AOPA to focus on grassroots events in 2014

The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) has decided to suspend holding its annual Aviation Summit next year in favor of reaching more members “where they fly.”

The association’s Aviation Summit in Fort Worth, Texas, from Oct. 10-12, this year will be held as planned, according to officials. “We are on track for thousands of members to join us and the exhibit hall is nearly sold out, with new exhibitors still signing up,” officials said in a prepared release. “But convention plans for 2014 have been cancelled.”

While Aviation Summit, previously called AOPA Expo and before that named Plantation Party, was good way for AOPA to meet with members and engage with industry partners, it no longer made sense for the organization and its members to invest in a single large event, officials explained.

“AOPA plans to redirect the time and resources previously spent on Summit to meeting members at community airports and hosting more grassroots events,” officials said.

“One of my biggest priorities is to meet members in venues that truly spark their passion. I want our members to make a personal connection with AOPA, and that is best achieved by meeting them where they fly,” said Mark Baker, AOPA’s new president and CEO. “We now have a wonderful opening to visit general aviation airports and engage pilots in a much bigger way that is also more affordable and accessible for members. This decision is about going out to where our members are, maximizing the number of pilots that we reach on an annual basis. And it will also give me a real opportunity to spend quality time with members and seek their honest feedback in a more comfortable and relaxed setting.”

In 2014, AOPA will host a series of pilot town halls and fly-ins. These Saturday events will give members the chance to share in a discussion with Mark Baker and other AOPA leaders, partake in an educational forum, and enjoy a burger or a hotdog on AOPA.

“I know thousands of you are planning to see us in Fort Worth, and we are really looking forward to a first-class event,” Baker said. “We’re offering hundreds of hours of seminars covering everything from medical and legal issues to aircraft ownership and emerging technologies. And this year’s exhibit hall and Airportfest feature hundreds of displays from highly respected aviation companies. It’s a great place to get answers to all your questions or just browse around and discover what’s new. And don’t forget the fun! We’ve got a free concert by country music star and pilot, Aaron Tippin, and a world-class rodeo at the Fort Worth Stockyards.

“I am truly looking forward to meeting members in Fort Worth in just a few short weeks and at community airports all over the country in 2014,” he continued. “We will be celebrating AOPA’s 75th anniversary next year, and I can’t think of a better time to go out and meet members, reaffirm AOPA’s commitment to our core mission of protecting the freedom to fly, and lay a new foundation for a fresh vision of the future.”

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  1. Paul Warman says

    The membership will miss the chance to compare vendor products unless they go to “Oshkosh”. Where will we get the seminars that have helped me and so many others better our piloting skills. This is a short sighted knee jerk reaction. Cut the fat in HQ and keep the EXPO. How long has Baker been a member of AOPA?

  2. Kimberly Bush says

    SPI hosts Charlie Wells Scholarship Fly-in the last weekend in April. We would love to get you signed up to appear.

  3. unclelar says

    I hope these upcoming events that AOPA visits won’t be like the one I attended last weekend — Triple Tree FLy-In. The AOPA Caravan was there and there were maybe three people from AOPA there. They sat around talking to each other. Didn’t see any of them interact with the attendees or do anything except have fun flying OUR Caravan down to the great fly-in. Reminds me of when Fuller flew down to Heavens Landing in Georgia to hobnob with a handful of well-to-do members for a free meal at our expense. Let’s give the new guy a chance. But not for too long.

  4. Kent Misegades says

    An indirect admission of the sorry state of GA in the country, despite a litany of feel-good programs and Polly Anna pronouncements from this and other alphabet groups in recent years. Are we one step closer to the inevtiable merger of the AOPA and the EAA, which originally was called the Experimental Aircraft Owner and Pilots Association?

    • Cam MacGregor says

      Gosh Kent, an organization that has been publicly criticized for being out of touch with its membership takes active steps to interact and engage more closely with its members and you turn that into a negative? Beating an endless drum about the depressed state of the general aviation industry does nothing to improve it or attract new people to it. Entities actively changing the way they do business does. It seems to me that both AOPA and EAA are taking positive steps to address their members’ concerns under their respective new leaders. Beating them up for the sins of the past every time they endeavor to make positive change is simply just that; beating a dead horse. As a member, I for one appreciate the rapid and aggressive responses by the new leaders at both organizations and will be actively supporting them and their efforts to transform their (my) organizations rather than restating the obvious ills of past leaders and programs. This GA industry, which encompasses and supports my passion for flight, needs far more cheerleaders and far fewer armchair quarterbacks in my opinion.

      • Dietrich Fecht says

        When I read the EAA magazine and the other online publications I see that the EAA, above the chapter level, is not very different from the AOPA. The magazines are so similar that they could be made from the same editors. The content of the articles are at both organisations in the same direction of supporting general aviation. There is no big difference. But the EAA has as the basics the airplane building members and their demand for airplane parts and self servicing their airplanes.

        What is a pity is that the EAA chapters not have a few airplanes for rent to members as long as the members are building their own planes. To promote flight simulators for the chapters is a good idea. The EAA has much more club athmosphere than the AOPA.

        For AOPA it is a good idea to have more the mass of pilots in mind which fly with small SE airplanes. I hope AOPA is more run in the future as a club for flying enthusiasts than an organization to support the financial needs of businesses. I remember times when in the AOPA magazines have been lists of new airplanes and other aviation products with compared prices and compared quality. This consumer (pilot and airplane owner) friendly attitude disappeared mostly in the last 15 years.

        But both organisations have lots of articles which express how dangerous flying general aviation airplanes could be. I believe, talking always about pilot faults is not helpful to support private aviation. Less articles about accidents and more about a positive sense of private flying are needed. One important question of the future is: How can private aviation with small planes support the society?

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