President's Position

IAOPA turns 40

May 1, 2002

AOPA President Phil Boyer also serves as president of the International Council of Aircraft Owner and Pilot Associations.

The International Council of Aircraft Owner and Pilot Associations (IAOPA) celebrated its fortieth anniversary in February. We and the 55 other IAOPA affiliates around the world take for granted its existence that gives general aviation global reach and recognition. But moving from the germ of an idea to its realization required nearly 12 years of research, politics, and determination.

AOPA-U.S. became involved in international aviation during the early 1950s in response to member activity, since increasing numbers of pilots were stretching their wings to fly internationally. In doing so we quickly became aware that many of the standards and recommended practices developed by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and nations of the world clearly were biased in favor of the world's airlines. Airspace, customs facilities, airports, and rules of the air often neglected to note that general aviation even existed.

In defense of its members flying internationally, during the mid-1950s AOPA got itself invited as a member of the U.S. delegation to ICAO when general aviation issues were on the agenda. In doing so AOPA representatives had the opportunity to compare notes with other ICAO delegates sympathetic to general aviation interests. Consequently, GA groups from around the world sought advice from AOPA about forming similar organizations within their countries. By the late 1950s, AOPAs were formed in Canada, Australia, South Africa, and New Zealand. By 1958, AOPA had members in 58 countries. The need to become internationally oriented was becoming clear for AOPA-U.S. and supported by a variety of international organizations, including members of ICAO staff familiar with our cause.

In 1958 AOPA board member Abby Wolf, founder and President J.B. "Doc" Hartranft Jr., and Vice President of Publications Max Karant began discussions in earnest about forming an "association of associations" that would represent GA in world aeronautical councils, principally ICAO. The object was to gain observer status at ICAO, making it possible to enter discussions with representatives of sovereign states that had voting privileges in those meetings. The International Air Transport Association and International Federation of Air Line Pilots Associations had such status and used it to good advantage.

The constitution and bylaws of IAOPA were approved by its founding members: AOPA-U.S., COPA, AOPA-Australia, AOPA-South Africa, and the Philippines Airmen's Organization in February 1962. Other organizations joined during that year, forming the remainder of its charter membership: ILA Germany, APPA Mexico, OAPA Italy, and FVA Venezuela. ICAO recognition for the new organization followed in May 1964.

Those who travel internationally in GA aircraft regularly realize benefits of IAOPA's influence: publication of public authorities' working hours, temporary admittance without paying customs fees, provision for clearance, servicing, and parking areas for GA aircraft. We take these items for granted when we fly outside our borders, but most are a result of dogged work by AOPA affiliates acting as IAOPA representatives at international, regional, and sectional meetings of civil aviation authorities under the auspices of ICAO.

The United States is a signatory to the Chicago Convention of 1944, the document that established ICAO. Their standards and recommended practices provide uniformity of most rules and procedures when civil aircraft fly into and over their 187 signatory states. Most of our regulations stem from ICAO provisions. Rules of the air, operations, personnel licensing, airworthiness, air traffic service, and meteorology all have ICAO antecedents.

VFR weather minimums, airspace classifications, hemispheric cruising rules, speed limitations in terminal areas, and procedures for mixing VFR and IFR traffic all were considered in ICAO working groups. All aspects of pilot training, certification, and currency, including validation of foreign pilot licenses, were shaped by ICAO groups. Communication, navigation, and surveillance equipment use rules and procedures emanating from ICAO headquarters in Montreal. Few, if any, aspects of aviation escape the purview of ICAO. IAOPA's observer status has permitted us to participate in the formation of these provisions so important to us. IAOPA provides us with a distant early warning system to shape the rules before they get to our shores.

Now, more than ever, such an alert system is important. Other international organizations are providing input to ICAO, input that carries with it the weight of 30 to 50 countries. The Joint Aviation Authorities (JAA), Eurocontrol, and the European Civil Aviation Conference are all examples of these supra-national organizations. These organizations also influence the FAA through mutual efforts to harmonize differing regulations and procedures. In this, IAOPA is an invaluable tool.

The TCAs of the past becoming Class B airspace, the hourly sequence report now being called a METAR are vivid reminders that general aviation exists beyond our shores and that all civil aviation is guided by international bodies having a profound effect on our future ability to use aviation systems, domestic and international. As the largest association within IAOPA, and the headquarters for its operation, AOPA salutes IAOPA's efforts to provide general aviation's input to the larger world.