President's Position

Forging alliances

July 1, 1991

In my travels around the country in my first six months as president of AOPA, I have encountered one common thread: Members are finding increased local and state pressures on general aviation. The problems of airspace, airports, taxation, and the overall image of light airplanes are the same issues that have plagued us for years, but the opposition is getting louder, more organized, and much more precise. Community groups fighting aircraft noise now understand Stage 1, 2, and 3 engines, and they make persuasive arguments using precise decibel numbers rather than perceived noise levels. Airport opponents present consultants, special studies, and experts to city and county commissions responsible for aviation matters at the local levels.

AOPA has fought both the national and the local battles on behalf of general aviation. Pilot communities are realizing that the complex issues of today are best tackled through a combination of national and local efforts. Our most recent successes have occurred because organized and vocal pilot groups have worked with AOPA toward a common goal. These groups take on many forms, such as a state pilots association, an area pilots group, or a group formed to fight a specific issue.

Years ago, I was a member, and then president, of one such group, the Sacramento Valley (California) Pilots Association. The primary purpose was social, to get together for hangar flying, occasional organized trips, and just share experiences with people holding a similar interest in private flying. We all were members of AOPA and left the political work to the association. However, that local group became very important one day when, following an air show, a warbird departing Sacramento Executive Airport crashed into an ice cream parlor. Loud cries were immediately heard from the community that the airport was unsafe, and a groundswell of opinion was mustered to close the facility. All of a sudden, our good-times social group changed into politically charged airport defenders. We were in contact with AOPA for help and advice on how to counter the attacks.

Recently, some 18 years since that incident, I was in Sacramento and spoke to the current members of my former group. I recalled for them how we, along with AOPA, successfully countered the attack on Executive, allowing it to continue to function as the general aviation airport serving this rapidly growing community.

Today, even more so than that effort in 1972, it is important that local groups are maintained, or organized, to work with AOPA should community and government pressures put the squeeze on local pilots or airports. Through our regional representative program, your association keeps up to date on individual issues, no matter how small, around the United States. We stand ready to become involved whenever and wherever possible, but working with local organizations can produce even more positive results.

Ask the nearly 1,000 northern California members of CRAMP, the Coalition for Responsible Airport Management and Policy, about producing results with a double-barreled effort — AOPA at the national level and CRAMP members locally. AOPA helped CRAMP President Bill Dunn form the organization to help save Reid-Hillview, an important San Francisco Bay area GA airport. The battle isn't over, but we're all seeing the positive results brought about by AOPA's involvement from headquarters — spearheaded by California regional rep Joe Crotti — and the hard work and loyal support of CRAMP members in the San Jose area. In just 18 months, we've expanded our joint efforts to include working with the city council to preserve a GA presence at San Jose International and involvement in several problems at nearby Watsonville Airport.

The list continues: SOAR at linden, New Jersey; the Hamilton (California) Re-Use Group; The Washington State Pilots Association; the Mid- Atlantic Aviation Coalition; the Sullivan County (Pennsylvania) Pilots Association; the Arizona Pilots Association; and many, many more. All have forged alliances with AOPA that provides assistance in organizing support at the local level to lending respected national support from a powerful and effective aviation association. AOPA offers members seeking further information or help in organizing against local airport opposition our outstanding Airport Support Package.

The alliance doesn't stop with local groups; it continues and builds on the relationship AOPA has developed with airplane-specific groups, like the Cessna Pilots Association, the American Bonanza Society, the new Malibu Owners Coalition, and the many others that provide excellent support for parts and information for the equipment you fly. The AOPA technical staff assists these groups in fighting off unwarranted airworthiness directives and seeking relief from those published.

The 1990s have already proved there's a lot of work out there for those of us who are pro-general-aviation. That work requires that all pilots understand the local role they can play in combination with AOPA to effect change. Over the coming months, we'll be strengthening our already successful efforts in this area and stand ready to assist you in forming that important local alliance with your association.