April 24, 2009
By Mike Collins
Several dozen AOPA Airport Support Network (ASN) volunteers and their guests gathered for breakfast at Sun ’n Fun on April 24, to celebrate the program’s reaching 2,000 volunteers and to kick off AOPA Day at the fly-in. Jennifer Storm, manager of the Airport Support Network program, said volunteer number 2,000 is Troy Hightower of Bakersfield, Calif.
AOPA President Craig Fuller acknowledged the important contributions ASN volunteers make. “You are really on the front lines,” he said. “I know the issues you face out there.”
Fuller then explained how AOPA has been working to educate the Transportation Security Administration on general aviation.
“We have been involved and engaged with TSA in a very constructive dialog,” Fuller said. “The fact is that the TSA has a responsibility that’s not going to go away, and they have no leeway for error in their judgment.”
AOPA’s GA Serves America campaign was launched to help educate regulators, legislators, and influencers about the value of GA.
“We do an exceptional job talking to the aviation community…but it’s this notion of communicating beyond our general aviation community” that we’re addressing with GA Serves America, Fuller explained. “Because general aviation is not well understood, we’re vulnerable to political attacks and some of the regulatory issues that you’ve been talking about today.
“We’re telling the story from the perspective of the pilot,” Fuller added, mentioning that ads have been running in the National Journal’s electronic version. “They told us they’ve never had an ad get as many hits as our ad with Harrison Ford.”
Greg Pecoraro, AOPA vice president of airports and state advocacy, told the ASN volunteers that AOPA has been working aggressively on the Florida use-tax issue affecting GA aircraft.
“We’re making great progress,” he said. Pecoraro expects that a bill addressing the tax will reach the floor of the Florida House today, and hopes a similar measure will be considered by the state senate next week.
AOPA told state legislators that the tax is costing state businesses, he said. One owner of a new aircraft delayed an avionics installation in Florida so that his aircraft would not be subject to the tax.
“When asked how much revenue the tax was brining in, the Florida revenue people said, ‘not much—people aren’t bringing their airplanes to Florida,” Pecoraro related.
Storm told the volunteers that AOPA was bringing back the ASN eBriefing e-mail newsletter. AOPA also is developing a private forum, as part of the AOPA Online forums, for the exclusive use of ASN volunteers. “I would like your feedback,” she told the group.
Craig Spence, AOPA vice president of regulatory affairs, updated the ASN volunteers on several programs, including eAPIS, Security Directive SD-8F, the Large Aircraft Security Program (LASP), airport assessments, AOPA’s Airport Watch, and other programs and developments. After the program, volunteers had the opportunity to discuss issues with AOPA staff.
Mike Collins has worked for AOPA’s media network since 1994. He holds a private pilot certificate with an instrument rating.
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