September 1, 2002
Post September 11, 2001, AOPA's mission, as well as our promise to you, has been to restore all aspects of general aviation to as close to "normal" conditions as feasible, and we have surely played a leading role to accomplish that on your behalf. What has also been very clear to all of us is that general aviation today remains misunderstood by nearly everyone. At a congressional hearing last year, I told House members, "Shame on us," referring to the GA industry as a whole, "for not having created a better understanding of the value of general aviation to the public." Our national and local opinion leaders, the news media, and many of our neighbors have little appreciation of the importance and reach of GA activities in this country. Unwarranted fears and misconceptions about our flying persist.
AOPA determined that, in addition to our lobbying efforts, it was time to add to our ability to educate decision makers and the public alike that pilots are responsible and highly trained, our airplanes are safe, and GA makes a strong contribution to the betterment of our society.
Our response was to form the General Aviation Restoration Fund. We asked for your support, and you enthusiastically responded with donations totaling more than $500,000. Next, it was up to your AOPA staff to consider how to most effectively spend that money to achieve our goal. The results of that deliberation — a world-class Web site, General Aviation: It's Working for America ( www.GAservingamerica.org), and publicity campaign — have arrived.
In key markets across the country, our advertising campaign will be in full swing the week after Labor Day. The advertisements are not fancy. You will see simple, black-and-white, no-nonsense messages, one message per ad. They are designed to grab the reader's attention long enough to make a critical point about small airplanes and hopefully pique their interest enough to go to the Web site and experience the full breadth and depth of what GA means to our country. If you have been to one of my pilot town meetings, you have likely heard a few of these slogans: "A mile of highway gets you one mile, a mile of runway gets you anywhere"; "Most airline flights will only take you to the 40 largest U.S. airports, general aviation takes you to the other 5,400"; and "Without general aviation, airline cockpits would be empty."
We have placed the advertisements in leading publications to reach opinion leaders around the country. These include The Wall Street Journal and Business Week magazine. Other important newspapers carrying the ads range from The New York Times and The Miami Herald to The Los Angeles Times. In Washington, decision makers will see our messages in The Washington Post and Roll Call. Other areas will be reached with ads placed in regional business publications. AOPA Online and ePilot will carry the full list of publications, insertion dates, and samples of the advertisements.
A news media campaign and Web-based publicity efforts will also spread the word. While the project and Web site are not primarily targeted at pilots and AOPA members, you can play your part. Use the site and quote from it. Refer people to it. If you can influence other organizations, preferably nonaviation ones, get them to include the Web address in their publications and link to it from their Web sites. When making presentations to local leaders about your neighborhood airport, use the Web site. Refer to it whenever you contact your political representatives. By spreading the word locally and delivering the message to the right people, we will provide positive arguments to counter unnecessary restrictions and needless and ineffective security measures that may still arise.
When we attract opinion leaders to the Web site, what messages do we want them to take with them? The site is designed to answer the question: What is GA and why should you care about it? I believe the concise messages and exciting design showcase the role GA plays in the U.S. economy and the contributions it makes that touch all Americans' lives. Headings such as "General Aviation — It's Working for America"; "GA: Serving All Americans"; "GA: Serving You and Your Community"; "Advantages of GA"; "The Future of GA"; "Is it Safe?"; and "How's It All Work?" bring readers quickly to the point.
As the Web site says, without GA, the quality of life in America would be vastly diminished. Crop yields from our farms would drop by 50 percent. There would be no overnight shipment of packages. Business and industry would lose their competitive edge in world markets. Lives would be lost without emergency life flights. And 145 million people a year would have no practical way to reach their travel destinations.
I want to offer my personal thanks to the many members who, following the tragedy of September 11, contributed the necessary dollars to fund this campaign. Through their efforts, decision makers and the public can better understand what GA is, how it works, and what it does for America.
It is our continuing responsibility to educate and inform them. In AOPA's 63-year history, never has our ability to fly in this county been so restricted or its future so threatened. Let's help lawmakers, business leaders, and our communities make responsible decisions. Let's help them to better understand GA's critical role in our national economy, the essential role it plays in the daily lives of all Americans, and that a vital link in our air transportation system is "GA Serving America."
A touch of history, affordable flying, unique sightseeing, a good meal, and a community of pilots: Isn’t that what general aviation is all about?
Getting the job done on the local and national levels requires long-term planning, a hands-on approach, and keeping the effort moving, said Sean Collins, AOPA’s Eastern regional manager.
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