President's Position

Get engaged: The time is now

February 1, 2010

Craig Fuller

Count on this being a big year for general aviation. Even though 2010 has barely begun, we know a lot will be going on that will shape GA for

the decade. In fact, if we want to come through this decade with GA stronger than where we are starting from, all of us must become more engaged!

In 2009 we put into place some important tools. The General Aviation Serves America movement is going strong, and we will need all the support we can muster to handle the challenges that are likely to come our way this year. Our AOPA Foundation has also been strengthened and the AOPA Political Action Committee is prepared for election year 2010.

We’d like to think that we can anticipate every contingency; however, the truth is that we can’t. Recent attempted terror attacks on airliners are sure to cause ripples through the security community. How that might affect GA remains to be seen, but that it will have some effect is an absolute certainty.

Congressional elections this year put every seat in the House and many in the Senate up for a vote in November. And who could overlook the ongoing efforts to implement a modernized air traffic system—NextGen. AOPA will be heavily engaged in all these efforts, making sure that GA needs are considered at every step along the way.

What all this means to me is that 2010 will demand involvement and action—“engagement,” if you will. Here at AOPA we have been talking a lot about what being engaged means to us, as AOPA staffers, and to you as AOPA members. For us, engagement is about commitment and involvement. You won’t find a group more committed to GA anywhere. AOPA’s team of experts is deeply engaged—with you, your needs, your interests, the larger GA community, our fellow aviation organizations, government agencies, and everyone who has an impact on GA.

This year, however, we are committing to take that involvement to an even higher level, challenging everyone here at AOPA to raise their level of engagement personally and professionally as we dive into the issues that affect your cost, freedom, and ability to fly. With elections coming, we will be heavily involved in issues on the state and national levels. And we will be doing more to engage directly with pilot groups, airport representatives, and others at the grass-roots level.

We have done much to get engaged with our fellow aviation organizations, forging new bonds of cooperation with groups such as NATA, EAA, AEA, NBAA, GAMA, WAI, and others. This year we will continue to work closely with these groups, finding new ways to collaborate on the issues that affect us all. We will also be asking you, our members, to get more engaged—with us, with GA, with elected officials, and with the key issues affecting our flying. Your membership in AOPA brings you much more than a terrific magazine and a great Web site. We want to help you take advantage of all the programs and services AOPA offers.

We are grateful for the AOPA members who step forward to take leadership roles by contributing to GA Serves America, becoming part of our Political Action Committee, serving as Airport Support Network volunteers, and in many other ways. This year, I hope you will look at these and other opportunities to become more engaged with GA. Even very small actions can make a big difference. Throughout the year, we will be suggesting ways large and small that you can get engaged. Many of these will require just a few minutes of your time—sending an e-mail to an elected official or telling a friend about GA Serves America. I look forward to traveling the country again this year to meet with AOPA members, and I hope you will come out if a visit takes place near you. We are also looking at ways to bring more elected officials and their staffs out to our events—where they need to hear directly from people like you.

AOPA is more than 415,000 members strong. Just imagine what we can achieve if we each do one or two things, even small things, to increase our engagement over the coming year! We can truly make the GA community a force to be reckoned with.

You’d be amazed at how much of an impact we do make, just by demonstrating that GA is important to us and that we are willing to stand up and be counted. Despite our nation’s free system of elections, the truth is that millions of Americans don’t vote and never dream of communicating with their congressmen. So you can bet that representatives pay attention when they receive thoughtful letters from hundreds or thousands of AOPA members in their districts. Not only do they pay attention when AOPA members get engaged in an issue, they remember. I have walked into many a meeting with a congressman or senator only to have them remind me about a time, possibly years earlier, that AOPA members wrote to them en masse.

There’s also no doubt in my mind that if we all become more engaged for GA, we can harness the power of this remarkable community to influence our future for the better.

Consider going to our AOPA Web site to become part of our automatic annual renewal program. When you renew your membership automatically, you get a discount on your dues, additional chances to win our sweepstakes, and you’ll stop getting renewal messages in the mail. It saves you hassle and it saves us money—money we can spend fighting for GA.

AOPA President Craig Fuller is an active GA pilot with more than 2,730 hours.