President's Position: Welcome to our world

Sharing the experience of flight

March 1, 2013

Craig Fuller

Maybe it’s because we’ve been in the winter months—when we seem to spend less time flying and more time talking about it—but there is a good deal of discussion around AOPA about just how many ways there are to share the flying experience.

While there is no substitute for “slipping the surly bonds of Earth,” in today’s real and virtual worlds there are many other ways to share that which we so enjoy, getting aloft in a small aircraft. For me, a seaplane flight in Oregon when I was 14 showed me I wanted to see more from this unique perspective. A good many years and more than 3,000 hours in the logbook later, it’s evident that my first flight experience really did change my life. Whenever something actually causes a fundamental change in anyone’s life, it’s worth some careful study.

Like many of you, I always enjoy taking people flying. Whether it’s their first time in a GA airplane or their first time in a particular type of GA aircraft, I really like watching the wonderment and the pure joy of someone experiencing something for the first time.

As I’ve traveled around these past few years, I’ve come to realize that sharing the experience of flight is beneficial to building a stronger GA community. At AOPA, we have tried several new approaches to inviting more people into the world of general aviation.

In addition to our printed publications, AOPA Pilot and Flight Training magazines, we offer digital editions of our magazines, some fascinating eBooks available online (www.aopa.org/ebooks), and a range of electronic newsletters.

AOPA members are invited to get more deeply engaged in general aviation by staying in touch with the news through the weekly ePilot newsletter. It shares pretty much all of the important stuff that goes on each week at AOPA and throughout the GA community.

We also want to open the doors to people who are interested in GA, even though they may not be pilots or AOPA members. For them, we offer Aviation eBrief, an electronic publication that shares stories about the general aviation experience with more than 200,000 readers five days a week. Of course, it’s great for pilots and AOPA members, too. Get a free subscription for you or a friend online.

And, we don’t stop with print and electronic offerings. We also have our own video channel, AOPA Live This Week. Each week, Tom Haines, the leader of all AOPA’s media groups, anchors a video program that treats you to the news of the week and exciting flying experiences of all kinds. For more information, go online.

We always want to keep our most important audience, our members, informed. But it’s also worthwhile to share news of GA outside our own small community—as we were reminded when we first posted our story about Robin Fleming, a pilot who was forced by local law enforcement to land his sailplane for a perceived airspace violation, despite the fact that they had no jurisdiction in the matter and the FAA said no FARs were violated ( “Breach of Peace,” February 2013 AOPA Pilot). If you found it as interesting as it was hard to believe, I must tell you that everyone in Washington, D.C., who pays attention to aviation was aware of the pilot forced to land in South Carolina. Even Congressional leaders were telling us about this flying experience!

While this kind of news story about the unusual and unacceptable reaches a large audience, I am just as proud to share the joys of the everyday flying our team at AOPA engages in week after week. Just a few days ago, I marveled at how hundreds of people had seen, liked, and commented on a few pictures I posted about a cold, snowy flight in the AOPA Caravan, followed days later by a flight for pure fun in my Husky with two colleagues in an RV–12. The point is that sharing and following flying experiences is a great way to get pilots and aviation enthusiasts alike engaged with general aviation. And with more media outlets than ever, we are sharing more flight experiences all the time.

But we’re not the only people with stories to tell. Share your own flying experiences with friends, family, and followers. Invite others to be part of your flying adventures—it’s a simple but effective way to strengthen and expand our GA community.

We will keep looking for new ways to share flying experiences, and we’ve got some great ideas in the works for pilots and enthusiasts alike.

In the meantime, as the weather improves, let’s all enjoy our freedom to fly by getting out and creating new flying experiences to share far and wide.

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.