May 1, 1997
By Bruce Landsberg
Last year was another banner year for the AOPA Air Safety Foundation as we reached out to more pilots than ever and broke our all-time record for seminar attendance — which had just been set in 1995. More than 43,000 pilots attended ASF programs to obtain the latest safety information.
Particularly gratifying was the fact that the downward trend in general aviation accidents continued during 1996. Preliminary data show that GA experienced the lowest number of accidents since recordkeeping began. While many factors affect the accident picture, we believe that ASF was influential in educating pilots about the high-risk areas.
Not only did we offer more free evening safety seminars to all general aviation pilots — not just AOPA members — but our Seminar-in-a-Box program was expanded, allowing us to serve smaller communities and reach pilots who might not be able to attend one of our other programs. Last year more than 7,000 pilots attended ASF "box" programs — more than double 1995's attendance. The prepackaged format provides videotapes and lecture material, workbooks for every attendee, and even door prizes.
ASF targeted its safety seminar topics again this year to address the leading causes of fatal general aviation accidents. "Never Again," which was introduced during the spring, re-created stories of pilots who got into IFR weather without a clearance. Another program, "The Most Dangerous Game," debuted at AOPA Expo, dramatizing the dangers of maneuvering flight — which continues to plague GA pilots far too frequently. This interactive program is just being introduced on a national scale and will continue to play for the rest of this year.
"GPS in IFR Operations" is an educational program introduced last summer that gives pilots actual hands-on experience in using GPS receivers. Conducted simultaneously with ASF's Flight Instructor Refresher Clinic program, the limited-enrollment course is supported by GPS manufacturers AlliedSignal, Garmin, Northstar, II Morrow, and Trimble.
ASF continued to upgrade the industry's most popular CFI renewal program with the addition of new kit materials and a safety unit that gives CFIs the absolute latest data on areas in which pilots are having problems. This has significant implications for the conduct of biennial flight reviews as well as regular training.
Two new safety reviews were added to ASF's already extensive list, including our first topic-specific study. General Aviation Weather Accidents, a landmark study that reviewed more than a decade's worth of weather mishaps, analyzes the accidents and offers preventive strategies. Made possible by a grant from the Flying Physicians Association, this study received wide interest from the FAA and NTSB as well as from the pilot community. A safety review on the Piper Tomahawk addressed issues relating to its stall/spin record and ground handling characteristics, which are somewhat different from those of other training aircraft.
Jessica Dubroff's ill-fated flight, clearly a serious weather accident, captured massive media attention last year. ASF was there, along with AOPA; to help educate the FAA and keep it from drafting unreasonable regulation, we provided the facts relating to flight instruction accidents. When a regional airliner and a Beech King Air collided in Quincy, Illinois, ASF responded to the FAA's urgent request to remind pilots to exercise extra caution at nontowered airports. ASF and AOPA provided 5,000 posters to FBOs and flight schools within a month after the accident and expanded a safety publication on nontowered airport operations.
During 1996, we revised our safety pamphlets to provide graphics and a far more comprehensive approach to more subjects. One of the first Safety Advisors, as the new series is called, was Airspace for Everyone, a four-color simplified guide to a complex subject.
ASF maintained a significant presence in cyberspace by providing seminar schedules and most of our safety publications electronically, primarily via AOPA Online on the Internet. Our first-ever electronic silent auction was opened to all pilots to generate funding for new safety seminars; it continues this year on the Internet.
The foundation recognized excellence by awarding scholarships to two college students. The 1996 McAllister Memorial Scholarship was presented to Jennifer N. Winter of Colorado Springs, Colorado, and the 1996 Burnside Memorial Scholarship was awarded to Duane A. Boyle of Hooper, Nebraska. In partnership with other industry sponsors, ASF awarded the General Aviation Flight Instructor of the Year award to Ludwig (Lou) Wipotnik of Mount Prospect, Illinois, and the General Aviation Maintenance Technician award to Ralph L. Michalka of Kalamazoo, Michigan. The coveted ASF Distinguished Pilot of the Year award was presented to David Littlefield, the tower controller who talked a nonpilot passenger through a safe landing after the pilot became incapacitated.
ASF continued to offer its Pinch-Hitter course for nonflying companions, presenting it in 30 locations last year. The course, which has been conducted since the 1960s, provides encouragement and guidance to flying companions on how to enjoy flight in GA aircraft and teaches emergency flying skills.
None of the programs and activities cited above would be possible without the generous support of our donors and grantors. Contrary to popular belief, less than 10 percent of our annual income comes from the $1 voluntary contribution that is paid with AOPA membership dues. The generosity of more than 35,000 pilots provided the bulk of ASF's general operating support, while two dozen grantors — including seven state aeronautical agencies — provided project-specific funds in excess of $400,000. A challenge matching grant successfully generated enough money to reach another 7,000 pilots through additionally scheduled seminars. Our Hat-in-the-Ring Society, for donors of $1,000 or more annually, grew by 70 percent to 153 donors and provided extraordinary leadership and support in making ASF programs top-notch. Five members generously participated in our new Life Hat program, endowing their annual gifts with one-time $25,000 donations; they receive life memberships in AOPA. Under the leadership of Chairman Najeeb E. Halaby, our board of visitors — which includes well-known aviation industry executives, experienced pilots, and philanthropists — provided invaluable guidance and support.
ASF is grateful to those who participate in and benefit from our safety programs and products. To those who provide financial support, the entire general aviation community extends its thanks for keeping safety and safe flying practices in the forefront of our industry.
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