Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association 2007 Annual Report: Team Effort

Talented individuals come together to promote, defend, and protect GA

May 1, 2008

I have only to look around our offices here at the Frederick, Maryland, headquarters to see general aviation advocacy and support in action—it’s in the team of talented individuals who make up our organization, and in the management team that leads these fine folks. This incredible team keeps the home fires burning, allowing me to be out representing the membership on such important matters as user fees. Over the past year I have focused much of my attention on defeating the notion that the air traffic system should be funded by an airline-backed plan supporting user fees rather than the current, efficient plan that leverages the fuel taxes we already pay.

So from our charge up Capitol Hill to address the FAA funding battle to our continual hard work to make the skies safer for all of us who fly, and from the extensive member benefits to our level-headed financial management (your dues remain at $39 per year, not an increase in more than 17 years!), this association has the talent, brain power, and commitment to ensure that GA not only survives in our turbulent world, but continues to thrive.

On the following pages I’d like to introduce you to our executive management team and give them the opportunity to tell you about their efforts over the past year—and I’m standing by to give them all the support and encouragement they need.

Government Affairs: Ending an eventful 2007; a strong start in 2008

Andrew Cebula
Executive Vice President
Government Affairs

Education: Bachelor of Science, Aviation Management, Auburn University

Knowledge: 27 years in aviation policy; manages AOPA’s advocacy efforts on issues affecting general aviation pilots and aircraft owners.

Experience: Leads a professional staff of 36 in Frederick and Washington, D.C., and 13 regional representatives; former vice president of government and industry affairs for the National Air Transportation Association and former senior policy analyst in the FAA’s Office of Civil Aviation Security.

AOPA addressed several major issues in 2007—the historic fight against user fees and excessive tax increases on general aviation; the botched implementation of the consolidation and modernization of the FAA’s Flight Service Stations (FSS) under contract with Lockheed Martin; the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) advancement of new initiatives targeting GA through its various agencies; and the targeting by states and local governments of GA airports for closure, and initiating tax increases as governments scramble to respond to budget shortfalls.

FAA funding—major work left undone

AOPA spent an unprecedented amount of time and financial resources fighting user fees. Congress did not complete work on the FAA reauthorization bill in 2007, instead opting for short-term extensions of the aviation taxes and FAA programs. Congressional action centers in both houses on a four-year bill that finances the FAA by paying for modernization of the air traffic control system (NextGen), airport improvements, and daily operations of the aviation system.

The House of Representatives passed the FAA reauthorization bill (H.R.2881) on September 20, 2007. This bill, supported by AOPA, rejects user fees and instead increases the general aviation fuel taxes, and dedicating the additional revenue to modernize the ATC system. Avgas taxes would increase from 19.3 to 24.1 cents per gallon and Jet A taxes would increase from 21.8 to 35.9 cents per gallon.

The full Senate has yet to consider its version of the legislation because of disagreement over two competing approaches to financing the FAA. The Commerce Committee reported a bill (S.1300) that contains a $25 user fee—which is opposed by AOPA—on turbine-powered aircraft operations designated for air traffic control modernization. The Finance Committee approved a bill (S.2345) supported by AOPA that has no user fee and instead increases Jet A from 21.8 to 35.9 cents per gallon while maintaining the existing level of tax on avgas at 19.3 cents per gallon and increases taxes on certain airline flights. S.1300 raises the funds necessary (about $400 million per year) for air traffic control modernization that negates the need for the $25 user fee in the Commerce Committee approved bill.

New FSS system stabilizes

After a catastrophic beginning last April when Lockheed Martin began implementing new flight service system consolidation and modernization (FS21) and failed to meet pilots’ needs, the FSS system is steadily improving. FS21 is a contract between the FAA and Lockheed Martin that has consolidated FSS into three new hubs and 18 modernized satellite facilities located at existing FSS sites. AOPA endorsed this concept when initially developed because it reduced the 10-year cost by $1.8 billion for providing this one ATC service that is specific for GA. It promised improved service, but it has yet to deliver on this commitment.

