President's Position: Focus on 2013

Supporting our mission and setting our priorities

January 1, 2013

Craig Fuller

The start of every new year is a time for reckoning. We’ve been doing a good deal of that here at AOPA as we puzzle over the all-too-many uncertainties surrounding the year ahead. What is clear is that the vision that established AOPA remains very strong and very relevant today, some 74 years after our founding.

As I meet with members across the country, you reinforce every time what I have come to believe about our mission and our priorities:

We must remain the strongest advocate for general aviation. Our mission of preserving the freedom to fly connects each and every one of us, no matter what we fly, how often we fly, or why we fly. Even when we no longer fly ourselves, we recognize the need to protect that freedom for future generations of pilots.

We must share our passion for general aviation with our fellow pilots and all of those exploring the freedom to fly. Sharing knowledge and information through our print and electronic media makes all of us better pilots who are safer, more engaged, and better prepared to welcome those who wish to join our ranks.

We must build the pilot community, increasing the numbers of those who learn to fly while promoting cost-effective ways to keep certificated pilots in the air.

These are the priorities you, our members, have set out for us, and you’ll find them encapsulated in our specific goals for 2013. (You can read more about those goals and our work to achieve them in “Aircraft Owners and Pilots Association: Strength In Purpose” beginning on page 28.)

It’s important to note that our mission—although straightforward—is by no means simple. Preserving the freedom to fly in the face of a shrinking pilot population, a tough economy for pilots and aviation businesses alike, and an increasingly complex regulatory environment is no easy task. To be successful, we must think and act strategically.

For us, that means actively seeking ways to support our members and the general aviation community as a whole. It means we must recognize that there is no single solution to solving the challenges facing GA. Instead, we need to approach each obstacle from multiple directions.

Take the challenge of a declining pilot population as an example. Successfully turning around this 30-year trend is going to require many coordinated approaches. That’s why we’ve researched and shared our findings about how to reduce the student pilot dropout rate while recognizing flight schools that get it right.

It’s also why we’re finding ways to keep costs down and build communities through flying clubs, why we’re partnering with aviation companies to provide the products, and support what pilots want in the cockpit, why we’re collaborating with other general aviation associations to expand the driver’s license medical standard, and why we’re welcoming teens into GA through the AV8Rs membership. And those are just a few of the ways we’re working across AOPA, the industry, and the GA community to address this one issue.

Although we go about tackling the challenges we face in dozens, even hundreds, of different ways, the goal is always the same—preserve our freedom to fly. That is at the heart of AOPA’s mission, as it has been since 1939. And it’s at the heart of our strategic decision making process.

Thus far, we’ve been very successful in preserving our freedom to fly, even as that same freedom has dwindled or perished in nations around the world. But we also understand that the fight must continue. We can’t rest on our past success, and we can never declare victory. We must keep innovating and evolving while we build on what we know works.

Fortunately, AOPA has a long record of innovation and entrepreneurial spirit. As we enter the new year, I invite you to take a look at some of the innovations from this past year (see “2012 Highlights,” page 33). Take a moment and explore what was introduced and developed in just the past few months and know that we have some great new ideas coming for 2013!

AOPA president Craig Fuller is an active general aviation pilot who has been flying for more than 35 years. Email Craig at craig@aopa.org.