October 1, 1998
General aviation has always been very diverse, and that's what makes it interesting and challenging for those of us who participate. General aviation, described as all flight activity except for scheduled air service and the military, encompasses everything from ultralights to corporate aircraft, gyrocopters to turbine helicopters, homebuilts to factory-manufactured airplanes, and an equally wide variety of both certificated and noncertificated pilots. Within the almost 345,000 AOPA members are constituents who span all of these activities. Each looks at your organization to represent his or her individual interests. This requires the AOPA staff to prioritize issues so that they are working on problems and opportunities that affect the majority interests of our members, in addition to those specialized and unique areas that might set a precedent affecting all of GA.
One area that unquestionably remains common to every group I have mentioned is our U.S. structure of general aviation airports. For several years AOPA has been working to develop a program that would have a positive effect on reducing the number of airports closed each year. Late last year AOPA announced the beginning of a bold new initiative — the AOPA Airport Support Network (ASN). The goal of the Airport Support Network is to appoint a dedicated AOPA member to act as an advocate for the airport and provide early warnings to the association on issues that might affect GA at that airport. Throughout my travels, as I have spoken about the program, members unanimously approve of this effort, no matter what they fly.
So far, a dedicated staff in our Regional Affairs department, hired just for this project, has appointed more than 388 AOPA members to the Airport Support Network. Ultimately we hope to have more than 5,000 member volunteers — enough to provide coverage for every public-use landing facility in the United States. Already these AOPA delegates are working hard for you and GA.
Robert Froelich, AOPA 185010, the ASN volunteer at Skypark Airport in Bountiful, Utah, was selected to participate in an important Utah task force that could affect local airport funding throughout the state. Bob has provided AOPA headquarters with copies of reports and materials that were distributed at each of the meetings. The task force is responsible for reviewing the status of local airports throughout the state, examining the costs and benefits of construction and maintenance, and studying existing and potential funding mechanisms. The work will culminate in a final report, including any proposed legislation, that is due November 30.
As a tool for ASN, AOPA developed the video Local Airports — Access to America. This 22-minute video tells the story (from a nonaviator perspective) of why general aviation airports are important to the community. Dave Freudenberg, AOPA 1208394, of Boca Raton, Florida, and Lawrence Beaudoin, AOPA 1070034, of Montague, Massachusetts, have had this important educational video aired on their local-access cable channels. What a terrific way to call the attention of the nonflying general public to the value of a local airport!
Scholes Field in Galveston, Texas, has a new airport manager, who is working with our ASN volunteer, George Gould, AOPA 961650, to publish a newsletter for the airport tenants. This valuable piece of airport management/pilot public relations will keep everyone up to date on what is happening at the airport. After some years of adversarial relations between the users and the management, George is working with the new manager to head off problems before they start.
In another airport management situation, Robert Wyckoff, AOPA 486315, along with the Lompoc Valley Pilots Association, found that the city of Lompoc, California, was advertising for an airport manager, with "no aviation experience required." They brought this to the attention of the airport committee, city staff, and city council and were successful in having the requirements for the position changed to include experience and knowledge specifically related to general aviation airports.
Not everything that our volunteers do involves a problem. Remember, there are some great opportunities, such as when Prescott, Arizona, celebrated the seventieth anniversary of Ernest A. Love Field with its Air Faire. Ken Shuck, AOPA 686571, had his Cessna 150 on display, and under the wing he had a table full of AOPA general aviation promotional materials and "Learn to Fly" certificates. In April 1999, when New Smyrna Beach Municipal Airport in Florida holds its Air Festival, ASN volunteer Joe Johanson, AOPA 670705, plans on having the Flying Friendly and Local Airports — Access to America videos running at the event.
ASN volunteers Ken McLauglin, AOPA 1319901, at Fort Worth Meacham International in Texas, and Steve Carver, AOPA 1129436, at Glenwood Springs Municipal Airport in Colorado, have organized local airport users into viable airport associations. Ken's group successfully worked to have a crosswind runway — closed by the airport without user input — reopened. Pilot associations are being organized by several other ASN volunteers.
I'm just touching on the surface in these examples. As the program continues to grow, these successes will mount — with a positive effect on you. ASN is our "early warning network," as I have stated. Right now we're hearing from ASN volunteer, David Faile, AOPA 200622, about a possible increase in fees at Bridgeport, Connecticut's Igor I. Sikorsky Memorial Airport. His alert will enable us to take action early on this issue that could affect the cost-of-flying concerns of members using that facility.
The February issue of Pilot included an article about the ASN program, and full details are available on AOPA Online ( www.aopa.org/asn/). Your association's successes at all levels of government have resulted from member involvement in key issues. ASN brings that power to the local level. Working together as partners, AOPA and you can make a difference.
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AOPA thanks our members for their continued support in protecting the freedom to fly.