it brings to our lives, our families, our businesses, and our communities. Let’s take this opportunity to share that joy and excitement with others. And, above all, let’s take this time to remember just why we cherish, and must defend, our freedom to fly.

Comments

  1. says

    You know as soon as the public starts to complain about the delays due to the controller furloughs, the Administration will come out with a statement like “if all the wealthy private pilots and corporate jet operators would pay their fair share we wouldn’t have to do this” and this will generate a lot of support with the unthinking among us for the user fees. The chain of events are pretty clear as to the goals here.

    • Fritz Katz says

      IF the wealthy (as opposed to moderate and low income, system-resource-non-using) private pilots and until now tax-dodging corporate and televangelist operators WOULD pay their fair share, we would NOT have to do this. Why should ANY of the income taxes of a legal secretary from Portland be skimmed off to maintain an ILS to a reliever airport in San Diego?

      • says

        Because the secretary probably flys once or twice a year, and would probably appreciate the alternative landing site if it was needed. For that matter the same reason I pay taxes for parks that I never go to, or other infrastructure I don’t utilized directly: it’s nice to know its there. Actually a large majority of the FAA’s budget comes from aviation specific fees and taxes, I actually read the FAA budget and I think last year it was around 3 billion from the general fund, this year before the cuts it was suppose to be 2.5b with the cuts it’s even lower. I have more of a problem with the bureaucracy the user fees will create than the actual fees. And trust me I’m more of the I barely can afford this if I stretch the meaning of afford.

        • Fritz Katz says

          Likewise…and my real beeves are with both the political posturing roots of the entire sequestration and especially Fuller having the balls and amorality to once again unethically use his AOPA bully pulpit as an excuse to fabricate bullshit to insult a President from the party he fought against as a Reagan/Bush/Cheney sycophant for decades… which put us in the deficit abyss to begin with.
          He remains an unparalleled, self-serving, lying sack

  2. daverino says

    You may be a little caustic at times, Fritz, but I’ve never found you to be wrong, and you certainly hit the nail on the head with this one!
    You’d be great at the helm of the AOPA.
    Keep up the good work.

    • Fritz Katz says

      Only “a little?”

      I’m slipping.

      Thanks for the rest I’m chugging diet cokes in between preflight bailing my little hulled amphib UL out here in the swamp while Fuller has his feet up, sipping room service champagne, and checking his stock prices and offshore balances in an AOPA-paid suite at some Westin. But there’s no envy on my part…because I KNOW I’ve always been honest while saying and doing the right thing in behalf of my country, students, and GA while self-serving, amoral Fuller was word-parsing his way to wealth and power at their expense.

  3. Fritz Katz says

    [In case you think it’s just ME, here are PREVIOUS comments in GA News about Fuller’s reign and his leaving]:

    kenlane
    Good riddance.

    Stan3818
    Flying’s anonymous source claims there was no intrigue or pressure for Craig to leave. Yeah, right. And AOPA would admit it if there were?

    N Number reserved
    Voluntarily left his $500K / year job to pursue other opportunities ? (lobbying for big pharma??) I’m a GA aircraft owner who left AOPA a few years ago after seeing this organization dump GA users like me for the support of the Corp Jet crowd. They use GA members to boost the “numbers” they say they represent while focusing on marketing all manner of non-aviation products to members to drive revenue. Join EAA if you want to support GA.

    ChampPilot44
    I agree with most of my fellow GA aviators above, AOPA has lost it’s way with the “average means” pilots like myself.

    airsteve172
    It’s about time!!!

    Flyinb
    If you take the time to research AOPA’s Financials …you’ll find that [Fuller’s] (and the next two “Top Executives”) actual total compensation was “considerably” higher!

    aloftagain
    The levels of compensation may partly explain why the leadership of the organization has lost touch with the average pilot.

