President's Position: Still $39

January 1, 2008

This issue of AOPA Pilot marks a new year. With a presidential election topping 2008, it is predicted to be a year filled with challenges and opportunities. Our association continues the FAA financing battle, even though it was stalled as last year ended. Far beyond aviation, many other federal programs also need funding, and Congress must either act on new legislation or extend the present taxes. Security and airport issues abound for general aviation, and AOPA will continue to advocate the premise that “one size doesn’t fit all.” Overshadowing the specifics of ’08 are questions of the economy, and whether or not this nation is headed for a recession. Our association is part of the economic picture, albeit on a small scale. Like you, our 250 AOPA employees expect and receive annual raises based on merit. They expect market-based benefits (in a climate of dramatic increases) such as health insurance. You now probably expect me to announce an increase in our annual dues. That is not the case. AOPA is in sound financial condition. 

If I were to answer the question, “What’s the best value in aviation?” even if I weren’t AOPA president, it would be your $39 AOPA member dues.

Few members realize that their annual dues have remained unchanged—still at $39—since 1990. Adjusted for inflation alone, they would be almost $63 today. Even that adjustment wouldn’t begin to meet the expenses of a modern association providing member services and defending our interests before Congress, state legislatures, and myriad government agencies.

With everything going up in cost over the last two decades, how have we gone so long at 39 bucks? First, AOPA membership has grown to more than 413,000 pilots. That’s more than 70 percent of all U.S. pilots! I truly believe that keeping AOPA membership affordable has been responsible for retaining and acquiring our large membership base. After spending considerable time on Capitol Hill with our staff this past year, I realize how important a sizable membership can be to a political issue. We can walk into a senator or congressman’s office and say, “AOPA represents nearly three-quarters of all of the nation’s pilots, X in your state or Y in your district.” That has considerable impact.

The second reason that we can keep AOPA dues low is the growth of what we call “non-dues revenue”—the optional AOPA member products that many of you support, plus the advertising in AOPA Pilot and our other print and electronic publications. Non-dues revenue has more than doubled since 1990 and now accounts for almost two-thirds of our annual operating budget. Without this revenue AOPA dues right now would be $120 and climbing. These products, provided by top-notch partners, are selected because we believe they offer special value, and most are directly related to your aviation activities. Whenever you use an AOPA member product, our “partner” returns a small royalty, commission, or even fixed payment to AOPA—at no cost to you. These are dollars we can invest in advocacy and other member services.

The largest contributor has been the AOPA credit card, which has now emerged from the transition year from MBNA to Bank of America. Just like other credit cards, you get reward points for every dollar you spend, but, unique to AOPA, we worked diligently to allow cardholders to receive double reward points for most aviation purchases. If all things are equal, your use of the AOPA credit card for nonaviation purchases really helps ensure this continuing stream of valuable revenue support.

The AOPA Insurance Agency is the world’s largest general aviation insurance broker, working with the top A-rated insurance underwriters. Rates of the major underwriting companies are the same for all agents, so you won’t get a better quote from any other broker. If you call us first, once again you’re helping support AOPA. Look at what our partners have to offer for auto, aviation AD&D, and life insurance as well. For example, we have a more than half-century relationship with Minnesota Life that goes back to when those who fly could not get life insurance from any other source.

Our Legal Services Plan now covers almost 90,000 members and is a unique product designed to serve the GA pilot in a wide variety of protections against FAA enforcement actions and other aviation issues.

When you go to buy a new airplane or upgrade your existing aircraft, check out the AOPA Aircraft Financing Program. And don’t forget to use AOPA Aircraft Title & Escrow Services to avoid a very expensive mistake.

Car rentals with discounts (listed on the back of your membership card)—we have them from three great companies: Hertz, Avis, and Alamo. Plus, newcomers to the product lineup: AOPA Online Travel (powered by Orbitz) and Flight Explorer for aircraft tracking.

There are many more of these products and services, and you can see them all online ( www.aopa.org/membership).

Last but not least, members can both support us and show their pride in being an AOPA pilot with insignia merchandise from our partner, Sporty’s Pilot Shop.

When your annual membership renewal is requested, keep in mind it’s still just $39, but, more important, consider supporting our association all year long through AOPA products and advertisers.

Phil Boyer enters his eighteenth year as AOPA president this month.