Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association President Craig Fuller recently sent out a review of 2010, as well as a look ahead to the opportunities and challenges for 2011, unveiling the organization’s theme for 2011: Rally GA. “It’s meant to energize those who fly and dream of flying to slip those surly bonds of earth and experience flight,” he says.
Fuller’s message opens with: “What strikes me most is that for the first time in two years we are looking forward to an improving economy. Uncertainty remains, but there’s more optimism in the land, I think.”
“Our general aviation community has traveled through some challenging weather to be sure,” he continues. “However, we have a resilient community. And, we never really let up; thus, have accomplishments to show for it!
- No federal user fee was even proposed after a $9.6 billion fee was suggested two years ago;
- No new state taxes were imposed on general aviation in the country, although several states tried;
- Working with our colleagues in other aviation groups we helped leaders in Congress build large General Aviation Caucuses in the US House of Representatives and the Senate;
- We are fully engaged at the highest levels charting a course for air traffic control modernization – NextGen – with benefits for general aviation;
- We have launched an effort to strengthen flight training and help build our pilot population;
- Our Airport Support Network(ASN) reached 2,300 volunteers at airports across the nation.
Looking ahead, Fuller notes that as the new Congress starts up, “so many of the long enduring problems remain for new members of Congress, new Congressional leaders and a President with a White House staff he seems to be almost totally remaking at the top.
“The general aviation community saw some of our leaders leave Congress through self or voter imposed retirement. Yet, a number of new members are traveling to Washington … to take office as strong supporters of GA. Still, many are only slightly aware of our issues and concerns.
“If there is a theme we keep hearing, it is one of fiscal restraint.
“While I’m not one to take exception to policies designed to strengthen our economy, spending reduction efforts utilizing blunt instruments often have unintended consequences. So, our mission with many of the new members of Congress will be to insure they understand the important economic contribution the GA community makes across the country.
There are some urgent needs to be addressed.
After at least 16 extensions, the Congress really should come together to pass an FAA Reauthorization to give some certainty to the leaders at the FAA with large long term programs.
There is no turning back with regard to modernizing our air traffic control systems. NextGen must still be carefully defined, but implementation is underway on this critical US infrastructure program and accepting the status quo simply is not an option.
More work will advance on the avgas issue. While fully expecting our high octane 100LL avgas to remain available to power our piston aircraft, there is an aggressive search underway for both lower lead and unleaded alternatives. We look for progress and greater certainty in what remains a multi-year process.
Funding challenges look likely to threaten the monies in the Airport Improvement Program (AIP) account and this money helps with the maintenance and expansion of airports across the country. Matched with state and local funds, these federal funds protect a vital national asset — our public use airports. Look for challenges across the country to come up with necessary funding.
Our pilot population has been in decline for many years. We must not accept a trend that ultimately threatens our ability to maintain a strong general aviation community. In fact, our friends in the commercial aviation business are expressing stronger and stronger concerns about just where pilots will come from in the future. For the GA community, this should be an opportunity. For all these reasons, our AOPA Foundation will provide stronger focus on enhancing our flight training programs to more successfully train pilots.
I do believe that 2011 will see a strengthening in the business aviation sector. There are already some encouraging signs. Economic growth requires mobility and GA aircraft meet the need of businesses of all sizes. This is one of the reasons I value our work with the National Business Aviation Association (NBAA). We found strong interest in the two Light Business Aircraft Conferences we co-sponsored this past year and look to do more with NBAA in the future.
As for reaching out at AOPA, there is no substitute for spending time with our members. The Town Hall program has been a real source of enjoyment and learning. Not one of the dozens and dozens of these Town Hall gatherings has failed to produce important insights from our members. Looking forward, we will do more of these and as often as possible try to work with those in the aviation community who are organizing their own events where our participation can strengthen participation.
It is also important to reach out to those yet to be fully engaged in our GA community. Each time I have had the chance, the rewards are real. People learn more about the importance of community airports. They learn how others are utilizing GA for personal and professional missions. And, some even go out and experience the freedom to fly for the first time. So, more time needs to be devoted to this important audience going forward.
Our theme for 2011 is Rally GA. It’s meant to energize those who fly and dream of flying to slip those surly bonds of earth and experience flight.
For more information: AOPA.org