The FAA and Lockheed Martin were slow in realizing the magnitude of the failure. It took numerous meetings, phone calls, letters, and eventually congressional action to have the service problems addressed. These steps included:

  • The creation of a toll-free telephone hotline to provide a central reporting point for complaints about FSS service. In the first four weeks, the FAA hotline received more than 600 individual phone calls from pilots and resolved many individual complaints.
  • An AOPA request that the House Aviation Subcommittee hold an investigation and oversight hearing. The October hearing brought into a public forum the ongoing investigation by the House committee staff and an AOPA-instigated audit of FSS by the Department of Transportation inspector general.
  • Testimony by AOPA President Phil Boyer before the subcommittee, sharing results from a member survey showing that only 64 percent of pilots were satisfied with the current level of service from FS21—a failing grade.
  • A letter sent by Aviation Subcommittee Chairman Jerry Costello (D-Ill.) to DOT Secretary Mary Peters requesting that the FAA provide his subcommittee with status reports every 90 days to ensure that progress is made.
  • An FSS information card developed by AOPA that was inserted into a half million copies of AOPA Pilot and AOPA Flight Training magazines.
  • A major online course produced by the AOPA Air Safety Foundation— A Pilot’s Guide to Flight Service.

Defending airports

We continue our aggressive advocacy to protect airports from closure, restricting encroaching development or incompatible land uses in places such as California’s Santa Monica, Delano, and San Diego; Ohio’s Lost Nation and Blue Ash; and Florida’s New Smyrna Beach and Venice. Local pilots play a vital role in these efforts through the AOPA Airport Support Network, which celebrated its tenth anniversary in 2007 with a record high of 1,900 volunteers.

Change in ADIZ; Customs proposal

After more than four years of frustration to the GA community, the FAA has made some small but significant changes to the Washington, D.C., air defense identification zone (ADIZ). AOPA’s extensive lobbying effort since the ADIZ came into existence helped achieve this change that now excludes 20 percent of based aircraft and 8 percent of the operations currently covered by the ADIZ.

Culminating an intensive lobbying campaign using pressure from AOPA members and members of Congress, and leveraging contacts at the White House Homeland Security Council and the Office of Management and Budget, AOPA countered a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) proposal that would have required all GA aircraft flying internationally to electronically submit a passenger list (manifest) and arrival/departure notification at least 60 minutes before leaving or entering the United States. Pilot and passenger names would be checked against terrorist watch lists. More than 3,000 pilots filed complaints against the proposal, which will influence the final rule expected late in 2008.

FAA plan to replace radar with ADS-B

In September 2007, the FAA awarded a $1.8 billion contract to ITT for the ground infrastructure network needed to transition to ADS-B. In early October, the FAA proposed that all aircraft operating in class A, B, and C airspace, plus all airspace above 10,000 feet, must be equipped with ADS-B datalink equipment that transmits the aircraft’s position, altitude, speed, and aircraft identification. Fortunately, there’s more than a decade before the FAA’s projected compliance date of January 1, 2020.

Our top concerns include the requirement to maintain today’s transponders even when installing the more costly ADS-B avionics, and that the new ADS-B network of ground stations will not expand coverage into nonradar airspace used by GA aircraft, eliminating most of the benefits of the upgrade. The FAA wants pilots to not only invest in the ADS-B avionics, but also an optional moving map display in order to make the ADS-B avionics truly beneficial.

Security without regulation

Using the resources of the AOPA Air Safety Foundation, and with funding from the TSA (obtained by AOPA through a congressional appropriation), AOPA launched a new online course, General Aviation Security. AOPA staff members worked with the TSA’s GA office on all facets of the course culminating in DHS/TSA approval. The TSA contracted with AOPA to continue distributing information on AOPA’s Airport Watch security awareness program that encourages pilots to lock up their aircraft, look out, and report suspicious activity. Program materials were sent to FBOs, avionics repair facilities, and members of the NATA, EAA, and the Civil Air Patrol.

Communications: Keeping you informed and entertained

Karen Gebhart
Executive Vice President
Communications

Education: Bachelor of Science, Business, Iowa State University. Private pilot.

Knowledge: 15 years at AOPA, managing AOPA’s communications through publications, e-publishing, and public relations. Formerly responsible for advertising, AOPA Expo, products and services for members, membership acquisition and retention.

Experience: Instrumental in the growth of AOPA membership, expansion of member products and services, development of AOPA Project Pilot and the industry’s Be A Pilot programs, and the assessment and purchase of AOPA Flight Training magazine.

