July 11, 2008
By Alyssa J. Miller
During the Nov. 7 AOPA Expo general session, AOPA President Phil Boyer and the senior executive management team discussed the association’s progress on key general aviation initiatives to keep flying safe, fun, and affordable. The team also gave a special sneak peek at the 2009 sweepstakes airplane.
Boyer opened the session by announcing AOPA’s recent partnership with the University of North Dakota. The school’s aviation students will be AOPA members while they are enrolled in the university.
“We’ve tried to bring the world of GA closer to the aviation schools,” Boyer said.
Of the membership, Boyer explained that AOPA started with 2,000 members in 1936, which comprised 6 percent of the pilot population. Today, AOPA’s 414,000 members account for about 75 percent of U.S. pilots.
Left to right: AOPA President Phil Boyer and the senior executive management team
AOPA Executive Vice President of Government Affairs Andy Cebula reported on the association’s efforts on air traffic control modernization, security, and airport preservation.
At the center of a debate on NextGen, a concept for ATC modernization, is automatic dependent surveillance-broadcast (ADS-B), datalink technology that uses satellite-based navigation and positioning information to transmit aircraft location and altitude to air traffic controllers and other nearby aircraft
AOPA has supported ADS-B and was involved early on in the testing of the technology because it allows weather and traffic information to be sent to the cockpit. “Unfortunately, as many things happen with the FAA, they took a really good idea and turned it into something that wasn’t too good,” Cebula said of the FAA’s implementation plans. AOPA has filed comments against portions of the FAA’s plan because it would hinder the technology’s capabilities.
Under the FAA’s plan, “cost would way exceed any benefit you would get as a GA pilot,” Cebula said.
A committee of aviation industry representatives formed to address the controversial plan and recently released a report that echoes many of AOPA’s concerns. Cebula explained that an acceptable plan would expand radar-like service to non-radar airspace and airports, provide search and rescue support, and eliminate the requirement for a transponder. AOPA also maintains that the price must be reasonable in order for GA pilots to equip their aircraft with the technology.
On the security front, Cebula highlighted AOPA’s efforts to mitigate the impact two proposals now in the works would have on GA.
A Customs and Border Protection proposal under consideration would require GA pilots to notify the agency electronically within 60 minutes before taking off on any flight to or from the United States. AOPA and its members have pointed out that electronic notification isn’t always possible in remote areas of Canada, Mexico, or the Caribbean. The association has been educating security officials on GA and international operations and has offered alternative ways pilots could notify officials of their U.S. arrival or departure.
Another proposal, the Transportation Security Administration’s Large Aircraft Security Program, would take a concept being used in the air charter community and apply it to GA, requiring vetting of pilots and checking passenger manifests against terrorist watch lists. While this applies to aircraft weighing more than 12,500 pounds, the concern is that the TSA is reaching into GA more than ever.
Airport preservation is another top agenda for AOPA. Declining revenues, reduced operations, a lack of community understanding, and environmental issues all create pressure to close airports. Cebula told the audience of a recent win in Maine (link), in which a community rallied during a ballot referendum to save Biddeford Municipal Airport.
AOPA members stay up to speed on the association’s efforts and the latest GA industry news through “AOPA Pilot,” AOPA Online, and “AOPA ePilot.”
“Our job is to let you know the heavy lifting that is going on every day on behalf of GA,” said Karen Gebhart, AOPA executive vice president of communications. Gebhart added that the association would also feature inspiring people and address difficult and complex subjects in future publications and online.
Gebhart also gave members attending Friday’s general session a sneak peek at next year’s sweepstakes airplane, a Cirrus. (Get your glimpse of the aircraft in the accompanying general session video!)
AOPA has been able to keep its membership dues at $39 in large part because of the association’s products and services. AOPA Member Products provides quality services, products, discounts, and aviation-specific enhancements.
AOPA Executive Vice President of Non-Dues Revenue Greg Sterling promoted AOPA’s Bank of America credit card, the AOPA Legal Services Plan, and the AOPA Insurance Agency.
The AOPA Insurance Agency formed 15 years ago, and now it serves the needs of more than 40,000 AOPA members. “It is the largest GA insurance agency in the world,” Sterling said, later adding that the agency can find the policy that is right for you and help you save money.
“At the end of the day, AOPA is doing its best to bring you products and services you need,” Sterling concluded.
How does age affect GA pilots? Can computers help your flight training? The AOPA Air Safety Foundation is researching the answers to those two questions, announced the foundation’s executive director, Bruce Landsberg.
Landsberg revealed that the foundation is working with Middle Tennessee State University on an 18-month study to find out if flight training can progress more quickly with the use of Microsoft FlightSim.
The foundation teamed with the University of North Dakota on a two-year study to determine how age impacts GA pilots.
“There have been no studies on general aviation pilots,” Landsberg said, “There have been studies on airline pilots, but they all stopped at age 65. “This will provide real data on how pilots can fly safely as they get on in years.”
Landsberg also encouraged pilots to take the foundation’s online safety courses and watch its new Pilot Safety Announcements.
AOPA Director of eMedia and Online Managing Editor Alyssa J. Miller has worked at AOPA since 2004 and is an active flight instructor.
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