Respectfully yours

Now and then I’ll receive a piece of mail that contains a dollar bill. These tend to be from companies that want information from me. You probably get similar mailers arriving at your home or office. Most of us do.

What I find intriguing about these dollars in the mail is that I cannot recall the name of a single company I’ve received one from. I remember the dollar, but only in generic terms. Why they chose to send cash through the mail, or what they hope to impress upon me is a mystery. I simply don’t retain that information because it’s not important to me and they make no attempt to make it important to me. Even though they gave me money I have no recollection of them, no brand loyalty, no sense of purpose or belonging.

Being on the receiving end of a dollar is nice. It’s not going to change anyone’s standard of living, or make a significant dent in their ability to pay the mortgage, or the electric bill, or the car insurance — but it’s a nice gesture. Nice, but bland. Pedestrian. You might even say it’s an unremarkable expression of interest in the recipient.

Personally, I would rather experience the perception of respect than the gift of a dollar. I think that’s true for many of us.

Because respect is more valuable than a dollar. It’s more valuable than $10.

Respect has to be earned, but it has to be offered in a genuine fashion, as well. I’d like to think we’re on the road to showing respect for each other in aviation. Perhaps I’m wrong. But I don’t think so. I see a new day, a brighter future, and a real opportunity opening up for us.

I wonder if you’ve gotten the same impression. Perhaps, if you squint into the distance just right, you’ll be able to see it too.

The Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association (AOPA) has made a pivot. A good one in my estimation. They’ve replaced the massive annual Summit with several smaller, more community based events. That’s a major step in the right direction, because local events are more personal and more easily managed. They allow for greater participation on the whole, by creating opportunities for people to attend an event occurring within a couple hundred miles of home. Many of those same people just don’t have the means or the opportunity to attend a similar large event held a couple thousand miles away.

Access is improved at smaller events, too. And by access I mean real, meaningful interaction between the men and women in the field and the men and women at the home office.

Maryland is a lovely place, but it’s not Texas, or Kansas, or Oregon, or southern California. It’s not Florida or Maine either. It’s not less than any other location in the US, any more than it is superior. It’s simply a home base. And a logically situated home base, as well. But just as a congressman or senator can lose touch with the folks back home if they spend too much time in Washington, the same can be true for lobbyists and advocacy groups. Fortunately, AOPA saw the writing on the wall, developed an action plan, and put it into effect.

The odds are good you don’t know your congressman. At least not in a meaningful way. You  have probably never had a serious discussion with either of your senators, either. Not one-on-one, or even in a small group. And these are people who actually campaign and go out of their way to meet you every two or six years. At least they try to leave that impression while they raise money, talk to small groups of big dollar contributors, and stand up straight in front of the television cameras whenever the big, bright light comes one.

AOPA was at risk of being painted with that same broad brush of disinterest. There were rumblings of a disconnect between Frederick and the organization’s base supporters. In recent years the grapevine has not been particularly kind to the largest and most effective advocacy group in aviation. And then something happened. Something good. Something hopeful.

The shift at AOPA shows every indication of an organization that is attempting to connect with its base. To share a sense of purpose in a meaningful way. To listen. To show respect to its membership and potential membership.

This could be big.

The fly in the ointment is now us, the folks on the outside. The onus has shifted to the members, the prospective members, the aviation enthusiasts who have become jaded, tired, less-than-enthusiastic supporters of the cause, and just plain old distrustful of institutions and their staff. It is now our turn to step up, speak out, share our honest impressions of the industry and how we can stabilize and revitalize it.

Respect is a two-way street. The big dog has shown a real willingness to respect us, to come to our doorstep, to listen to our woes, and plans, and dreams, and yes – even our complaints. It is now up to us to reciprocate.

This summer is our first opportunity in years to extend a hand to AOPA on the local and regional level, trust in them, show them the respect they are trying so hard to give us, and ask the big question that we must ask if we are to truly be successful in the coming years.

The question is this, “How can I help you protect and expand the industry I love?”

I’m on board. How about you?


  1. says

    Sometimes I think the AOPA is just a front for their big brother, “their” insurance company. Isn’t it in the same building or just next door? Questions that could be asked. Are their financial ties between these two entities? Were their ties at one time? Are there still ties but now they are hidden?

  2. Ed Watson says

    I was an AOPA member for many years and something that was always annoying me was the requirement to have to log in with a member number which I seldom had with me on the road. Seems to me that the info on and abut airplanes and topics should have been part of the “job” of AOPA and would have been a benefit to and incentive to others and that was a missed opportunity. Sure some things should be restricted from the “outsiders” but educational items and information about planes, reg’s and such would have been better left in the open.
    I’m out of the business now but remember the frustration still.

  3. Norman Davis says

    I agree with your perception that AOPA was losing touch with those that it served. I also observed the organization kowtowing to the FAA and not standing up to it in support of the flying community. Now it, along with EAA and other organizations, are combining forces in order to protect us from what has become a tyrannical government regulatory body. It’s about time.

    I think EAA was falling into the same trap. New leaders in both major organizations have “seen the light” so to speak from dwindling memberships, high costs of flying and stories of harassment by immigration and drug agents.

    As a retired US Civil Servant who, like most of us would never dream of victimizing anyone, that an agency would take it upon itself to pick on law abiding pilots. I found this action most appalling. I’m satisfied that AOPA has addressed with considerable assertiveness and for now, at least, these actions will cease. I hope AOPA, with it’s newly found voice, will continue to be one of our staunchest advocates.

    • Sarah A says

      I would hardly agree that EAA has “Seen the Light”. COnsider that they brought the former CEO of Cessna in to run the organization (complete with his phoney Engineer Degrees). This is the guy who sent the production of the massivly failed to China rather than Wichita. Then look at their publication Sprot Aviation now being by the former editor of Flying who is proceeding to fill its pages with the same old tired stuff that led me to stop reading that publication wirhin the first few year of my own flying career (I have been fliing fo over 40 years so this stuff is even more older and tired then it was then). They even featured a Pilot Report on the overproiced TBM, hardly an aircraft worthy of several pages in the Experimental Aviation Associations Sport Aviation magazine (there is nothing Experiemntal or Sport about a TBM). That shows the profile of an organization that has lost sight of why it was formed and gone head long in a search for maximizing income to support the head office cronnies. I do not think AOPA has ever been as bad as what EAA is today.

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