    JC5404L
    I’m sure you’re aware of AOPA’s increasing slant regarding a complete lack of support for piston driven, av-gas burning GA owners/operators AND an increasing lack of transparency as to what they’re doing with member’s (my) dues money

    daviator
    TO be honest, I’ve felt like AOPA changed, dramatically and for the worse, after Phil Boyer retired and was replaced by Craig Fuller. Almost overnight, AOPA’s mission seemed to change to, “how much more money can we extract from our members?” Some of it was blatant, like the dues increase. Some more subtle

    CYOTE5
    The comments …above hit the nail on the head. This is precisely why I did not renew my subscription to Flying and refuse pay AOPA membership dues.
    The AOPA (and Flying Magazine) no longer care about the middle class, barely-able-to-afford-flying, GA pilot

    Left Coast Flyer
    The numbers tell the story – check the membership when the politician took over from a well respected/ frugal president, and check it after the pol finished flitting around the country exercising his monumental ego. His first order of business was to cancel the annual visit to AOPA HQ, with the opportunity to exchange ideas and thoughts with the excellent AOPA Staff, which caused me to not answer the 22 requests – by actual count- over a 14 month span for PAC donations.
    Will now resume contributions to Safety Foundation, and other AOPA services which benefit me as a pilot.

  4. Fritz Katz says

    Good riddance, Fuller. You have ZERO credibility and are being forced/bribed out of AOPA not a minute too soon. Enjoy your golden parachute ride.

    For your personal pecuniary gain and that of your bizjet corporate republican buddies you have squandered the “full faith and credit” of the general aviation community with Congress and the American people.

    General aviation literally lives and dies by remaining united, honest and apolitical. You have been a self-servingly divisive force in our industry and avocation, relentlessly pillorying this President, and promulgating an atmosphere of fear and unjustified paranoia as you shamelessly and hyperbolically did once again in the opening paragraph of this screed.

    Our “freedom to fly” is NOT under attack as you claim (in a saber-rattling tirade reminiscent of Boyer’s selfishly treasonous remarks immediately after 9/11 which AOPA quickly erased from its archives). Certain segments are being asked and tasked to share the pain of digging us out of the abysss created by the administrations you served/shaped and the hedge fund and real estate “barons” you clinked glasses with.

    You have stifled rather than expanded our freedoms. Few are aware you insisted the FAA slow their progress toward approving the no-medical private petition. Why?

    You have outrageously turned on aviation and AOPA’s most longstanding and faithful partners and sponsors by creating AOPA departments and/or ventures to greedily compete with them… taking food off the table of family businesses to stuff your ample face instead by applying the perverse privatization and anti-union anti-minority misogynist mantra of your fanatical religious conservative theology/ideology (that in so doing has produced abuses, embezzlement, failure, and costly reacquisitions of what were and should have remained essential government services).

    Finally, you are as dishonest as the day is long. The puff piece YOU wrote to run as your job-seeking bio in the National Journal’s “Transportation Experts Blog” vaunts your self-proclaimed “leadership” for achievements including “AOPA membership has grown to more than 400,000″.

    Isn’t it a FACT that AOPA membership has PLUMMETED during your tenure?

    Isn’t it a FACT that many departing members specifically reported they were resigning due to dissatisfaction bordering on revulsion with you, your “initiatives” and your methods but would rejoin the day after your departure?

    Most egregious has been your outright lying about aviation elements in Our President’s (tweaking you there since it is obvious you despise and never miss an opportunity to malign him) budget. Every time I have heard you speak (Sport Expo, AOPA conventions, etc) or that I read your remarks or AOPA ads you authorized you have claimed that EVERY personal GA flight will be punitively taxed. Drawing on your lobbyist/PR training and right wing innercircle experience, you sometimes artfully word-parse but more often outright lie by claiming that every J3 Cub weekend hop would cost an owner/pilot an extra $100 “thanks to Obama”. YOU KNEW THAT WAS/IS NOT TRUE.

    Do yourself and aviation a favor. Just STFU, slink off under pressure to do so, and reemerge as far away from GA as possible

    • M says

      Thank you for you response. I live in the midst of kool-aide drinkers immersed in their republican ideology. It is refreshing to read another’s clearer thoughts regarding the administration.
      Yes, I’m sad the Thunderbirds and the Blue Angels cannot fly, but did anyone think it is food or care for someone not associated with their inner circle. I love my plane but I know bills have to be paid. Somehow the rich don’t see this as ever running out. The selfishness abhors me. M

  5. Ed Seaton says

    I’m really surprise that support in the FAA for the exemption for the Medical for the Sport Pilot is waning.The FAA is trying to save money this would be one area they could save money on.Plus it would help stop the decline in the Pilot population.It would put more airplanes in the air,and increase jobs. If the FAA don’t pass this,they should hang there head in shame.AMEN!

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