The Commonwealth of Virginia has become the first state in the nation to have 100% participation in the Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) Airport Support Network (ASN), a program that encourages volunteers to act as liaisons between local communities, area pilots and management at public use airports.
The program now enjoys record participation, with 2,500 ASN volunteers at airports nationwide, AOPA officials said.
“We should all be very thankful for our airport volunteers, because they are the eyes and ears in our communities,” AOPA President Craig Fuller said. “They are the early warning system. Nearly half of the almost 5,200 public-use airports in the United States now have an Airport Support Network volunteer, which is remarkable.”
Enlisting more than 2,500 volunteers brings the ASN program to a new level, allowing AOPA significant outreach in its ongoing mission to protect the freedom to fly and to maintain the nation’s public-use airports.
“This program is a really powerful force within AOPA,” said Greg Pecoraro, AOPA vice president of airports and state affairs. “It’s at the very heart of what we do – protecting our airports.”
Virginia Department of Aviation Director Randall Burdette, who has taken a leadership role in encouraging Virginia airports to participate in the ASN program, was recognized by AOPA for his achievement. He was previously an ASN volunteer at Stafford, Va., Regional Airport and said he understands the value of having volunteers in place at Virginia’s public use airports.
“It’s beneficial for the airport, its customers and the Commonwealth of Virginia to have enthusiastic volunteers help keep track of what’s happening at Virginia’s airports and to share that knowledge,” Burdette said. “We’re always looking for ways to improve our airport communities.”
With this in mind, Burdette set a goal to assist AOPA in recruiting a volunteer for each of the Commonwealth’s 66 public use airports.
AOPA began recruiting volunteers for its airport network in 1997. The original idea was to identify AOPA members at public use airports who would be willing to notify the organization regarding threats to the airport.
These timely updates have helped AOPA staff intervene with information for airport sponsors about the value of the airport, the airport’s grant obligations if it has received federal or state funds, or guidance on best practices for land use or airport management that would keep the airport free of operational restrictions.
ASN volunteers have also played key roles in organizing pilots at many airports to help provide airport support groups to meet these challenges.
Those who are interested in becoming an AOPA ASN volunteer can explore the program further here.