Everyone likes a good story, and it’s the job of the Communications Division to not only tell a good story about general aviation, but to get out the good stories about general aviation—to those people who can help us ensure our future. So our effort is multi-pronged—from public relations to multimedia to print publications—we’re telling the good stories about GA, and the right people are listening.

Publications

Our flagship publication, AOPA Pilot, and its sibling, AOPA Flight Training, led by Editor in Chief Thomas B. Haines, continue to be the most widely read aviation magazines in the world. They consistently provide members with interesting, provocative, and powerful editorial. In August, AOPA Pilot launched one of its most aggressive series, “A Day in the Life of America’s Airports.” We addressed the number-one member concern—our airports—by traversing the country and in one day providing a slice of life at these valuable resources. We visited airports from sea to shining sea—in Washington, Texas, New England, and ports in between. Another remarkable series in AOPA Pilot was Editor at Large Tom Horne’s coverage of the ongoing FAA funding debate. This year-long series was read into the Congressional record. Online components of the coverage included a video of a flight in European airspace.

Both magazines launched special-interest additions directed at segments of our membership—with AOPA Pilot we published AOPA Pilot: Turbine Pilot for our members who have interest in owner-flown turbine aircraft, and AOPA Flight Training offers “Career Pilot,” a special monthly section for readers interested in careers in aviation.

The 2007/2008 edition of AOPA’s Airport Directory was delivered to members in February 2007. Its online version features several enhancements including METAR and TAF text weather on the airport listings and fuel price information for approximately 3,000 FBOs.

AOPA Online

AOPA has been at the forefront of multimedia communication, launching its first Web site and establishing an online presence as early as 1997 when, as a current national advertising campaign says, your cell phone was only used to talk. Well, like today’s cell phone and its multiple applications, AOPA’s online presence has taken on a life force. So much so that we launched an entirely new Web site in September 2007. In addition to its content-rich, more-than-50,000-pages background, the site is now organized by how members access the information. This robust new site is based on how you look at your flying and the resources you tap into accordingly. Thus just five easily accessed tabs guide you from the home page to the information most important to you—Flight Planning, Aircraft and Ownership, Government Advocacy, Training and Safety, and Membership Services. Easy access is also available to the dedicated pages for the AOPA Air Safety Foundation, Publications, and About AOPA. AOPA Online averages more than six million page views per month and, since the launch of the new site, time spent online has increased more than 10 percent. With the new vice president of e-Publishing, Chris O’Callaghan, watch for more innovation in the ability to access the key tools and information you need for your flying well into the future.

ePilot

One of the most innovative and successful programs ever undertaken by the association is AOPA ePilot, our weekly electronic newsletter for both the association and for AOPA Flight Training subscribers. These direct-to-you information tools allow us to keep you up to date on key news, initiatives, activities, and information coming from headquarters and the industry. And when breaking news happens—such as in the case of the FAA funding debate—we send out special editions so you don’t miss a thing. For example, in April and May 2007 we e-mailed members in New Hampshire, Florida, Mississippi, and West Virginia to enlist their aid in contacting their senators, and in February 2007 we e-mailed members in Washington state to help save Blaine Municipal Airport.

Public relations

Taking the GA story out across the country is the job of our public relations department, now with a talented new vice president, Greg Romano. Key to the association has been the FAA funding debate, and the media relations staff has responded with strong initiatives, including hundreds of individual contacts with members of both the aviation trade media and the general news media. We’ve provided media sources with stories and information on the debate—we sent more than three dozen funding-debate-related news releases, reaching thousands of journalists—and we developed the FAA Funding Scorecard, used by AOPA in conversations with members of Congress, government officials, and newspaper editors. The media and public relations staff oversaw efforts to get newspaper and television journalists to take an introductory flight and write about the experience.

AOPA Project Pilot

We continue to address the declining pilot population with our successful mentor/student program in AOPA Project Pilot producing more than 5,000 new student candidates last year. Our public relations program expanded in 2007 to produce more than 800 stories featured in national and local press and talk radio, USA Today, Fortune magazine, The Today Show, and more. We also showcased the dream of learning to fly on new media such as Facebook, MySpace, and YouTube. Where do we go from here? See AOPA President Phil Boyer’s letter to members on page 51.

