A group of the nation’s leading flight instructors launched a petition on Feb. 2 calling for the immediate resignation of the current Board of Directors of the National Association of Flight Instructors (NAFI). Unless that happens, the petition stated, the Experimental Aircraft Association should end its affiliation with NAFI.
For the past several months, the insurgent Take Back Our NAFI organization has “earnestly and actively attempted to work with the NAFI Board of Directors to make the organization more responsive to its members,” said TBO-NAFI spokesman Doug Stewart, who heads the interim working group for TBO-NAFI as he explained the reasons for the petition to GeneralAviationNews.com. “This is the next step in attempting to bring about meaningful change at NAFI,” he said. “We have attempted to work with the existing board and with EAA to restructure the NAFI governance procedures and by-laws in order to allow direct election of the Directors by the membership. Despite an assurance that all parties involved would collaborate to enact substantial changes, the board continued to do nothing except expend NAFI’s limited financial resources hiring public relations assistance and legal help.
“It seems incredible that a board composed of several lawyers finds it necessary to hire outside counsel,” he quipped.
TBO-NAFI had agreed to January 31st as the date when NAFI would deliver a specific plan for how the organization would “revamp the existing governance,” Stewart said. “That critical deadline has now passed with no meaningful progress, other than a vague promise to address the concerns by the next board meeting in the spring.”
The Board told TBO-NAFI that it would need time to deliberate, given the “complex issues” involved. However, Stewart pointed out, “they had no difficulty firing Sandy and Joanne Hill last week and moving immediately to bring the Master CFI program in-house. They somehow found the time to concurrently issue press releases attempting to explain those actions, yet they plead for more time to simply do what they should have done long ago.”
As of Feb. 2, Stewart said, 114 petition signatures had been received from “a diverse cross section of CFIs and NAFI Master CFIs throughout the country, including many of the nation’s most prominent aviation educators as well as industry and government leaders supporting a leadership change at NAFI.”
According to Stewart, his organization believes that, by taking the steps urged in the petition, NAFI “might still become the organization envisioned by its founders, supporting and fostering the development of the nation’s professional aviation educators. Such changes are essential to achieve the goal of helping aviation teachers create safe, knowledgeable and confident pilots by providing resources, products and services in concert with industry partners and the FAA.”
Stewart said that, if the actions called for in the petition are not forthcoming by February 6th, TBO-NAFI will launch a new organization of aviation instructors “that will be responsive to its membership.”
Only one NAFI director, Robert A. Wright, has acted on the petition so far. He issued a statement of resignation from the board on Feb. 2, the text of which follows:
“Today, I am resigning my position as a Director on the board of the National Association of Flight Instructors (NAFI). I am also resigning my NAFI membership.
“I am taking these actions primarily to protest the appalling and completely unjustified removal of Directors Sandy and JoAnn Hill from the NAFI board on January 20, 2009. As a board member from October 2005 to the present, I observed no action or behavior on their part that would warrant such action. On the contrary, the selfless and dedicated service rendered to NAFI and the instructor community by Sandy and JoAnn were the only activities that gave NAFI credibility with the instructor and aviation community and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA). As FAA’s senior executive for general aviation from 2001 to 2005, I was in a position to validate this. In fact, it was only the integrity and professionalism of Sandy and JoAnn Hill that allowed me to recognize participation in the Master Instructor program as a method of flight instructor renewal.
“Although the shabby treatment of the Hills by the NAFI board is my primary reason for resigning, it is not the only reason. For NAFI to grow and be responsive and accountable, it must have a board that is elected by the membership. By that, I mean that at least 51 per cent of board members must be elected by the membership. The majority of the current board callously ignored such a proposal made by EAA President Tom Poberezny during the October 2008 board meeting. I am confident that the current board has no intention of permitting a significant portion of board seats to be elected by the membership. It was obvious to me from their actions that their sole goal is to maintain the status quo. It was only out of respect to Tom Poberezny that I delayed my resignation in hopes that he could influence NAFI board actions, since NAFI is an EAA affiliate. Sadly, in the more than three months since this crisis first erupted, I have seen no evidence of effective action by Tom or EAA.
“The instructor community and general aviation are currently facing severe challenges and we need an effective organization to represent flight instructors before the FAA and within the aviation community. I am resigning from NAFI because, without the Hills and changes in governance, it is my view that NAFI no longer provides effective representation. However, I am optimistic that the group Take Back Our (TBO) NAFI has some of the most capable and dedicated members of the instructor community and that the member-based instructor organization that they are currently creating will effectively fill this important need. Although I will not seek a formal position in the new organization, I have offered TBO NAFI my assistance as an advisor.
“It is my view that all flight instructors must take an active role in shaping their future through effective representation. We should all reach a decision regarding the instructor organization that we choose to support. I have made my decision and I urge all flight instructors and aviation educators to make their decision in a timely manner.”
A complete history of the issue and additional information is available at www.tbonafi.info.