Foundation Focus: What have we done for you lately?

Thank you for adding your voice to ours

December 1, 2013

bruce landsbergWhat have we done for you lately? That’s a question that every membership association and charitable foundation should be prepared to answer. It also translates into, “Why should I invest some of my hard-earned dollars with you?”

It’s been a year of transition at AOPA as Craig Fuller retired and Mark Baker stepped into the batter’s box. Some of the tactics have changed but the mission remains the same—to preserve your freedom to fly. There are good reasons to wonder what the government is thinking in that regard. Early this year, we saw a short-sighted decision to shut down all contract towers in response to a budget shortfall. There was no logic from a user safety or operational perspective but rather a knee-jerk reaction. AOPA and the other aviation groups swung in to action to get this temporarily fixed. Thank you for being there and adding your voice to ours.

Many airports remain under pressure. The AOPA Foundation assisted AOPA with education programs in Allentown, Pennsylvania, to keep the Queen City Airport open after the airport commission lost a lawsuit years ago and needed to pay a court-ordered settlement. The mayor’s “solution”? Let’s sell one of our active airports! Brilliant! Reminding the city of the airport’s benefits and that grant assurances don’t allow such things persuaded the city management. Education and telling the non-political side of the story really helps.

The AOPA Foundation’s Air Safety Institute provided after-accident support in New Haven, Connecticut, where a circling instrument approach went awry, leading to a crash into a house off the runway’s end. We conducted numerous media interviews and a live seminar on flying in urban environments.

In Santa Monica, California, this fall, a Cessna Citation exited the runway at high speed and hit a hangar, resulting in four fatalities on board. Santa Monica Airport is embroiled in a campaign by neighbors to shut it down, being encroached on all sides by housing resulting from poor zoning practices. The opposition renewed calls for closure, this time on safety grounds rather than its usual refrain of noise and pollution.

Mark Twain advised to “Get your facts first, then distort them as much as you like.” The fact is that there have been no ground fatalities off-airport since 1983 (when modern NTSB record keeping began) by any aircraft departing or landing at Santa Monica. That’s not what was being portrayed by anti-airport activists.

Again, ASI was there to provide perspective, interviews, letters to the editor, and to review safety procedures. This year ASI will have conducted more than 180 free safety seminars nationwide and hosted the largest GA safety website, open to all pilots. This year more than 700,000 online courses, videos, and quizzes will have been completed. Thank you for making that possible—membership dues do not fund ASI.

Without more pilots to justify the GA infrastructure—especially airports—it will inevitably decline. Mark Twain also noted that we “Should buy land because they aren’t making it anymore.” Guess where cities and developers are looking? We need a constituency to press for logical zoning laws and FAA grant assurances. Pilots are that constituency and provide the business case for producing, selling, and servicing avionics and aircraft and maintaining FBOs. Without pilots the need for many airports goes away.

Cost and complexity are some of the reason that only 20 percent of the people who start flight training make it through. AOPA and the AOPA Foundation developed the flying club network. It’s a work-in-progress to promote cost-effective alternatives and camaraderie to keep pilots engaged and flying. AOPA is also promoting the best flight schools and providing business guidance on success stories. You make that possible.

The AOPA Foundation’s new “Giving Back” program spotlighted the priceless benefits that GA pilots provide for disaster victims, medical patients, young people who aspire to become pilots, and others. This year the AOPA Foundation granted 10 $10,000 grants to non-profits engaged in education, environmental, and humanitarian work to showcase GA at its finest.

AOPA dues alone can’t do all this and much more I haven’t mentioned. That’s why the AOPA Foundation exists, and if everyone gives a little it can make a huge difference. As 2013 ends, I want to say thank you to those of you who contribute to the AOPA Foundation for helping us to protect airports, for supporting critical safety education, for sharing your love of aviation with others. To those of you who still considering a donation, remember what we’ve done for you lately to preserve your freedom to fly.