Finance and Administration: Taking care of business

Roger C. Myers Jr.
Executive Vice President
Finance and Administration

Education: Bachelor of Science, Accounting, and Master of Business Administration, Mount St. Mary’s University. Certified Public Accountant

Knowledge: 26 years with AOPA, managing financial reporting, budgeting, planning, auditing, regulatory and tax reporting, and managing AOPA’s real estate investment property.

Experience: Responsible for growing the association’s membership base, risk management, contract management, internal services, finance and accounting, all aspects of human resources, and supports AOPA’s initiatives through technology by maintaining all member, pilot, and airport data.

There’s not a lot of glory in the business of the business, but keeping AOPA’s human side—the employees and the members—and the financial and technical side running smoothly is a daunting task for an organization as large as AOPA. The association serves 415,000 members and employs more than 200 people in three separate offices—Frederick, Maryland; Washington, D.C.; and Wichita. AOPA’s corporate headquarters is a two-level building of more than 50,000 square feet, which is situated on the Frederick Municipal Airport in Maryland. On Capitol Hill, our four-member team leases an office on Pennsylvania Avenue in Washington, D.C. There are approximately 40 employees in our AOPA Insurance Agency offices in Wichita.

The numbers

The year 2007 closed with a 12-month average membership renewal rate of 86.73 percent. In addition, we finished the year by adding 58,314 new members, bringing our year-end membership to its highest ever—413,875. Members continue to support our automatic renewal efforts, with nearly 50 percent of the total membership participating with each member saving $2 per year for doing so.

AOPA’s accounting department is composed of 11 team members. The department is responsible for managing all of the association’s financial transactions and coordinating the activities associated with the annual financial audit. AOPA and ASF are audited annually by Grant Thornton LLP.

Technology report

AOPA’s information technology department has a talented staff of 16 professionals with a combined total of more than 145 years of information technology experience. The data center—located in the Frederick headquarters building—currently hosts 31 servers, supporting more than 290 users and providing connectivity to the Washington and Wichita offices. All of the Web site hosting for the association, the AOPA Air Safety Foundation, and the GA Serving America site is in house. In 2007, AOPA assumed responsibility for the Be A Pilot Web site and its technology. Our corporate database contains 3.5 million pilot and airman records and the past 10 years of NTSB accident and incident reports.

Non-Dues Revenue: Funding our mission

Gregory L. Sterling
Executive Vice President
Non-Dues Revenue

Education: Bachelor of Science, Aviation Management, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University; Masters in Business Administration, DeSales University. Instrument-rated pilot.

Knowledge: Responsible for all areas of AOPA’s non-dues revenue including publications advertising and endorsed programs providing special products benefits and services to AOPA members. Oversees AOPA Expo and the AOPA Fly-In and Open House.

Experience: 30 years in general aviation. Former executive vice president and general manager of the AOPA Insurance Agency; senior vice president of Aon Aviation; airport management in Pennsylvania; senior underwriter with Global Aerospace Insurance.

Non-dues revenue plays a key supporting role in making sure AOPA is ready and able to meet the challenges our association faces. In fact, revenue from advertisers in our publications and from the providers of AOPA member products and services provides more than two-thirds of AOPA’s net income. This important source of revenue has helped us keep AOPA membership dues at $39 annually since 1990. It also helps support our battles on your behalf on Capitol Hill and at airports across the country, as well as allowing us to invest in the key initiatives my colleagues have addressed in their sections—initiatives that help keep flying safer, more affordable, and more fun.

Services to keep you flying

Over the years, AOPA has diligently searched out the best products and services to meet the needs of pilots. By leveraging the collective buying power of our membership, we’re able to continue offering you top-notch products and services with exclusive member benefits and exceptional values.

One of the easiest ways to help us help you is to use the new AOPA WorldPoints credit card. Each time members use the card, AOPA receives revenue at no cost to the member. AOPA cardholders also earn one point for every net retail dollar spent and double points at more than 4,600 participating FBOs and select aviation merchants. WorldPoints can be redeemed for cash back, travel, merchandise, and much more. Other member financial services include the AOPA Aircraft Financing Program with terms up to 25 years at great rates, and the new AOPA checking and savings program which debuted in August to strong member participation.

AOPA members also benefit from many special services that pilots appreciate and discounts that can help reduce the cost of flying—like the AOPA Legal Services Plan, title services, online travel, and car rental discounts. The world’s largest light aircraft insurance agency, the AOPA Insurance Agency, works with major A-rated aviation insurance companies to provide aircraft owners, renters, and CFIs with comprehensive coverage and members-only discounts. Members can also obtain a broad range of high quality personal and life insurance products designed for pilots.

No matter how you fly, AOPA offers a wide variety of quality products and services to meet your specific needs as a pilot. Best of all, when you use an AOPA member product or service, you’re not only getting a great value, you’re also helping AOPA keep GA strong and supporting our ongoing fight for pilots’ rights everywhere.

The value of readership

Advertisers in the general aviation industry recognize the value and quality of AOPA member’s readership of our award-winning publications AOPA Pilot, AOPA Flight Training, ePilot, AOPA’s Airport Directory, and our Web site, AOPA Online. Advertising provides significant association revenue and allows us to continue to provide you world-class editorial content, with great stories of aviation interest, important safety information, and breaking news in general aviation.

The member comes first

Did we see you in Hartford, Connecticut, for AOPA Expo 2007? There’s a good chance we did. AOPA Expo 2007 had the largest number of first-time attendees in the convention’s history—64 percent of the total of more than 10,000 members who came to the association’s get-together held for the first time in New England, enabling us to reach many pilots who had never experienced Expo before.

I hope you’re putting November 6 through 8 on your calendars—AOPA Expo 2008 will be held in San Jose, California. If you can’t come to California, come see us in Frederick, Maryland, for our annual AOPA Fly-In and Open House on June 7. In 2007, we hosted more than 5,000 people and more than 300 aircraft flew in for the event.

AOPA Air Safety Foundation 2007 Annual Report: Safety Outreach: It's Working

I realize that the phrase “it’s working” is a pretty bold statement when it comes to safety in general aviation, but it’s true; the outreach efforts of the AOPA Air Safety Foundation are working, continuing to improve each year. And 2007 was no exception—in fact, it was remarkable. At year’s end in 2006 we had 12 online courses available; by the end of 2007, 21 were available, and today there are 23. These online courses cover topics from weather to maneuvers to decision-making and are available free to pilots. An amazing 20,000 course completions have been reported each month and more than 80 percent of course participants return to take another ASF course.

The results

Bruce Landsberg
Executive Director
AOPA Air Safety Foundation

Education: U.S. Air Force; Bachelor of Arts, Psychology; Master of Industrial Technology, University of Maryland. ATP, Instrument-rated pilot, CFI.

Knowledge: 16 years with AOPA guiding ASF activities including program development, publications, Internet education, special safety research projects, and donor cultivation. Represents general aviation on committees within the FAA, National Weather Service, NASA, and is on the advisory board with a major aviation university.

Experience: Former product marketing manager for FlightSafety International specializing in transition and instrument training programs for high-performance singles, light twins, and turboprops, and for airline recruitment programs. Former manager for Cessna Aircraft Company’s Air Age education department.

Sometimes it’s something simple that illustrates success. In this case it’s in an e-mail from a member and course participant. Scott Rinkenberger from Colorado wrote to say that on an anticipated VFR flight this low-time pilot found himself in the soup and remembered the instruction he’d watched on the decision-making DVD that ASF had sent him. “I really feel fortunate that I received the safety DVD when I did. I truly believe that your program shaped my decision-making process and ultimately kept me out of a very dangerous situation. The DVD reinforced what my instructor hammered into my head—it’s better to be on the ground wishing you were flying than being in the air wishing you were on the ground,” he wrote.

This DVD was part of an outreach effort called the Pilot Safety Series in which ASF sent more than 28,000 free copies of Do the Right Thing to new private and instrument-rated pilots to get them on the right track to safe flight. ASF also sent more than 200,000 free CDs of our popular online Runway Safety course. In fact, our estimates are that in 2007, we had more than 1.2 million communication touchpoints with pilots—more than 20,000 online safety course completions each month, an increase of more than 40 percent. Nearly 86,000 pilots took courses for the first time last year—and nearly 82,000 came back for more! Our job is to provide pilots with the information to help them make the right decisions.

Major milestones

  • ASF Safety Quizzes, made possible by the Sporty’s Foundation, continued steady growth with nearly 236,000 quizzes taken.
  • Live safety seminars broke attendance records—some sessions had nearly 500 attendees.
  • With funding from United Technologies, more than 26 hours of live sessions were recorded at AOPA Expo and are available online 24 hours a day, seven days per week.
  • Rollout of our Online Safety Center transcripts—pilots can track their own learning process online.
  • Expanded Real Pilot Stories series tells gripping, real-life stories of lessons learned by GA pilots.

And still more

Among our many projects at ASF, we continue to study the effects of Technologically Advanced Aircraft (TAA) on flying safety and how pilots are adapting to these advanced aircraft. We’re also examining how inexpensive computer-based training systems can help pilots learn to fly.

ASF continues to be the leader in helping flight instructors renew their certificates. Last year, more than 10,000 instructors counted on ASF to bring them up to date on the latest regulations and procedures by attending ASF’s live Flight Instructor Refresher Clinic (FIRC) or completing the online FIRC, which is offered in partnership with Jeppesen.

We must have a compelling safety message—three national insurance carriers started offering accident forgiveness to pilots who regularly participate in ASF’s live and online education programs. And we must be worthy of the recognition—we now partner with the National Air Traffic Controllers Association, the National Weather Service, and the FAA. We are doing the right thing—at the right time.

Philanthropy: Continuing to climb to new heights

Harvey W. Cohen
Senior Vice President, Philanthropy
AOPA Air Safety Foundation

Education: Bachelor of Science, Education, Duquesne University; Master in Human Development, Saint Mary’s University. Johns Hopkins Program in Change Management.

Knowledge: Six years with AOPA overseeing all aspects of leadership development, staff management, and program design associated with the ongoing growth in charitable giving.

Experience: Former chief development officer of The Foundation Fighting Blindness; higher education fundraising for Carnegie Mellon, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, and the Weizmann Institute of Science.

Last year AOPA members proved once again that safety matters. Charitable gifts, large and small, eclipsed the $7 million total for the first time in AOPA/ASF history. Under the leadership of Tom Haas and Lessing Stern, national chairmen of the ASF Development Committee, more pilots gave more money than at any time in the 57-year ASF history. I applaud their dedication to keeping AOPA/ASF strong and the skies safe.

We do know that one does not need to attend an ASF safety seminar or take an ASF online course or quiz to understand the importance of supporting safety education. Thousands of members intuitively know the impact of ASF in the GA arena. At the same time, it is no coincidence that the revenue climbed, and so did the dramatic increases in participation at courses, seminars, and quizzes.

To use an aviation metaphor, in the higher altitudes are the AOPA Top Philanthropists or ATPs. With paid gifts of $10,000 or more in 2007, ATPs contributed to the ongoing program of safety education and research or helped underwrite specific areas of interest.

The AOPA President’s Council continued its climb toward 150 members. PCs commit to a $50,000 donation payable within five years. Chaired by John Nordstrom, so far, this philanthropic society has provided more than $6.5 million for safety education’s growth. These funds have been most helpful in the creation and dissemination of our critical online message.

The Hat in the Ring Society continued to enchant members with the lure of the World War I Hat in the Ring Squadron. Membership starts with a yearly $1,000 gift, which can be paid in up to four installments. Hat members can also climb to Bronze at $2,500 or Silver level at $5,000 or more. For 17 years, the Hats have provided that extra annual funding needed to keep ASF fueled.

ASF’s Endowment took another giant step forward again through the combined generosity of Glenn Plymate with AOPA members who responded to his challenge match for gifts. Plymate has added an additional challenge—matching gift fund for 2008 for those who donate to the Erral Lea Plymate Memorial Endowment. Because of the significance of the Plymate Fund, ASF will earmark a similar amount, making your gift worth three times its value.

Of particular note was that 2007 closed with ASF breaking the 1,000-mark hurdle for the number of AOPA Life members. Life Membership is an honored status that warrants its own AOPA pin worn by many with great pride. With a donation of $2,500 (80 percent tax deductible), you can forget the bulging mailbox of renewal notices and stand tall with AOPA for your entire life.

If you want to learn more about these pilot-philanthropist giving societies please visit the Web site.